A month ago, I changed my position in the company and became the leader of the PMO (project, portfolio or program management office – pick the one you like). Our main goal is to make things work efficiently. We all know it’s hard.
Let me share the approach I took to improve one of the biggest and hardest processes – Capacity Management (scheduling or talent management). Sometimes it is referred to as resource management or planning, but I don’t like those terms. In my case, we work with people, not resources (things). They have skills, dreams, feelings, and the capacity to do an awesome job. Our goal is to make sure that we have the person with the right skills in the right place at the right time. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that we are always able to satisfy all of those parameters together, but we are trying to create a process which will maximise our outcomes and help us to get where we want.
I borrowed the concept of 4 pillars of Capacity Management from Jerry Manas. I divided the problems and set the goals to the team according to the following 4 principles: visibility, prioritisation, optimisation, and integration. Let me quickly walk you through each of them.
In order to manage the capacity efficiently we must see the big picture: the demand and supply. If we don’t know what’s going on on the demand side, we can’t make strategic talent allocation and predictions. We need to understand how many people and which skills we need to have available to make the job done.
The goes for the supply side. How can we predict the expectations of our clients and users if we don’t know who’s available today and who will be available in the nearest or even farthest future?
Just try to remember how often you’ve experienced the following situations:
Someone from sales comes to you and says that they’re closing a very important deal and they need to have the best people possible ASAP!
You hired lots of new people but the project ended unexpectedly. You have a bunch of people without tasks and you need to figure out what to do with them.
Before we start fixing the problem, we need to make sure everybody sees it. We started with making the process as transparent and visible to everyone as possible. We work with sales and try to get the best guesses about the dates and the skills required for the project. We work with active projects on clarifying the completion dates to make sure we know when the people will be available for the next project. We work with people to understand which skills they have and in which direction they want to develop so that we could help them to get closer to their dream with every next project.
A few tips for improving the visibility:
Map your process. You need to know what the demand and supply are in your case. You also need to know who who’s working on what and what the parameters needed to run the business are.
Put the data in the system, make it transparent, and explain how to use it. You can start with a spreadsheet and put the demand on one side with parameters such as the required start date and skills. Then you put the supply with the same parameters on the other side. As the number of requests starts to increase, you might want to think about some automated software for doing this.
Work on quality and execution. Without quality data your system is worth nothing. If you don’t trust our system you won’t use it. Make sure you explain the importance of data quality to your team.
Ok, now you have the map of the supply and demand and you can start working on improving efficiency. We started with implementing the segmentation of our requests – the categories which show us what we can expect from those requests and which approach we should take for each category. Then, we took a step further and implemented a score which takes into account a number of parameters – it helps us to prioritise requests.
Create a system which works for you. It could be a score that will show you which requests are more important than the others. Think what brings the most value to your business and try to deconstruct it into parameters: is it a particular type of clients? Or maybe it is one kind of technology or skills where you have the advantage on the market, and those requests should be addressed first? Combine them and create one indicator that will show you which request is the most important.
Involve the stakeholders in the creation of the new system. They need to explain to you what matters to them, and you need to tell them what matters to you. You need to share the same goal, and improved visibility will help you.
Iterate. Start executing using this new system. If you see some issues with the score or the indicators you’ve chosen – fix them. You’re developing a process that will maximise the outcome. It takes some time to create one.
With limited capacity (and it’s always limited) we need to learn how to use it efficiently. From the business point of view, it could be some measured utilisation or other KPIs that will show you that you’re on track. We’ve built dashboards with KPIs visible to everyone so that we all know if we are closer to achieving our goals or not.
Understand what efficiency means to your business. If you want to spend less and gain more – define which number will show you that you’re moving in the right direction. Collect those KPIs in one place and share it with stakeholders.
Revise the KPIs often and learn from your mistakes. If you take some actions but don’t see results, try to dig deeper and identify what’s working and what’s not.
Everything is connected. Changes in your processes and approaches will cause changes on the other side of the company. The same applies to changes made by your stakeholders – they will affect you in one way or another.
Map the dependencies. Again, just as was the case with improving the visibility, you need to have a map of stakeholders and processes.
Identify the risks. Make sure you think upfront about the potential issues and changes in the way other party’s cycle.
Communicate. Gather the stakeholders together and discuss the plan.
Those are 4 main areas we’re working to improve at the moment. Will this work? We don’t know. I like to treat everything as an experiment. And even if we fail somewhere, we learn and get back to work with improvements and new ideas.