Resource managers don’t have to be philosophy majors, but they do have to have a philosophy that encapsulates the culture of their company. If they have an entire PMO to manage, this skill might very well hold the key to that PMO’s future—as a trusted business partner or as a department that produces very little business value and may very well be on its way out.

According to our special guest, Andy Jordan, President of Roffensian Consulting, the best resource managers remain invested in realizing present benefits with expert resource management (RM) but also must retain a future outlook. Ten years from now, will there even be such a thing as a project team? Or will all work be assigned piecemeal? By computers instead of people? The future PMO may consist of automated assignments handed out to workers across the globe using multiple languages and possessing specialized skills, with artificial intelligence (AI) literally running the whole thing.

Jordan believes the future of RM may ultimately resemble the continuous delivery models that are already used during agile software development. This philosophy may end the “artificial bundling of functionality” into project and program structures as we know them today. However, RMs that possess the ability to optimize resource performance will in turn be able to differentiate themselves when delivering within shorter timeframes. A continuous delivery concept depends on effective resource capacity planning: Having the right people lined up in the right places with the right skills and, perhaps most importantly, the right attitude.

Let’s look at a telling example from our colleagues in the pharmaceutical industry. In a recent article in Pharmaceutical Executive magazine, resource constraints were discussed. Based on the sheer number of resources required to ensure regulatory needs are met during an NDA (new drug application) pharmaceutical resource managers must keep control of resource capacity better than at any time in the industry’s past:

“Yet as budgets have come under pressure and more Regulatory work has been outsourced, firms have faced a growing need to monitor, manage and report on resource consumption (ital. mine) and value for money. The default approach has been to do this according to the raw number of documents processed – so if one year 1,000 documents were authored, and the next year the number was 900, there was an expectation that this should cost less. But simple formulae like this do not account for the increased complexity of submissions.”

Step back and look at this problem from a higher level: How many of us are under pressure to outsource (contract) more resources at the same time the complexity of our businesses increases? How about deploying more often with a cross-functional resource pool? As I read this, I thought it spelled out very clearly the pain points resource managers across all industries are facing while working with constrained resources that are too often leader-driven and not business-driven. Likewise, they are often not synchronized across the entire organization to ensure business needs are met.

Resource Management for Continuous Delivery

Here are three ways to ensure your PMO can handle current and future resource demands using a continuous delivery model, to tackle the problems outlined in the article, using an overarching philosophy of control, collaboration and consistency:

Control: Once we have the right philosophy in place for resource management, we need the right control to deliver the right resources in the right place at the right time with the right skills.

With a command-and-control philosophy, you may not be as adaptable as you need to be to manage the environment appropriately, so the focus needs to be on controlling the best fit resources for individual work. Once the environment becomes very complex, as it has with the healthcare industry, gaining control means an all-encompassing platform for all your work so you can still pivot, with minimal disruption. Here’s where you’ll need control based on a systematic program of analytics to support your resource management as outlined from the article, below:

“Over time, we have established not only the ability to estimate resources accurately based on global requirements for each submission type, but also the ability to break submissions down into constituent tasks, allowing us to say with considerable accuracy what makes one job more complex than another.

The resulting matrix of resource requirement per submission type has contributed towards the development of a repeatable framework, which is detailed enough to overcome the challenge of variability between submissions. The unthinkable alternative is for teams to input every action into a hugely onerous timesheet – the kind of undertaking that invites rebellion, and results in significant inaccuracies because administration is so often put off until the detail has been forgotten. If companies are aiming for accuracy and the ability to make positive comparisons over time, they need to be more pragmatic.”

Collaboration: Your platform must be easy to use and be practical, or “invite rebellion”. That’s why in times of great change and under the pressure of competition, we need to set expectations for every team. All must input archival documents and communicate only on the project management collaborative platform. There will always be shifts of who you have on projects, and as projects evolve, resources must all agree to collaborate, so you’ll need a user-friendly tool.

Please take note of the main philosophy to run your collaborative PMO: We don’t have silos anymore. The idea that we have people from software development assigned to only software development projects or people from finance who are assigned to finance will fall by the wayside. Everyone from everywhere can collaborate or your resource capacity plans will be next to useless. This is especially true in agile development PMOs, which is the future structure for all industries, not just technology.  

Consistency: Resource capacity planning, deployment and utilization must retain consistency in the PMO of the future, or the wheels fall off fast. A truly adaptive resource strategy must be cognizant of the drivers that move its business forward, consistently deploying to organizational needs as opposed to flavor-of-the-month leadership needs. Keeping the pipeline full of the most impactful resources may mean we have to focus on benefit delivery, not the status quo that appears popular with the most powerful sponsors. We can justify these decisions when we have strong data about resource utilization that can be extrapolated out to scenario modelling for benefits realization. Once we consistently provide capabilities prior to the time when we really need to deploy, we can prove our worth. As the article puts it,

“The easier companies make it for people to input measurement data, the more consistent, complete and reliable the intelligence built up will be. Systems that display everything on one screen, that can be accessed via mobile phones, etc., all contribute to compliance. They also remove the inaccuracies of gut feel, where team members subjectively assess how ‘hard’ a task has felt. With a menu of firm parameters to choose from, that bias potential is removed. The result is a quantifiable, data-driven system for monitoring resources – the kind of supporting documentation budget-holders dream of.”

Current resources might not deliver the goals and objectives we need, either today or tomorrow. In addition, the right resource mix will minimize the impact of change, not prevent that change from happening. We can only protect the future of our PMO by being clear-eyed about the past—and so gain a next-generation resource demand planning philosophy that protects the bottom line and allows us to innovate effectively for the most impactful results.

Rachel Hentges
PMO Influencer
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Rachel Hentges

Rachel Hentges is challenging PMO leaders to think differently about their role. Rachel is the author of key industry related surveys, reports, blogs and more that challenge the status quo of today’s PMOs.