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Juggling internal and external staff? You need optimized resource management


Jason Waugh photo.PNGBy Jason Waugh


Jason Waugh is a Lead Solution Consultant for HP Software Professional Services, focusing on project portfolio management implementation strategies and best practices. 


Very few, if any, of my enterprise clients rely solely on in-house resources during a major project, which can make staffing a very complex process. If your business is like most, you’re working with teams of developers and IT staff located around the world; some of these resources are internal and others are contracted for specific tasks.


But the staffing models most companies build don’t give you the information you need to make most efficient use of resources, particularly when it comes to using external contractors. And this can result in project delays and wasted money.


Simple models don’t work for complex projects              

The first staffing model most companies build is very high level: skills and availability. To resource a project, you just say, "I need a project manager, two developers, half a tester, and half a database administrator (DBA)." It doesn't matter where they come from. Then you try to find the right resource pools and lock in those resources. But this doesn't take into account the complexity of most enterprise projects.


Many companies I work with start with this level of planning in their project and portfolio management (PPM) implementation. To help them build a road map to greater maturity, my colleagues at HP Software Professional Services have developed a five-phase PPM maturity model, a key planning asset to any project portfolio management implementation. Part of the journey to developing that road map involves identifying where you are in that model, where you want to be, and then implementing additional processes to get you there. (For a first-hand discussion of PPM best practices, sign up for my roundtable at HP Discover Las Vegas June 10-12.)


Go from informal to optimized

In my previous post, I discussed some of the overall benefits of resource management. This five-stage model provides a more detailed view of how companies can progress to achieve those benefits:


  • Informal: At this level, there is no structure. Resource management is ad hoc, which means you have absolutely no guarantee that your resources are working on the right project, or that they're even assigned to the high-value projects. There are no checks and balances to let you know if a certain project is over-utilizing a resource, or if a resource has extra availability. You have no insight.
  • Defined: You have a high-level definition of your resource supply. Maybe you've at least got the names of all of your resources and their availability to do projects, but things aren't consistent across the board. There's a siloed approach.          
  • Managed: This is where we engage resource management with portfolio management.  Now you’re able to centralize the visibility across all your projects.
  • Measured: At this level, you do a "what if" analysis in the portfolio process. As you're looking at the project demands that come in, you have the ability to slice and dice all sorts of different scenarios to say, "If we do these projects, will they be possible from a resource perspective? If not, what are our options? Can we shift one? Can we just not do one or can we replace one with another?"
  • Optimized: You extend resource management to your external resources as well. This is a little bit more challenging, because now you're talking about contractors, and there are different levels of contract work. Is the contractor always available to you, or are you engaging that contractor part time just for that project? There are nuances and exception cases that will roll in here. We often see this with more mature customers.                  

The advantage of being optimized

By pulling external resources into your model, you get a more comprehensive picture of reality. If your organization is subbing out work, whether it's offshore or to local contractors, you need that fuller picture of what you can do. By modeling a resource that's on contract with you for six months, you might find that he or she has availability to help out with another initiative. It's kind of like getting work done for free. You gain efficiencies that way.


You can also weigh the balance of internal versus external resources. If you find that you have two projects, with an onsite, internal resource on one and an offshore resource on the other, you need to ask, "Is this really the best mix?" Or, based on how the projects are structured, could you swap those two resources, because the one project would allow for more remote work and might be better served by an offshore resource, while the other project might be better suited for an onshore resource?


You might not have been able to make that decision previously, because you were looking at only skill set and availability, and you'd say, "Okay. They both have skills so 'A' goes here and 'B' goes there." Now at the optimized level you can look at additional scenarios and make the most of your resources.


To learn how PPM best practices can benefit your company, sign up for my roundtable at HP Discover in Las Vegas June 10-12.


Jason Waugh is a Lead Solution Consultant for HP Software Professional Services.  Mr. Waugh has been with HP for 11 years consulting with customers on project portfolio management implementation strategies and best practices.  He is passionate about helping organizations implement PPM capabilities that demonstrate value and align to their goals, maturity, and budget.


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