It may be a cliché to say that people are your most important asset, but when it comes to Strategic Portfolio Management (SPM), that’s exactly what they are. So far, we’ve considered the different ways work gets done, the different models for delivering on strategy, and the need to continuously adjust and adapt your plans to shifting circumstances and emerging opportunities. But regardless of how well any of that happens, you only deliver through the work that people do.
It doesn’t matter what industry you are in, how much you have embraced technology and automation, or how big your portfolio is. The single biggest contributor to your success – or failure – is the ability to have the right people with the right skills and information doing the right work at the right time. It’s also the element of SPM that should be the easiest to manage effectively, as it’s one of the few variables that you actually have the ability to control. Those resources are employees, contractors or vendors to your business and are invested in your success in one way or another.
The challenge of allocating the right people to the right work
But you know that’s not how things work out. You’ll have resource bottlenecks caused by overallocations and single points of expertise. Some team members will be under-allocated resulting in lost opportunities and reduced performance levels. And it’s not easy to project when demand will shift, making it a challenge to have the right people consistently available when they are needed. And now that challenge is getting even bigger. The tri-modal reality is making it even harder to effectively manage resources. You have to deal with allocations across permanent teams, role specific requests and hybrid approaches with less predictability.
A large part of the problem is that resource management is not handled as a strategic discipline. SPM best-practices require you to be able to categorize resources into different roles and experience levels to understand capacity and capability within your resource pool. You have to be able to model the resourcing impact of different portfolio decisions – including the impact on demand over time. And you need to be able to do both of those things across the trimodal reality of delivery that requires strategic approaches that can work regardless of how work is delivered and resources allocated. Finally, you need to be able to do that across all business areas and functions.
Model the impact of portfolio decisions on resource capacity
If that weren’t enough, effective SPM requires you to proactively forecast resource needs through complete visibility into upcoming supply and demand to allow for the identification of future challenges and opportunities. This proactive approach must also consider the evolving skills and experience needs of the organization as it grows and evolves.
Effective, forward looking resource management is perhaps the single biggest differentiator between strategic success and missed opportunities. It allows a business to fully utilize the resources available, developing an investment mix that optimizes performance while leveraging available skills and people to their fullest. It is the catalyst for effective adaptive planning – without understanding the people and the impact on those people of proposed adjustments you can never be sure that you are implementing the right changes in the right way and at the right time.
The right tools help you see the entire picture
How do you achieve this? Reliable data with clear visibility into that data. You need an accurate picture of the resources you have, their skills and experience, and their allocations both now and upcoming. You need that perspective regardless of delivery method and across projects, programs, products and capabilities. At the same time, you need reliable forecasts of resource needs by role, skill and specialty traits, and you need to know the resource impact of any decisions you make – before you make them.
The view of your resources must be contextualized to the audience – portfolio managers and leadership need to understand the opportunities to pursue additional investments and the threats to current initiatives. Resource owners need to see current and forecast demands on their people and understand potential problems far enough ahead that they can act to address them. Project managers need to see bottlenecks on their projects before they occur and understand resource related dependencies on other work. And of course, individuals need to see what they are expected to deliver, and what their planned work looks like.
Achieve this and you’ll be able to make much smarter decisions about your business – delivering closer to your full potential. But more importantly, when you have this level of visibility into resourcing supply and demand at all levels of the business, your teams realize that they are contributing to something important. Everyone involved from executives to team members understand the connection between work and strategic success. That drives engagement and motivation, and in turn leads to greater performance and productivity. Speaking of performance, in our next post, we look at managing costs.