A Few Thoughts – Managing Project Resource Risk Using Portfolio Management

Resource Risk and Identifying Solutions for Success

Let’s start with the basics. Why does an organization engage in formal project management in the first place? There are likely several reasons, with three of the most common being:

  • The need to plan, prioritize and approve work
  • The need to track and report on progress
  • The need to encourage collaboration

Organizations need to have different project approaches and support tools for different parts of their organization, and those elements need to work together. We want to explore how that can be achieved, and how it can help an organization mature its overall project management capabilities and address resource risk.

Project Definitions – One-Size-DOES-NOT-Fit-All!

Too often, when any organizational activities are officially labeled “projects” they automatically are expected to be managed using one-set of common “official” project management – methods, processes, tools, reporting, etc. In some cases, the internal “project police” (project management office) is even deployed to ensure compliance with the organization’s single project management standard! However, too often the one approved project management standard is way too much for many small project efforts. You wouldn’t find the same resource risk in building a house compared to building a high-rise building, would you? It is difficult to get comprehensive resource risk information until you get the buy-in to label all appropriate organizational activities “projects”. Most organizations can better categorize their projects and then “size” the appropriate project management standards for each class of project, to help identify more – official projects.

Project Portfolios – One-Size-DOES-Fit-All!

Too often, projects are included (or not) in project portfolios based on budget size and category alone and omit a resource risk. If small, non-capital, non-strategic, projects also compete, for some of the very same key resources that major projects utilize, then these small projects should also be included in the project portfolio, in some form, if possible. Again this statement does not imply that including small projects in the project portfolio suggests the same project management methods used for major projects, should also be used for managing small projects. Rather, an important resource risk forecasted and actually used in small projects should be “accounted for” in the project portfolio if they are shared. Putting all project efforts, large and small, in some form in the project portfolio will help project managers to better see, and hopefully manage, more risks to their important project resources.

Dedicated Project Resources Manage Resource Risk – Too Often On-Call!

A classic dilemma for project managers and their so-called “dedicated” project resource risk is that these project resources are also frequently “on-call” for reassignment to other organizational activities that are not actually projects – but occur very regularly. Dedicated project resources can be diverted for a variety of another unplanned resource risk, organizational “fires”, “maintenance”, “critical tasks”, etc. deemed more important – like customer or system support crises or maintenance updates or budget changes.

One good way to help manage project resources that are actually on-call is to add some fixed annual operating category names to project portfolios. This can be as simple as estimating and posting actual resources against some fixed annual “operating buckets” like System Support Maintenance. At the end of each fiscal year, these various “support task groups” in the portfolio can then be reviewed to help analyze how they’re forecasted versus actual manpower use, cost, trends, impact on other projects, etc. Again, if on-call activities impact important project resources, it is helpful to try to forecast and track a project resource risk in your project portfolio and keep your project managers updated.

How Have You Managed a Resource Risk?

In any environment, structure conveys a sense of stability and permanence. For projects, a formal project management approach leads to greater adoption rates among individuals and business areas. When the defined approach has been invested in by leadership, there is a broader and more rapid acceptance that project management is a discipline supported by the organization. A formal approach also allows individuals throughout the organization to recognize their roles and understand their accountabilities, and that leads to a better comprehension of the value they add and contributions they make to a given project, further supporting adoption. However, while a common set of project management fundamentals is important, there is also a need to support significant differences. Specifically, intake and prioritization are two areas that shouldn’t follow a one-size-fits-all approach and are key to pinpointing your resource risk.

Size is not the only difference organizations must anticipate when developing a formal project approach or assessing resource risk. They must also recognize that different organizational areas will be at different levels of maturity and will, therefore, need to have different degrees of structure. In some cases that may be a simpler set of processes to support greater adoption and accessibility, and in other areas there may be a need for more rigorous processes to reduce flexibility and help ensure compliance on specific resource risk, especially for projects that have a high degree of external monitoring, impact regulatory requirements, etc.

There is also a balancing act between the “best” approach for the organization, while still encouraging adoption and compliance. The best approach in the world will fail if no one believes in it or supports it. On the other hand, if the organization is able to balance the need for a robust project delivery approach with the need to develop sustainable adoption of that approach, the long-term benefits will be significant. Choosing the right approach that minimizes risk and cost is an act of balancing between methodology, formality, structure, and governance.

About TeamDynamix

TeamDynamix offers Service and Project Management together on a single cloud-based platform. TeamDynamix transforms IT from order taker to strategic innovator. Organizations in the public sector, education, and healthcare leverage the solution to improve IT maturity, optimize resources, and deliver enhanced end-user service. TeamDynamix offers IT Service Management (ITSM), Project Portfolio Management (PPM), and Enterprise Service Management (ESM) together in one solution. www.TeamDynamix.com

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