I’m writing this after watching my beloved Manchester United’s demolition of Roma in the Europa League semi-final and Chelsea’s Champions League semi-final win over Real Madrid, and as always, I am drawn to the parallels that exist between our world of IT Project Management and that of elite football.
Did you know that Chelsea Manager Thomas Tuchel waits until five minutes before a big match to even pick his starting line-up? Or that Manchester United’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer routinely waits until they are twenty minutes into a game before deciding who will play in what position and what tactics they will deploy.
Of course, this doesn’t really happen at football clubs (except, maybe at Arsenal, judging by their season).
No, I’m confusing the managers’ post-match interviews with a couple of conversations we’ve had with IT Project leaders in this last week.
It would be ridiculous for football clubs to approach their games like this! So, why is it OK to resource IT projects in this way?
The football clubs spend a lot of time and money scouting and attracting exactly the right talent, they target talent with specific season goals in mind, and they have their talent in place (usually) in advance of their campaign.
Are You Picking Your Team After the Game’s Kicked Off!
At Stoneseed, we’re often asked to help resource IT Projects that are well underway.
Someone realises that there is a skill shortage, or a capability gap and they call us. The thing is, in most cases, these are shortages that could have been avoided – more often than not it is a resource need that could have been predicted. To return to the football analogy, imagine a team being 3-0 down before realising it needs a decent goalkeeper!
Now, to be clear, Stoneseed’s Project Management as a Service (PMaaS) will always be here to find you your metaphorical goalkeeper. We can provide access to project professionals, resources, and tools at a flexible and predictable cost. Our services portfolio offers a true end to end service, from IT Advisory, Business Analysis Services through to Programme & Project Delivery. PMaaS provides access to Flexible Resources on Demand, Project Management Office, Process and Methodology, Tool Sets – all when you need them and for how long you need them.
BUT, is there a better way?
IT Projects, just like football teams, work on a predetermined budget, expected results are clearly defined, and there’s a strict deadline. In both cases, success can be hugely dependent on the intelligent use of available resources – and the rewards for success in both disciplines are worth the effort! OK, I read that Manchester United’s semi-final win was worth €4.5m but that’s nothing compared with the buzz of delivering an IT Project on time, within budget and ticking every business need – am I right? My point is the rewards make it worth a little extra focus in the planning stage.
Capacity planning, the process of defining what resources you will need to meet demand, is a crucial part of your project preparation and planning stage. Few would admit to not doing some form of capacity planning, but if you’re making urgent, last-minute calls to bolster resources, then I’d argue that maybe your techniques could use an overhaul.
Whether capacity planning helps ensure that you have enough staff to meet the demands of your portfolio for the year ahead, or just simply knowing who is around and where they’re allocated next week, done right it can save you money, time and stress.
As I say though, we’re getting a lot of “ASAP” demands for staff. So why?
Increased PMaaS “ASAP” Demand
At first, I wondered if it was the strangeness of the current times that was driving increased “ASAP” demand – could it be due to staff shortages caused by illness, for instance? There is a pandemic after all! Or might it be that more reactive projects to deal with changing business environments need more agile skillsets compared with those possessed by an incumbent team?
Perhaps it’s a combination of both, in some cases, and other factors too. It’s nice to have a “reason” to pin any failure on. However, as time has moved on, it has become clear that most shortages are down to a lack of forward forecasting of resource demand – and this, by the way, isn’t necessarily a criticism!
Capacity planning is great. On paper. Legendary Nottingham Forest manager Brian Clough once quipped, “We had a good team on paper. Unfortunately, the game was played on grass.”
And so, it is with IT projects. The reality and changing complexities of modern organisational structures can make the practice less straight forward than it used to be.
We’re proactive souls here at Stoneseed … we wondered if our existing consultancy offers, like Stoneseed’s PMO Assessment, could be extended to help “build out” the forecasting skill set. We talked with Project Managers who were making these ASAP staffing requests to get a picture of what they were dealing with.
One Manager neatly summed up what everyone was telling us when she explained that IT Project capacity planning was increasingly like “herding cats”. She told us of her challenges: remote workers; new reactive projects are harder to estimate than ‘traditional’ proactive ones; proliferation of autonomous team working; widening gaps between planned work and actual work; ever-shifting goalposts and business priorities. These, and many others, were repeated in our conversations with IT Project teams. There are a lot of cats to herd.
These days, it seems that it’s harder than ever to stay on top of where everyone is and what they’re doing, and managers tell me that they feel that they’re often “best guessing” or “forecasting by instinct” how long a part of a project will take and crucially whether they have the right staff and resources to do the work.
Sometimes, most times, a fresh pair of eyes can help. Especially if that fresh pair of eyes has vast experience dealing with the new challenges that you’re facing.
Warning – You’re Not the Only Organisation With This Urgent Need
‘Project Manager’ is the most in demand occupation in the UK, according to HR News – not least because they are required across all industry sectors. Meanwhile, IT business analysts appear on the Home Office’s Shortage Occupation List (SOL), an official list of the professions for which there are not enough candidates within the UK. So, it’s a great time to be a PM or BA – not a great time to need one urgently! (Remember PMaaS is here for your emergencies though!)
In conclusion, it’s wonderful news that things feel like they’re getting back on track, but this extra demand could lead to shortages making planning and forecasting even more difficult.
Rather than seeing all of this as an excuse to skip capacity planning and forecasting, and “go with the flow”, the teams that are doubling down on forecasting, learning new techniques and improving how they forecast resource project needs in these challenging times are the ones that are getting the best results and returns.
Yes, planning is harder than ever, but it’s never been more important OR more rewarding! We can help you pick your team, make sure you’ve got all positions covered, and help you achieve your business change goals through IT Projects.
Back of the net! (OK enough football now – ED)