Knowing how to prioritize resources is critical. Examine reasons for doing projects earlier or later within your overall programme, and factors such as urgency, dependencies, and resource leveling.
- I had someone on a training course once, who said, her project was to make the city of Bristol more environmentally friendly. I used to live in Bristol. It's a great city. But I think everyone there would admit that it has some issues, particularly the traffic is pretty congested. Also the air quality is variable, and like any city, there could be more green spaces, and there can always be more recycling, etc. So I was thinking, to make Bristol more environmentally friendly, that's not a project, it's a collection of projects.
It's a program. And one of the first questions when you look at a program like this is, which order shall I do all these projects in? Ideally you'd start them all immediately, since they're all important. But then the problem will be that you don't have enough resources. Not enough people, and not enough money. And maybe, not enough of your time to manage it all. Especially if the resources that you generally use at the start of projects are different to the ones that you generally use later.
You don't want to be planning all of them, and then putting all of them through planning permission, and then stopping the traffic to implement all of them at the same time. You want it to be staggered. So, the first factor when you're planning the order of your projects is the availability of resources. And it could be that just one bottleneck resource is what allows you to plan this. Maybe one project uses the crane for most of the job but there's one gap where it's not needed. So that is when you have to do your other project.
Or at least, you have to time that other project so that the moment when you need the crane falls in that availability gap. So you're balancing the needs of the program with the availability of the resources. What other factors will affect the order of the projects? Well, there might be dependencies between them. Either must haves, or nice to haves. Maybe you have to have the access road built before you can get all the supplies in to build the office buildings. Or, you must have the buildings before you can get the computer hardware installed.
Or maybe, it will be just easier and more convenient if you had the stadium designed before you organized the ticket sale system. But you could work around it if you had to, and have a rough system for the tickets done first, and then refine it once the exact details for the stadium were known. It would add a bit to the cost, but you could live with it if you had to for other reasons. Two additional factors which will affect the order that you do your projects are urgency and importance.
If there's a massive urgency for new housing in the south side of the city, then maybe you have to build the flats first, and worry about the road afterwards. And what if the new technology park is really important? It will bring in a lot of investment to the city. You would want to do it earlier, rather than later. And of course, programs tend to have a whole lot of stakeholders involved, in a much more complicated and political way than projects do. And these stakeholders will almost certainly disagree over which projects are more important.
You can prove urgency. There's usually a reason for a due date like, for example, the Olympics. But importance is much more debatable. What's more important, air quality, or traffic congestion, or recycling? So, the program manager will probably be assessing how much power the various stakeholders have when they're all arguing for their project to be done first. Tricky. So I think these are the main reasons: stakeholders, importance, urgency, dependencies, and resource availability.
And they all combine in the program manager's head when he or she is thinking about how to fit all the projects together. What's the biggest factor in the order of your projects? And have you considered all of the ones on my list?
- What is program management?
- Planning from the bottom up vs. top down
- Resource planning
- Managing projects, resources, and time
- Getting the staff you need
- Self-organizing teams