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Uncovering the facts

Christmas and New year pulled me away from the day-to-day rush and that was inspiring.

The past three years, I focused on how organizations can improve resource utilization, especially for knowledge workers in environments such as engineering, R&D, quality and regulatory operations. In all of our implementations, we have setup processes for demand management, resource allocation resource planning, capacity management, competence management and managing work standards. And every time we established a catalyst role to make all these processes work well in a sustainable way.

We never thought about giving the catalyst role a kind of general name, but a sparkle of inspiration made me think of a Resource Management Office or RMO. It’s a logical extension of PMO (Project Management Office) as we know from organizations that are strongly project driven.

In some of the realizations though, we connected Binocs (Resource Planning and Forecast cloud application) with the existing PMO organization and tools. But why wasn’t the PMO already closing the resource management gap? Is it because PMOs tend to be very project portfolio centric, which leads to a number of shortcomings as we have described in The marketing and the truth about project portfolio implementations.

The thought kept running in my mind. Isn’t the PMO missing that extra leg to add full value in knowledge worker organizations? Shouldn’t we call this PRMO: Project and Resource Management Office?

Usually other peers must have walked that path as well, so I googled on Resource Management Office and surprisingly there are only a handful of hits that made sense. Here’s how NASA positions their RMO:

The Office provides monitoring, analysis, and reporting across the full breadth of the Directorate’s financial and workforce resources. The Office trains and manages the co-located Resource Analysts who work within the various Offices and Divisions to implement effective and efficient use of resources. It also provides proposal support to NASA research.

Although this definition has quite some room for interpretation, it’s pretty much the same role that we setup during our Binocs resource management projects.

In operations where 70% is routine work and only 30% is project related, we recommend to setup an RMO. Not a PMO. At least that’s what we did and still do in our implementations and we know that this works.

But when the majority is project work, does it make sense to draw an RMO in the org chart when there is already a PMO? No, probably not, but maybe we need to tweak the conventional PMO a bit to cope with the needs of the resource managers. PMOs define resource allocation as one of their key areas, but I haven’t seen any that covered this well.

But before we dive into it, we should be aware that there are different types of PMOs. Here is how PMI defines the PMO frameworks:

1. Organizational Unit PMO/Business Unit PMO/Divisional PMO/Departmental PMO

Provides project-related services to support a business unit or division within an organization including, but not limited to, portfolio management, governance, operational project support and human resources utilization.

2. Project Support/Services/Controls Office or PMO

Provides enabling processes to continuously support management of project, program or portfolio work throughout the organization. Uses the governance, processes, practices, and tools established by the organization and provides administrative support for delivery of the project, program or portfolio work within its domain.

3. Project-Specific PMO/Project Office/Program Office

Provides project-related services as a temporary entity established to support a specific project or program. May include supporting data management, coordination of governance and reporting, and administrative activities to support the project or program team.

4. Enterprise/Organization-wide/Strategic/Corporate/Portfolio/Global PMO

The highest-level PMO in organizations having one, this PMO is often responsible for alignment of project and program work to corporate strategy, establishing and ensuring appropriate enterprise governance, and performing portfolio management functions to ensure strategy alignment and benefits realization.

5. Center of Excellence/Center of Competency

Supports project work by equipping the organization with methodologies, standards and tools to enable project managers to better deliver projects. Increases the capability of the organization through good practices and a central point of contact for project managers.

In our resource management implementations we deal mainly with matrices of projects that request services and resources from multiple functional teams as shown in the figure below. Given this context, it is difficult to integrate an RMO in frameworks 3, 4 and 5 for different reasons (for which I’d be glad to detail my opinion. Just leave me a comment).

Matrix structure

The Organizational Unit PMO (1) and the Project Support PMO (2) though are our target for an RMO / PMO assessment based on different aspects:

Aspect PMO (+ Project management) RMO (+ resource management) Closing the gap
Scope Time, budget, (human) resources Resources and resource cost. Align the resource management policies with the PMO policies.
Sources of demand The most important projects (e.g. CAPEX) All sources of demand such as smaller projects and routine work in order to have the full resource picture. Define the demand managers for non PMO projects and activities.
Project detail Milestones and work packages. A set of activities that a functional team delivers in projects. Define how work packages break-down into team standard activities.
Standardization Governance of Project templates Governance of standardized activities Setup integrated governance standards
Capacity management Often non-existing or limited to an aggregated picture. Capacity is built up by the resource manager. This includes out/insourcing and resource sharing between teams. Move the capacity management responsibility from the PMO to the functional teams.
Resource requests On work package level, often expressed in FTE or days of work. Sometimes skill or competence based. Projects should request standardized activities. The resource management tool will translate that to resource workloads with the required competences Establish a process to demand work/deliverables instead of demanding resources.
Resource Forecast PMOs tend to have a hard time to deal with that because unconfirmed forecasted projects have no project manager, so no resource estimates. Apply different kind of high level models for forecasting large projects, small projects and routine work. Define the resource forecast model and establish a resource forecasting process.
Planning method Mostly unconstrained. Constrained is not possible because there is no full demand picture as stated in "Sources of demand" above. The resource requirements are piled up as they are requested. Constrained by available capacity, competences, priorities and requested due dates. Establish a periodic planning cycle to take into account new or changed demand
Prioritization Prioritization process for the projects in the PMO scope Combine prioritization with other sources of demand and support activities in the functional teams Establish an escalation mechanism between functional teams and PMO.
Scenario building Build end-to-end scenarios for the projects in the PMO portfolio. Scenarios take into account milestones but lack a capacity view. Build specific functional team scenarios for the projects in the PMO portfolio combined with small projects and routine work. Scenarios do not offer end-to-end project visibility. Build fully integrated end-to-end scenarios to support fact based decisions that bring all the elements in the picture.
Progress tracking Work package and milestone level only for the projects in the PMO project portfolio. Often this is an information hand-over from the functional team to the project managers. Activity level for all sources of demand, directly in the resource management tool and sync with the project management tool. Integrate the resource management platform with the project management tool.

Give your PMO that extra leg it needs

Project organizations that operate in a matrix need to close the RMO gap to claim a true resource assignment function.

When we look at all the aspects in the table above, there are a lot of PMO responsibilities that can’t be fulfilled without a decent platform to plan resources on the full span of work demand, Not only on the priority projects in their portfolio. But this is not a free lunch.

PMOs tend to team up with the project managers and see the senior managers and sponsors as their main stakeholders. But this little 2nd leg under the P includes that the resource managers need to be recognized as another major stakeholder. Functional teams are the delivery engines of the project portfolio and in many cases they don’t get the visibility they need to keep their engines running efficiently. The PMO needs to facilitate and organize this.

Solving the above two points requires that the organization moves away from the home grown specific Excel planning sheets that each functional team maintains. This feeds disintegration and undermines the evolution towards an end-to-end project and resource management. Instead, organizations that want to attain a maturity level in project (portfolio) management need to be supported by a resource management platform that fully engages the resource managers, the project managers and the PMO. Or should we name it PRMO after all?

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