Few projects end with the team they started with and are often under-resourced. So can a skeleton team deliver more with less?
Very few projects end with the team they originally commenced with or thought they would need.
The resource requirements for a project are often understated during project establishment due to a variety of factors, for example, overly optimistic estimates to keep costs under control or incorrect assumptions about skills required through every phase of delivery.
Priorities also change and what were once ring-fenced resources can be pulled away from your project and redirected to work on new business priorities. Requests for additional resources will often fall on deaf ears due to lack of funds or the organisation may not have spare capacity or the right people.
So if more resources aren’t the answer, is it possible to deliver more with less? The short answer is yes and we outline below some techniques that will help deliver projects successfully that are under-resourced.
If a project is under-resourced it is imperative there is no wastage in the allocation of resources to the planned tasks. Planning in this instance is critical.
If the planning is executed to a high degree of quality it will protect against wastage during execution and help ensure the limited resources are always where they can add the most value to the project outcomes.
Project Managers need to take the time up front to drive quality into their project plans and identify any unnecessary or over allocated tasks and remove or adjust them in the schedule as required.
The Project Manager with a skeleton team cannot allow for scope creep. The more scope added to a project, the more pressure will be exerted on an already under-resourced team.
It is imperative that the Project Manager keep well on top of the scope of the project and negotiate change requests for any additional scope so they will receive additional funds, resources etc. to cater for the additional tasks.
Governance and Stakeholder Management
Stakeholder management and communication can often suffer in under-resourced teams. The Project Manager can be more focused on helping deliver the solution to cover for lack of resources, this can be detrimental to their stakeholder management responsibilities.
Instead, the Project Manager should focus their energy on:
Achieving genuine alignment between the business and IT solution is a significant step towards success, particularly when it is supported by a governance structure containing strong sponsorship and stakeholders who clearly understand their remit.
It is a critical requirement that there are clear channels of communication (both formal and informal) to enable the Project Manager to keep key stakeholders regularly informed of challenges the project is facing, in particular any resource constraints. The “no surprises” principle is critical here – key players must be aware of the challenges within the project.
Pick the A-Team
Selecting the project team, especially one that is under-resourced, means that the level of talent procured is crucial. High performing experts who are in critical roles for the project’s duration can significantly lift the performance and productivity of all individuals within the team. It’s a clear case of quality over quantity.
A study by McKinsey & Co underscores the importance of these two points when looking at the biggest cause of project failures. The report found that 50% of all cost overruns result from a lack of focus on stakeholders and talent within the team.
Short Outcome-led Cycles
Agile projects specialise in leveraging small teams to deliver high levels of output. Utilising some of the principles of Agile and running short packages of work with quantifiable outcomes can help create a sense of real progress and success.
This can be vital to the success of an under-resourced team that may be working long hours to help keep them energised and focussed.
A small experienced team can deliver significant amounts in short cycles if supported by the right decision-making framework that allows for quick turn arounds of decisions required.
Slow or poor decision-making frameworks will eat into valuable time that an under-resourced team simply does not have. It is therefore critical to project success to ensure the decision-making framework is both robust and nimble to allow for crisp decision making when required.
Quality Over Quantity is Most Valuable
Quay has found that, more than anything, sound project delivery comes down to the quality of the team not necessarily the quantity of the people on the team. A skinny team with the right people and supported by good planning, scope control and robust stakeholder management has a high chance of success.
We believe experienced professionals working together within a unified and well-governed project can achieve significant results even when short-staffed. Whilst the above list is not exhaustive it is a good starting point in how to deliver a project successfully with less rather than more.
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