Saturday, October 27, 2012

Who Is On the Project Team?

Resource management is a crucial part of any project. A project manager (PM) must have the necessary people with the necessary experience to complete the project. What a PM needs just as much is the tools (i.e., SharePoint, MS Project), an accessible senior management team, an informed sales team, and just as important, a project team with the right attitude.  In this blog, I will discuss the importance of resource management and the PM’s juggling of those resources, senior management’s response to critical issues, and the team attitude.

The PM’s Resource Management Juggling Act
Whenever a PM begins a project, that PM has to assemble a team to plan and execute the project. In a Professional Service Organization (PSO), the PM must be ready to have a team as soon as the statement of work (SOW) is signed, sometimes having the team begin work the next day. This means the PM in a PSO has to begin putting the team together as soon as the client is close to signing the SOW. In a PSO, the PM must be an exceptional time manager in the sense that the PM may have to juggle resources between projects.  The PM must be careful not to jeopardize the progression of one project just to begin another. Conversely, the PM must be careful not to jeopardize the beginning of another project just to advance the established project. What can help here are virtual workers. More and more clients are accepting the new reality of having virtual resources work on projects executed by vendors. This is an advantage that the PM must utilize, but tactfully so as not to give either client any cause for concern.
This juggling act comes with multiple risks that must be acknowledged and controlled by the PM. The PM must be in constant communication with the members of all teams. This should be the least of the PM’s risks. As a PM juggling more than ten projects at any given time, I have been contacted for almost every single type of issue, sometimes for very small matters. However, if a PM wants to have the finger on the pulse, sometimes the PM must be informed of the smallest of issues to resolve.
Senior Management Response
The PM must discern which issue is minor and which is a major issue. Hopefully there are fewer major issues, but we know that is not a reality. In a PSO, clients believe almost all issues are major. As a PM, we must set expectation levels regarding project deliveries and project issues. The PM must keep the salesperson informed in case that salesperson drops in to visit the client at an inopportune time. The PM does not want to “blind-side” the salesperson. Also, PMs must discern which issue must be brought to senior management’s attention. Project show-stoppers must be raised immediately to inform senior management of a possible angry call from the client. So as not to be labeled as the boy or girl who cried wolf, the PM cannot bring every single issue to senior management’s attention.  A properly kept issues list identifies issues as show-stoppers, or as critical, high, medium, or low issues. This gives senior management the information it needs to address the client in future endeavors and to help the PM if necessary. 
Which Resources to Choose
The PM has to select from a resource pool to fill various project roles. Whether the role is a business analyst, a subject matter expert, or a developer, the PM must be able to get the right mix for the project. I am convinced that most resources have the tools necessary to fulfill a project role. The PM becomes a juggler in selecting individuals with the right attitudes to complete the project.  There was an author who wrote that “attitude is everything.” Although attitude may not be everything in an IT culture, it represents 80% of the need in picking the right resource. That may seem like a high percentage for an attitude, but a bad attitude is poison for a project team.
Availability is the next selection criteria. You may want a specific resource for a specific role, but if that resource is not available for your project, then you better have a second resource in mind. In a PMO or PSO, resources are stretched thin, even in good economic times. I do not know of many organizations that have a deep “bench” of resource that are sitting around waiting for their next assignment.
Having a resource that has worked with a client before and is familiar with the clients’ personnel is a nice-to-have. This is not always available, but can add value and continuity for your client.
The last criterion is ensuring the resource has the tools to complete his or her tasks. Although I have left this for last, it is critical that the client view you and your team as the experts in your respective fields. Delivering quality project deliverables and quality personnel to the project is crucial for the successful completion of your project. 
Selecting the right resources can result in a successful outcome for a project. This is as important as delivering a SOW that properly defines a project.

I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine.You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.

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