To do this project or not to do this project? That is the question.
With apologies to Shakespeare, many of the companies we work with wrestle with this question frequently and look to us to help them develop the tools they need to make go/no-go decisions. Many organizations we work with have a process where they decide on the upcoming year’s projects. During this process they will determine which ones will get funded and staffed and which ones will be passed over and never see the light of day. Although the rigor to make these decisions varies from company to company, the process is often in place at least in some form to help determine which projects will be pursued during the next fiscal or budgetary year.
A challenge occurs, however, when companies are deciding whether to begin any new projects that arise after the initial planning process has occurred. Perhaps new leaders are hired with new strategies or new initiatives are given higher priority by management. Or most likely new ideas and needs just emerge later in the cycle than would be ideal. In any case, these new ideas require resources.
Report Shows if Resources are Available or Not
To provide insight into whether a mid-cycle project can be launched without impacting the current project landscape, we have developed a report that shows at a high level if a project most likely can or cannot be completed effectively based on resources available. It’s a helpful way to get that insight quickly, even if just at a high level. There’s a certain level of rigor that goes into fully making the decision, but up front there are a couple of important questions you can answer that will make the no go decision obvious. When the report is viewed, if essentially there’s no red on it, you know that you’re probably good to go from a resource perspective. But if there’s a lot of red on it, you know there’s a good chance the necessary resources will not be available when you need them.
For example, the report above has very little red. This would show that there are enough resources to move ahead with the project.
The report essentially tells you the number of hours you’ll need for each role involved in the projects. For example, let’s say, 104 hours of consultant time in January, 105 hours of consultant time in February, and 384 hours of developer time in March are required to complete a project. The report will show you how much capacity is left in the organization for each role and will highlight in red instances where more demand is created by the project than you have capacity.
Microsoft Project Server supports planning at the beginning of the year where you agree on your project portfolio. Some of the companies we deal with seem to do a good enough job determining which projects they can do and identifying resources and team members they need to do each project adequately. Because of the functionality in Project Server, in the initial planning period, the PMO has confidence that the projects will be successful. Project leaders know they have the people they need on the team and will be able to complete the project on time and within budget.
Should You Start a New Project or Not?
So now let’s go three months into the year and a new, high-priority project has been identified. Our report will help determine if there are adequate resources available to staff the project at a high level. If the report says yes, then you’re probably good to go. If the report says, no, you probably can’t do the project with the current resource availability.
The report above has red all over it which means there’s a lot of risk in moving ahead with the project.
Of course just because the report says the numbers don’t look ideal as plans are currently laid out, it doesn’t mean the project cannot get done. The report just gives you an indication that you might need to adjust your overall project plan. For example, you can put current projects on hold because the project you’re considering is a higher priority, or you can adjust the time frame when the project might be done to fit people’s schedules. Again, if the answer is a “clear no,” it’s a pretty distinct and straightforward thing. The data is there and there’s no judgment call. If the answer is a “weak no,” then you may want to get down to the next level of detail. After identifying the adjustments needed to make it work, there’s still a bit of a judgment call, since you can’t necessarily quantify all your risks.
Many companies come to us describing this pain but in ambiguous terms. In a lot of cases they just need a better mechanism for viewing the resource data, or they need better control of their people. This report can help them know better what’s on their plate so they can make more informed decisions with regard to how and when to kick of a project that comes up mid cycle.
What do you think? Let me know some of the challenges you’ve faced in the past when deciding to initiate new projects midstream.