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Head Coaching Your IT Organization

by Kevin Rischow

Imagine that you are the head coach of a football team that is in the championship game.  There is enough time for one final play and your opponent needs to score a touchdown to win the game.  You use your last timeout to make sure you have the correct defensive play called and have the right players on the field.  Taking a deep breath, you look along the sideline at your 53 active players and see your MVP quarterback sitting on the bench after leading the offense to score the go-ahead touchdown. He is by far the best player in the league.  Do you decide to bring him in for the final defensive play to win the game?  Absolutely NOT!

For those not familiar with football, the reason why the head coach would choose to leave the best player on the bench for the last play is that person does not have the right skills for that situation. A quarterback in that scenario would be unable to effectively prevent the other team from scoring and, often, would make things worse by getting in the way of someone who has the necessary skills to make an impact!

According to Pro Football Reference data, during the 2017 regular season, a total of 256 games, there were on average 131.1 regular football plays per game.  To put that in perspective, the head coach has about 131.1 unique plays to determine both the play call (“the how”) and group of 11 football players (“the who”) to execute each play.  Focusing on the who, football teams are made up of players with different skill sets typically grouped in either offense, defense or special teams (i.e., kick-offs, punts, field goals).  Those players are then further segregated by position based on their unique talents.

So, what does this have to do with resource management for your strategic programs and projects? Well, programs are made up of multiple projects (“plays”) that require people (“players”) with the appropriate skill sets.  At Kenway, our overall employee base is about the same as a football team roster. Like the opportunity presented to a head football coach when determining what play to call based on the opponent’s defensive alignment, Kenway also believes that each project should be treated uniquely and is always looking to leverage the right skills, at the right time, in the right volume, for the right duration.  To accomplish this, we continually evaluate each of our project’s changing needs, understand each of our resource’s capabilities, and make the right adjustments to our project teams to continue to be most optimal across the duration of the projects. Touchdown!

Akin to a head football coach evaluating speed, strength and football IQ to determine talent, we leverage people, processes and technology to effectively manage Kenway’s resource management model. The process is governed through established communication channels between project leads, capability leadership, and the Strategy, Planning & Delivery team.  There are processes in place to communicate new project needs, resource availability, and resource skill sets.  By marrying supply and demand into our Professional Services Automation (PSA) tool, we can effectively plan our project transitions and make more effective hiring decisions.

Following are five recommendations to improve your team’s resource management approach to support strategic projects.

Define and monitor your key performance metrics: At Kenway, we encourage our employees to be entrepreneurial and to have time to help Kenway outside of our client projects.  We have developed utilization targets at both the company and individual resource level to ensure each employee has an opportunity to achieve those goals.

Know your resource skills and capacity: Understand each resource’s skills, interests and availability to align with the upcoming project demand. Remember to include schedule changes for vacations.  Also, keep in mind intangibles such as long commutes or parallel projects with conflicting schedules that may hinder a resource’s ability to effectively deliver.

Know your upcoming project demand: Capture known project demand as far into the future as possible.  Also, be specific with the skill sets that are required for each project and when. For example, if you are expecting development to start in the next quarter, capture that need upfront.   

Understand project drivers: Recognize that each project may have a different driver, such as scope, budget and timeline, that is constant.  Understanding these drivers will allow you to be more effective in resource planning to meet various project needs.

Be forward looking: Take time to regularly evaluate your resource plan from the top down.  This can help proactively identify training gaps and hiring needs, and allow you to adjust based on changing resource skill set, interests and market demand.

Implementing the above steps will help improve program and project delivery by leveraging resources most optimally. With regard to head coaching a football team, as a fan, I hope the Bears optimize their resources and find themselves one play away this season.

If you are interested in learning more about Kenway Consulting’s Project Lifecycle capability or our Project Risk Management approach, please contact us at info@kenwayconsulting.com.

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