Too Many Projects. Too Few Resources Focused on the Right Things
How are your IT resources managing all of the projects in their pipeline? Are they overwhelmed? Are they overutilized and spread too thin? Are projects delayed, stalled or over-budget? Is your company innovating and growing at the pace it needs to remain a leader or a viable competitor?
Planview’s Resource Management and Capacity Planning Benchmark Study continually finds the same challenge amongst product development, IT and enterprise program leaders from around the globe: the number one reported pain point for most companies is too many projects for too few resources. Can you relate?
How can this problem be solved? The first knee-jerk reaction when companies realize they have a resource problem is to respond with, “We don’t have the budget to hire more resources.” While budgets are getting tighter as margins shrink, there are real costs associated with missed deadlines, lengthy product development cycles and mediocre project deliveries. The good news is you may have plenty of resources. The bad news is they may be focused on the wrong things. The best news is you can be proactive to improve resource capacity and it doesn’t have to include revamping the entire department.
Aligning Resources to Projects
When we are hired to consult on IT projects, one of the first things we often notice is that many of the existing resources are working on the wrong projects. Either the company is “making do” with the resources they have and asking them to work on projects they aren’t particularly suited for, or they are underutilizing some resources and over-utilizing others.
When companies can properly align resources with the right projects, it’s amazing how much more efficient the department is in delivering projects on time, on budget and as specified. The key to achieving this level of resource maturity is to actually know your employees, their skill sets and the project requirements.
4 Steps to Resource Alignment
As an IT staffing company who also provides expert IT consulting, we have a unique perspective on how to marry talent with the right projects. Here are a few of our tips on getting the alignment you need to boost productivity and innovation without wasting funds.
1. Assess Your Current Resources
Before you can do anything, you must understand where you are right now. Whether your IT team is only you or you manage a hundred resources, you need to know what experience and skills are on the table.
You can work with HR, sit down with managers, conduct surveys or in-person interviews, or review resumes. Keep in mind, what’s on a resume or in an HR file may not be completely accurate. We’re not suggesting employees lie to get a job, but they may not be as specific as you may want. They may have also developed skills since their last resume was written.
Speaking with them and their managers is likely the best way to truly understand what projects they have worked on in the past, what projects they are currently working on and their bandwidth, what interests they have in developing their skills, and perhaps where they may have skills that have so far been unexplored. You will likely also discover many are working on projects they shouldn’t be. They may be limping along, but they aren’t bringing the value the project really needs.
The goal is to have all your cards laid out on the table. You must know who can do what, who is working on projects that most align with their skills, and who has the potential to contribute more.
2. Discover Where You Have Skill Gaps
Once you understand the skills you have at your disposal, you have to then get a feel for what projects are running and in the pipeline. Will your current resource pool have the skills required to complete those projects effectively at the time they’ll be needed? Are you going to have to settle or will you be ready with the right skills for the project?
Speak to the project managers to understand what skills would help the project run smoothly. Don’t limit them to the skills you know you have. Instead, let them speak candidly about what skills they would want if it were a perfect world. Find out if the current resources are aligned or if they’re working on the wrong things.
Use this information to go back to your resource assessment and see what matches up and where you fall short. Are there any resources who perhaps have never worked on those systems before but show experience on them in a previous job? Are there any resources who have expressed interest in learning those systems?
Determine if you truly have a skills gap, f there are undiscovered potential in your existing resources, or if you should move a misaligned resource to a more appropriate project. Remember, if you pull a resource from their current projects to work on another, those current projects may suffer. Be sure you have enough of those skills to keep the current projects on track before you reallocate resources.
3. Hire The Right Talent for the Job – 3 Options
If you determine that you do, in fact, have a skills gap and there is no one on your team who can fill that role in the near term, it may be time to hire. Don’t worry, you may only need to hire for that specific project. You basically have three options when it comes to hiring and depending on your choice, your budget may or may not play a role.
Hire Full or Part-Time
Hiring a full- or part-time employee may be your highest cost option, but it will also be the gift that keeps on giving. If you continually see projects are requiring a specific skill that you lack on your team, it may be cheaper in the long run to finally hire a resource with that skill than to constantly hire contractors or make do with what you have.
Hire A Contractor
This is an excellent alternative to a full-time hire when you only need a specific skill for a specific project for a specific length of time. A full-time employee requires more onboarding and benefits so if you don’t need them on an ongoing basis, you can save quite a bit of money hiring a contractor who is there to fit your need right now only.
Some contractors are interested in contract-to-hire opportunities. By hiring them first as a contractor, you have direct insight into whether or not they would make a good full-time team member at a certain point. It’s similar to try-before-you-buy. Ask your contractor if they are open to the idea, without giving them any commitment it will happen.
Hire A Staffing Agency
An IT staffing agency will be able to find the right resource for your exact project(s) easier than you can. They have access to large talent pools and stay in constant relationship with them. They also know which of their resources could be swayed to leave a current job for another, opening them up to an even larger pool.
A note about staffing agencies: find one who becomes your partner. Many staffing agencies have you basically fill out a questionnaire about the project and resource need, then they dump dozens of resumes into your inbox to let you follow up from there. A better option is a staffing agency who takes time to get to know you, your IT team and how they work. They will use that information to find the resources that not only fit the skills box but fit the culture and work ethic box as well.
A staffing agency can find you full or part-time employees, as well as contractors. They may also have their own internal resources who they can send your way to complete specific projects.
4. Continually Develop Existing Skills
We always recommend companies devote a portion of their budget to developing their employees’ skills. Employees are found to be happiest when they feel their employer is invested in their well-being and professional development. Encourage them to broaden their skills by taking ongoing education classes and online courses. Allow them to shadow existing resources with skills they desire to learn. The more versed they are in different technologies, processes and methods, the more likely they can fill the gaps that are sure to develop.