Resource management is just one of the many necessary evils of project management. Project managers plan out the project staffing based on the skill sets that are needed on the project as well as when particular resources are needed to work on the detailed tasks in the schedule. Making sure that your project is not over- or understaffed at any given time can definitely make a difference in how your project budget is performing.
But what about the unanticipated loss of a key project resource? You may have brought this issue up during risk identification, but it’s not something you’re managing the budget toward or planning your schedule around. When you find out you’re losing a key project resource, you have to react quickly – but how you react and the processes you go through to replace resources can ultimately have a big impact on your project budget.
Since budget management and cost overrun have been ongoing concerns on every project since the beginning of time, the project manager must be acutely aware of how new resources will be brought to the project should the need arise. The best way to keep the hours and costs in check when replacing project resources on the fly is to have a plan. Without a plan, too many hours will be spent getting a new resource up to speed, shadowing the outgoing resource (if that’s even an option), assimilating the new resource into the flow of meetings with the customer, and familiarizing them with the project team dynamics. Have a plan so that hours can be minimized, costs can be kept reasonably in check, and the customer won’t agonize over whether or not they’re going to feel an impact from the transition.
Centralize project materials
If a central database of all project materials and deliverables is already being maintained – preferably by the project manager – then you’ve already won part of the battle. When a new resource must be brought on to the project, a database will eliminate the need to search for, gather, and hand over all relevant project materials to the new guy. Just point them to the database. Before you ever transition responsibilities to them or introduce them to the customer, you will want them to be up to speed on the history of the project – and that database is the place to start. It should contain all status reports, project schedule iterations, the statement of work, project kickoff materials, change orders, meeting notes, and copies of all customer deliverables, at a minimum.
Strategize with the project team
While it’s important that the customer know something about the transition considering you’re replacing a key resource that they’ve been interacting with throughout the project, your money and time is best spent first getting that resource ready for the real work. Give the customer a quick introduction and briefing on what is to come and how the resource will be engaged on the project. But there’s no real need to spend too much effort putting that resource in front of the customer until it’s absolutely necessary and until that resource is absolutely ready.
For now, concern yourself and the team with meeting to discuss the project, the customer, current status, ongoing issues and how best to transition the new resource into the flow of the moving project. If the outgoing resource is available, a 1-2 week period of shadowing is often the best route to take. If that outgoing resource was fired or had to quickly move to another project, then that may not be possible and it will be up to the remaining team to ensure readiness.
Finally, after a short period of study and meetings to familiarize the new resource with the project, it’s time to formally introduce them to the customer and let them begin leading the tasks and customer discussions that were previously handled by the outgoing resource. Remember, even though the project budget is important and you’re trying to perform the transition as efficiently as possible, customer satisfaction is always a concern. If the customer senses there will be bumps from this resource change, their satisfaction level will dip and you’ll have damage control to worry about. All of this takes hours and precious budget dollars so be sure the resource has the skill set and is ready to engage with the customer.
It’s never easy to change resources in mid-stream, but by making it part of your risk assessment and planning, you’ll know you have a plan. Thus, you can ensure that you’ll be following the most effective and efficient process to get the resource up to speed and customer-ready if the need should arise. Our team members are critical to our project’s success and without a plan, the team will spend unnecessary and unplanned hours making what should otherwise be a fairly orchestrated move.
About the Author:
Brad Egeland is an IT/Project Management consultant, business strategist, and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. He has been highly recognized for his ability to work with C-level business leaders in both startups and established organizations to create best practice processes for business management and project management and has overseen the creation and execution of multiple project management offices. He is a married, father of 7 living in Las Vegas, NV. He can be reached at brad at bradegeland.com or you can visit his website at www.bradegeland.com.