Over the years, I have spent a lot of time talking to clients about their change planning challenges; and one particular issue comes up more often than any other – that of balancing resource supply and demand for the delivery of change portfolios.
Why is this? It’s not as if it is a particularly difficult concept to get your head around, but it seems to bedevil organisations to an almost ubiquitous degree. Time and time again, change planning teams seem to struggle to determine the resource supply available, how much of that supply is committed to existing delivery work – and therefore how much available capacity can be committed to new programmes and projects. They find themselves ‘steering blind’, when in reality the business needs them to be anticipating resource demand over a sufficient planning horizon to allow nimble, flexible and cost-effective resourcing solutions to be mobilised.
Why does supply and demand planning prove to be so troublesome?
Here are some reasons I come across more often than not:
- Inconsistent ways of viewing resource information between projects, future change demand and resource pools. This results in no centralised ‘single source of the truth’
- A silo mentality across teams, which makes it hard to create any form of holistic analysis
- An overcomplicated approach to resource planning, that relies too much on bottom up aggregation of projects plans and/or an over-reliance on tools
- Poor scoping, planning and estimating disciplines resulting in incomplete or unreliable data being fed into the analysis – reducing trust in the information being presented
- Key resource demand items being overlooked, or ignored – or ‘off-portfolio’ pet projects consuming resource.
The result of all of this is that the change aspirations set by the business are rarely connected properly to the delivery model and confidence in delivery capability is therefore undermined. At a day-to-day level, change and IT leadership lack access to a clear consistent picture that they can use to drive the right prioritisation and decision-making with change sponsors and stakeholders.
Supply and demand analysis
So, what are the practical techniques that would allow a credible supply and demand analysis to be collated?
- Align a full portfolio supply and demand process to the business planning round [including quarterly reviews], so that risks and challenges can be fed-in prior to sign off
- Build a full picture of the supply organisation, but keep the analysis proportionate. You don’t need to drill down to the nth degree; analysis by resource practice areas can provide a lot of the required insight, e.g. project managers, business analysts
- Only go to a greater level of detail where you know there are key SME bottlenecks around point skills, e.g. knowledge of a critical business processes or IT applications
- Standardise planning models for new initiatives – i.e. ‘T-shirt sizing’ of new demand until a more detailed understanding allows a more defined estimate
- Model everything, even non-project demand – for instance, idea incubation can chew up much needed business analysis capacity
- Have a clear resource strategy defined – so you know the sourcing approach for particular skills – build internal capability, bring in external partners, use contractors, source etc.
- Finally, you need a clear management owner of supply and demand planning with a suitably empowering mandate.
Many areas need to work in concert to create the required analysis and strong leadership will be needed to produce meaningful outputs that are readily used by senior stakeholders to make rational decisions.