What to Do When Project Need Exceeds Skills and Availability

Your project management practice is moving along nicely and your organization’s project success rate is on the rise. Your organization is getting better and better at “selling” projects, but you may be a smaller organization lacking the human resources personnel to get the right people on board – at least quickly – to ramp up the delivery side of the project management infrastructure. What do you do? Seems like a good problem to have, but in reality it’s just like any other PM delivery problem. If you can’t deliver projects successfully, you can’t deliver and that’s a messy situation to be in. And one you better figure out a way to dig yourself out of…. quickly.

Once such situation presented itself to me awhile back in the form of a client consulting need. The CEO of the organization was great at selling projects. To good, actually. The demands on the internal, available resources were overwhelming…beyond the workload that the existing employee and equipment infrastructure could accommodate. And they were smart – they weren’t about to just go out and hire bodies to make up for the lack of resources. As I said, it was not just people, but costly equipment…much of which they had built themselves internally. So they turned to me to help them get a handle on their project resource demands…as a shared pool of resources so that all involved – including the CEO – could better understand the available pool of resources they were working with. Seems like a good problem to have, but it’s not because project delivery delays – like the ones being caused in this scenario – cause customer confidence loss and dissatisfaction just like project delivery failures.

What can you do when resource needs exceed availability?

  • Look internally

You can always look first for internal resources, although that’s likely already been done or what you might find won’t meet the skill need. But, in the case of short term fixes, finding available resources from within to ramp up and bring on board in the project management infrastructure is almost always going to be your most economical route. Why? Because consultants and outside hires – especially in emergency situations – don’t come cheap.

  • Onboard if absolutely necessary

If you must hire outside, keep in mind that to find the best fit will take time. And likely won’t be someone across the street. So you’ll need to assess if remote work on the project is an option. If it is, then the world is your oyster and you can find the best talent quicker and probably cheaper since there is no costly move and many individuals will work remotely for less money. But again, onboarding in mid project takes time and will affect three things: budget, timeline, and customer satisfaction. The customer will notice a new resource and if there is any bumps in the road associated with onboarding the new resource it will only serve to diminish customer confidence.

  • Get temp consulting to fill temporary gaps

Getting temporary consulting to fill temporary needs is a popular route to take. No long term hiring commitment necessary. You’ll pay a premium rate, but you won’t be faced with keeping a longterm resource that you only need for a short period of time. In the long run, unless overall expansion of the employee workforce is needed at the time, you’ll likely save some money with this option.

  • Delay projects

One final option – and it should be your last go-to option – is to delay some projects. It’s never fun to tell an anxiously waiting customer to wait some more. You will lose some and that can damage your reputation to deliver strong on projects. Yes, word will get out that you are shorthanded. But not moving forward on one or two projects is better than failing on already in motion projects. That’s the worst scenario so avoid that one at all costs. Offer free or discounted work to the delayed customers as an incentive to stick with you and wait a month or two till you’re able to start work on their project. That may make the entire nightmare go away. Customers like discounts and free work.

Summary / call for input

The bottom line is this…it’s always an unfortunate situation to be in when you can’t fully or efficiently deliver on projects. Explaining to your project customer base that you can’t deliver because you don’t have the available resources is no better than saying you can’t deliver because you don’t have the technology or funds. Either way it’s a fail in the customer’s eyes.

Project management tools like Taskworld help in boosting efficiency and reducing project lead time. They help management in understanding available resources and making more accurate predictions about the project.

Readers – what are your thoughts? Have you encountered situations where you had to set aside projects or tell customers you couldn’t deliver because your infrastructure couldn’t handle the workload right now? How was it received? Please share and discuss.

Brad Egeland

Brad Egeland

Brad Egeland has written this article on behalf of Taskworld. Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM author with over 25 years experience as a developer, manager, project manager and consultant.

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