There comes a time in the journey for all PMOs that you can’t do more without more staff to support the work. There’s a limit to how agile and lean you can be and still offer a great service to your project management community and the executives.
Every PMO is different, but we normally see two types of people within the PMO: delivery personnel and support personnel. The conversation to secure more people depends on what kind of person you are looking for.
Project delivery personnel are the project managers, business analysts, project co-ordinators and subject matter experts who lead projects. They are full-time allocated to one or more projects. In your business, these staff may not report directly to the PMO, but it still might be appropriate for you to be the one asking for a rise in headcount in this area, especially if you are seeing an increase of work and not enough people to take it all on.
So how do you ask for more project managers? It’s acknowledged that project work has peaks and troughs. While as a business you might be under pressure with projects right now, who knows what the execs will choose to invest in next year? Perhaps there won’t be so many projects to do. That can lead to a reluctance to ask for more staff, and a reluctance to grant the request.
We’re seeing trends that show project work is only increasing. Yes, businesses can go through difficult times where investment is funnelled into other initiatives, but project managers have skills that enable them to contribute to the organization in a number of ways. And, contrary to popular opinion, it isn’t impossible to slim down the workforce if you need to: there’s a constant cycle of people leaving for other roles and retiring that provides natural attrition.
However, it is sensible to address this worry in any request for additional project managers. It’s helpful if you can tie their recruitment to a long term trend you’ve seen in your own business, showing that project work is increasing and your current workforce is overloaded. If you can point to projects that are delayed as a result of lack of staff, that’s another convincing factor to support the need to recruit.
Large projects may need their own dedicated teams, and don’t overlook the benefits of having someone on a contract to work on a particular initiative: you may be able to move them to a permanent role later.
Projects are how organizations deliver their strategy, so if there aren’t enough bodies to do the work, your business will grow more slowly. Often the opportunity cost of not having a person in post is greater than the cost of that person’s salary. Tying your request to a business case for a project is often a powerful message: what would be the cost to the business of not having the benefits of this project for another six months? With extra staff, you get the benefits faster.
You may be more effective in asking for extra staff if you make it clear what kind of person you need. For example, do you really need a program manager with 15 years’ experience? Or would a newly-certified PMP® be able to do the job? Do you need a project manager, or would a project co-ordinator be able to support in an adequate way? Or perhaps you need both?
This is a harder conversation to have: no one wants to add resource to the business where there isn’t a clear return. ‘Support’ can mean a lot of things but here we are using it to mean team members who do not actively work on projects. They provide back office support to project teams and executives, through project reporting, portfolio management, prioritization support, system administration, leading teams, training, managing lessons learned databases, facilitating knowledge sharing and so on.
Unfortunately, support people, managers, team leaders and so on can often be seen as an overhead if they aren’t actively delivering projects that impact on revenue or profitability.
But support staff (at every level) do have an impact on profitability. They help by doing all the things listed above. Managing a document library and updating organizational lessons learned means that project teams have access to resources to enable them to get started more quickly and with fewer mishaps. Mentoring and coaching project managers means they are more efficient, delivering their projects more successfully and with better operational buy in.
The conversation to ask for additional headcount needs to be centered around the value these people will add. It is hard to place a financial amount of this, but you can ‘sell’ the idea of having more support. Here are some ideas:
- Track the increase in projects in the business: you need the staff to be able to support your organization’s growth.
- Track the increase in demands for management information: if you don’t have the staff, you cannot service the information needs of senior executives.
- Track the increase in the number of project delivery personnel: more project managers means more admin and project support, mentoring, coaching, training needs etc.
- Track project management maturity: you should be able to show that you are trending upwards, and can lay out a plan for how you intend to increase maturity through additional programs, led by your new team members.
If you can link the requirement for a new starter to a particular initiative, that’s another good way to introduce more heads to the organization. A new large program, for example, might require a dedicated support person, and you may be able to get them on a contract if your management team aren’t happy to go ahead with a permanent hire at this point.
The common complaint for adding additional people to a business is that management don’t believe you need the extra heads. That happens because they don’t understand what your team is doing today. Make sure you have monthly reporting, trend analysis, and visibility to demonstrate what your team is working on and the results you are getting. It’s always easier to ask for more if people value what you are offering them at the moment.
Even if you don’t feel like you need more people now, you should be future-proofing your potential needs but ensuring that the people who matter know what it is you deliver and how your resources are currently being used.
No One Knows What You Need Except You
Don’t expect anyone to offer you extra headcount. It is most definitely up to you to put together a proposal for additional staff. State clearly:
- Why you need them
- What they would work on
- When you anticipate them starting (if you need several additional resources and do not need them all to begin at the same time)
- What role they will carry out
- What type of person you are looking for and at what level
- What you propose to pay the new staff members.
Effectively, you are creating a business case for new team members. It needs to be compelling, clear and easily understood. Given the work involved in requesting new staff, it’s worth considering your resource needs for the year and ensuring your proposal covers a number of additional resources, with staggered start dates.
Finally, don’t struggle on overstretched and understaffed. You’ll burn out your current team, and risk absences due to sickness or stress, and ultimately face people handing in their resignation. Stay close to how your existing team are feeling about their workload and be prepared to act. When you do so in a considerate and thought-through way, you might be surprised at how supportive your management team is for securing extra resources.