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Resource management for programs

Chris Dwyer
April 7, 2011

3. Resource forum

Provide a context in which resource contention can be resolved quickly. Project managers should be able to quickly articulate the impact on their project and the program. The resource forum chair can then decide the best outcome for the program and everyone can move on.

4. Program first, project second

All resource decisions must be taken in favour of the program. This is more easily achieved in an environment where project managers have greater incentives for program success than they do for individual project success.

5. Planning and stability

When resources are assigned based on the squeakiest wheel principle, they lose focus, passion and faith in program and project leadership. Create an environment of strong planning, plan visibility and stability in resource assignment.

While this advice will keep most programs out of resource management trouble, there are some other factors that should be considered, which may be equally applicable to projects.

Burnout: With the increase of larger programs running in many organisations, we see a good number of people on their second or third large program in a row. Most have been on the end of an endless line of deadlines and deliverables for some time and many haven’t had a decent holiday.

For a program to achieve great results, recognise the ‘human’ component of resource management, and implement mechanisms for looking after people and avoiding burnout.

Talent identification and management: Programs offer organisations a great environment for talent identification and nurturing. Where does it fit in program resource management? Is it the responsibility of the program management team to undertake this role on behalf of the organisation, or HR? In the absence of line management to perform this function, the program management team is the obvious surrogate.

Personal development and training:
With people on their second and third program in a row, many have lost sight of any personal development plans they had when they had a regular line manager.

In some cases it has become unclear who their line manager is, and if there is even any room for personal development in the program environment. Programs can and should consider the inclusion of a training and development budget to underpin organisational capability development for those people who no longer clearly fit into an operational business unit structure.

Succession planning and knowledge retention: Turnover will occur no matter how well the program manages resources. To reduce the impact, programs can proactively identify key resources and plan for succession and knowledge transfer. Formal induction and handover needs to be carefully planned with overlap between resources.

Contractor management strategy: Some programs now recognise the need for a clear strategy to achieve the right contractor/employee mix. Contract resources require a slightly different management approach and would normally fall outside of the personal development and training approach but may be included in talent identification and targeted for permanent roles.

Programs with a clear strategy for managing this mix and the associated processes tend to produce greater, longer lasting benefits for the organisation than those that do not.

Planned, structured and well-executed resource management is achievable on programs if its importance is understood and agreed. Program directors and managers should seek to establish the value of good resource management early in the program lifecycle.

Where resource management is not permitted, the visibility and importance it requires and the risks of inadequate resource planning and management needs to be raised, and consequences understood.

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Chris Dwyer
Chris Dwyer is a senior consultant and director of Core Consulting Group and has provided guidance to a range of organisations around PMO implementation and optimisation.
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