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Project Portfolio Management – Role Play part 2 (The elusive RM) (#2 in the series Project Portfolio Management – Role Play)
By Demian Entrekin

To recap, “I will probe the range of individual perspectives of Project Portfolio Management (PPM). I will explore the needs, assumptions, changes, interactions, biases and discoveries that occur on a role-by-role basis.”

In this post, I will discuss the elusive role of The Resource Manager in IT. In many cases, one can say that the resource management function stands in the center of the challenge to IT departments. This challenge is not hypothetical. It impacts us every single day. It determines which problems are being worked by whom. Unfortunately, there does not appear to be a magic pill for solving this problem.

IT managers constantly speak about the lack of visibility into resources. Who is doing what? How are they performing? What skills do we lack? Who is impacted? Who is available? These questions grow increasingly important when the IT organization assesses it current capabilities relative to it’s current priorities.

In my experience, the role of Resource Manger in IT is rarely formalized, if it exists at all, and there are many factors that contribute to the more-or-less informal status of a Resource Manager.

One reason for the lack of dedicated Resource Managers in IT is that many of the resources are captive to certain departments and projects. They are deeply entrenched in one of three types of projects: implementation, development or maintenance. Their availability is typically controlled by a static management structure, and that management structure is fundamentally at odds with a centralized Resource Management capability.

Centralized resource management is much more typical in an services-based organization where the resource assignments are viewed as inherently temporary. People move from project to project based on the economics of a services model. Changing assignments is SOP. In these environments, a dynamic and fluid approach to Resource Management is prevalent, if not essential.

In the absence of a formal role, the Resource Manager function in IT typically falls to the department leads, the IT directors. In smaller organizations, the CIO may play an active role in resource management decisions. Therefore, it becomes a shared responsibility and the challenge becomes instantly territorial. Who gets what resources? Why? Who makes these decisions? How are resources re-assigned? This can be an enormously challenging aspect of managing IT. Without exception, getting the right resources on the right projects is the difference between success and failure.

Add to these structural challenges the cultural tendencies of individual contributors in IT. Some like change. Some do not like change. They like to stay in one place for years, in some cases decades. And, to complicate matters, this kind of long-term commitment makes good sense in many cases.

One way or another, IT organizations need to shift to a mindset where the mantra becomes “do the right projects” and “put the right people on those projects.” There are several ways to accomplish this. One way is to adopt some of the techniques of service based companies, and that may include a more fluid approach to resource management.

As always, your thoughts are welcome.

Demian is the CTO of Innotas. As founder and CEO, Entrekin oversaw marketing, product development, sales and services for the company. Today, he focuses on strategic product direction. Prior to Innotas, Entrekin co-founded Convoy Corporation and was Chief Architect of its initial products. In that role, Entrekin helped the company lead the middleware market with an annual growth rate of 670 percent and played an instrumental role in Convoy’s subsequent acquisition by New Era Networks in 1999. A recognized thought leader in Project Portfolio Management, Entrekin has published numerous papers on PPM and his blog (PPM Today) explores current issues related to successful PPM implementation. During his 18 year career, Demian has assumed leadership roles as a consultant and as an entrepreneur, delivering commercial and corporate database applications. Demian holds a B.A. in English from UCLA and an M.A. in English from San Francisco State University.

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