It sounds counterintuitive doesn’t it – functional managers should be the folks who would stand to benefit the most from having accurate resource forecasts. Functional managers are the gatekeepers for the work intake process for their teams and in that capacity will frequently struggle with having sufficient skilled capacity to satisfy demand.
Given this, one might assume that functional managers would be the first to sign up to provide transparency into team member allocation. Unfortunately, in those companies where such information has never been tracked and reported, you will likely discover that functional managers will generate the greatest volume of complaints when you try to introduce consistent practices.
There are usually two main causes for such resistance:
Maintaining usable, current resource forecasts requires a reasonable commitment of effort. It doesn’t matter whether you have to track this data within a spreadsheet or within an advanced project portfolio management solution – capturing and updating staff allocation information can consume an hour or more per week depending on team size. And, as I wrote in an earlier article, when individual team members are working on both operational and project activities, the complexity involved in forecasting such allocations increases. If managers are already doing this type of tracking and all you are trying to do is to gain consistency in practice across different teams, it might not be a hard sell, but you will likely find that in most lower maturity organizations a number of functional managers won’t be doing it all!
Transparency is a double-edged sword. The upside of having published staff allocation information is that work requestors will be more aware of the committed workload for team members which might result in better expectation management if their requests can’t be fulfilled immediately. However, for those resource managers who purposely use the lack of such information as an aid to overstate how busy their teams are, it will reduce their ability to avoid taking on new work.
So what can you do to overcome such challenges?
- Have strong, visible executive support to sustain practice changes – if you don’t have executive commitment to hold functional managers accountable for the quality and currency of resource forecasts, the initiative is unlikely to ever get off the ground, and even if it does, you will likely get spotty compliance at best.
- Start simple, and increase complexity over time – if you are introducing these practices into an organization where resource forecasts have never been produced, don’t insist on capturing highly detailed information right away. Start by having resource managers just track team member allocation at the monthly level against named projects and a few key operational activities, and once you are seeing good compliance with these practices, progressively increase the level of detail being requested.
- Delegate the capture and tracking process – while functional managers are responsible for allocation decision-making, the mechanics of maintaining forecasts does not have to be a burden which they bear alone. Assuming the process of capturing the information is simple, this weekly or monthly activity could be performed by an administrative assistant.
- Coach functional managers on how they can use the forecast data to help themselves – whether it is to help justify staff augmentation or to commence meaningful discussions with governance committees on work prioritization, seeing how the information is able to benefit them as much as it aids in enterprise planning might help overcome lingering doubts about the value of these practices.
The criticality of accurate resource forecasts might tempt you to declare to functional managers that resistance is futile, but if they haven’t fully bought into the rationale and benefits of the practices, it might be you who gets assimilated!