Project Fire Drill: When Resources Run Amok

Implementing an enterprise IT system can result in a powerful, single ‘view of the truth’ across an entire organization, integrating business processes and creating easy-to-use reporting.

If you aren’t familiar with Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, it is a chronology of the movements of two expedition teams climbing Mount Everest. Sadly, both leaders and three team members died during the storm which hit them. This expedition was a commercial one, meaning the team members paid the leaders to guide them up and down the mountain safely, even with the risky awareness of a storm hitting them.

Some equivalents can be drawn between climbing Mount Everest and deploying a major enterprise system. The software you buy is the path which you choose to climb the mountain, and the System Integrator (SI) is your commercial guide. You put your trust in the SI to prepare you for the journey and make a significant investment of both your time and resources to complete the trip, just like those who trusted their lives to the mountain guides in 1996.

When your SI gives you advice, it is important to ensure you do your part.  There are a few things that can happen when clients do not engage resources at the level recommended by their SI, all of which are harmful:

  • The project may have extended timelines causing it to go over budget on the use of consultants
  • The project may not deliver the benefits expected if the best and brightest are not assigned to it
  • There may be a significant operational impact if users have not properly prepared

Given all the bad things that can happen if users are not engaged at the very beginning of an implementation, it is difficult to understand why there always tends to be a fire drill to bring the right level resources onto the project at the right time.  Failing to provide the proper resources upfront often results in a dreaded change order.

With the frequency that this risk becomes an issue on large transformation efforts, we sifted through our database of transformation projects to identify the most common root causes of companies not having the proper resources in line to commence an engagement.  We also provide a set of tools that can be used to help mitigate these risks.

The Five Reasons Clients Fail to Deliver Human Capital Resources on Time

  1. Failure to Communicate Expectations — Project teams often just fail to communicate the demand for staff resources. Resources that are considered subject-matter experts or are required to clean data, deliver training or properly prepare the business, are needed at the onset of a transformation project.
  2. Undefined Requirements — Committing to specific resources can be challenging for leaders if there is no clear direction as far as what resources should be made available or what specific skillsets are required. When it comes to allocating an adequate amount of time and money for these resources, leaders are typically unwilling to have an open checkbook, which as a result, can lead to last-minute scrambling and exceeding their budget.
  3. Insufficient Lead Time — When the project team does not provide a sufficient amount of lead time to fulfill a request, business and IT managers will likely fall short in providing the quality and quantity of resources necessary.
  4. Clarification of Priorities All areas of the enterprise are constantly working in overload mode. When project teams come calling with additional demands, these are likely to fall to the bottom of the list unless clear priority and direction comes from the top of the organization.
  5. Lack of Accountability — We typically see that senior leaders are not measured in a meaningful way with regard to meeting commitments. The level of commitment and time documented for all participants during these essential periods can easily be overlooked.

The Six Specific Toolsets to Use as Vehicles to Help Mitigate These Risks

  1. Communication Plan — Developing a strong communication plan can be a primary tool for mitigating risk. Organizations tend to overlook the opportunity to begin communication prior to the project execution phase. Developing a plan that consists of asking when, what, who, and why can be an excellent technique to execute. The plan should include a section that clearly identifies client resources while properly defining how management of these resources will be updated throughout the duration of the project.
  2. Staffing Models — The use of staffing models are instrumental when trying to communicate expectations of project resource requirements. Staffing models, maintained by the project team, outline a detailed level of commitment and timing that is required for each area of client responsibility.
  3. Role Definitions — The use of project role definitions and accountabilities is an excellent technique to secure the right resources. This tool can specifically help leaders identify who within the organization needs to be freed up for your project and to what level of commitment those resources should remain available. By clearly defining the responsibilities, skillsets and decision authorities of the required resources, the providing resource managers can plan and budget their resources accordingly.
  4. Availability Plan — Put forward by the client functional area, this documented plan outlines what capacity will be made available and what actions will be executed to free up resources. A well-thought-out availability plan requires managers to be thoughtful in how the request will be fulfilled. Senior leaders should take point at presenting availability plans at steering committee meetings to mitigate the risk of accountability.
  5. Personnel Performance Plan (PPP) — The PPP can be executed by using the company’s current associate development and performance accountability plans to clearly document participant expectations. This type of plan will help to clarify responsibilities in the context of all other work at the individual level. To assist with measuring accountability and resource meeting commitments, the PPP requires participants and leaders to consistently report on performance.
  6. Participation Tracking — By incorporating a participation tracking system into the mix, the level of commitment needed from each resource is better measured. This tracking system is also maintained by the project team and, essentially, it documents if resources have attended meetings or have completed tasks in a timely manner which will then be reported out directly to the steering committee.

To bring all these tools together, UpperEdge has developed a Resource Availability Risk Mitigation matrix to aid teams in developing their own risk mitigation strategies.

Client Risk Matrix

Click image for larger view

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