The Case Of The Disappearing Resources

Project teams rely on all sorts of resources, from contract labor to inter-departmental assistance to external expertise, and raw manufacturing materials to leading edge communication technology. Defining the necessary levels for each resource, justifying them, and managing their use across the project life-cycle are all carefully cultivated skills. Unfortunately, even the savviest PMP® can sometimes be undone by challenges that arise after the budgeting and allocation processes have been completed, leading to disappearing resources.

Disappearing resources

If your team has encountered instances where approved resources have seemingly evaporated into thin air, see if one of these sneaky problems may be to blame. We’ve also included some strategies that Project Teams may find helpful as they work to avoid the phenomenon of the disappearing resources.

When promises don’t translate into approval. Sponsors are often responsible for securing critical resources, and most of the time they come through with flying colors. Occasionally, teams may discover their sponsor promised much more in the way of project resources than they were ultimately able to secure. This could be due to inflated assumptions about how much influence the sponsor holds within the organization, or it might be related to overall funding availability. In either scenario, the team may not be aware until very late in the project life-cycle that the actual resources don’t match what was pledged.

Avoidance strategy: As with many other aspects of project management, the trick here is to get in front of the problem early. Be sure everyone involved in the formal approval process, including accounting and purchasing representatives, are in agreement on what has been officially earmarked for the project. This helps to avoid incorrect assumptions and miscommunications, and ensures the team has accurate data on resource availability.

When allocated resources are pilfered by other projects. It’s frighteningly common for one project to “borrow” resources from another. Sometimes those assets are returned through the magic of the budget cycle and sometimes they aren’t. Problems arise when the payback timing doesn’t support the needs of the pilfered project, leaving the team scrambling to either develop a contingency plan or scale back the anticipated achievable goals.

Avoidance strategy: The diligent use of strict project controls will help the team identify early in the project cycle where resource levels are being impacted and if potential conflicts with other projects are likely to arise. This also provides a method for not only monitoring resources but also carefully managing their consumption rates, a crucial skill if the team is going to stay a step ahead in an organization that gives tacit approval to this borrowing system.

When a project loses its top-level support. An organization can change direction at any time. It may be in response to shifts in consumer spending patterns, a new competitor entering the marketplace, the implementation of updated legislation, or a shakeup at the leadership level that prompts the company to pursue new goals and strategic initiatives. Any of these triggers has the potential to impact how much support a project enjoys. And if that support begins to fade, even those resources that have already been allocated could suddenly be needed elsewhere. Other projects may leapfrog to the top of the priority list, leaving lower-tier projects with fewer resources than expected.

Avoidance strategy: Ongoing stakeholder engagement is one key to ensuring that a project doesn’t fall out of favor or lose its support. By remaining in close contact with sponsors and the organization’s leadership team, PMP®s can constantly monitor the direction of the company versus the project pipeline. Any disconnects between a project’s objectives and the organization’s needs can be addressed before support evaporates and the assigned resources dry up.

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