PMBOK®Guide for the Trenches, Part 7: Procurement and Human Resources

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I'm linking the procurement and human resources chapters of A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) together for the simple reason that I have absolutely no idea why they're in there in the first place. I have never been in or encountered an organization of any size that lumps human resources and procurement departments under the head of project management.

I'm pretty sure this is because human resources and procurement should be understood as asset management, not project management. Asset and project management are completely different animals, with different objectives, tools and methods for attaining their respective goals.

Those differences were vividly illustrated for me when I was working on a software project for my organization's human resources department. I had loaded the schedule into a critical path network, pulled status and recalculated the projected end dates. When I was presenting the resulting Gantt chart to the human resources manager, I pointed out that one set of activities involving the software coders looked like it would be delayed, and, if it was, it would delay other key milestones.
"Tell everyone to come to work this weekend and maybe next," was his automatic reply. "Wait," I interjected. "These activities have nothing to do with your folks - it's the management information systems people who are involved here, and we don't even know what their difficulty is. It may not be fixable with more people working it." "No difference," he replied. "This project is so important that all of our assets must be performing optimally."

Of course, project management is not about the performance of assets. It's about attaining the scope that the customer is expecting, within the customer's parameters of cost and schedule.

I'm engaging in a little bit of hyperbole here, but most project managers don't concern themselves about whether they should have bought or rented a key piece of equipment. They care about whether or not the job gets done on time and within budget.

Procurement is in the same boat. Sure, it's important that the procurement professionals who work with you are very good at what they do. But they obtain assets and are similarly afflicted by the asset managers' mind set.

I just don't think we're kindred spirits. But, if there are any human resources or procurement heavy-hitters out there who think our managerial goals and techniques are completely compatible, I'd love to hear from you.

Posted by MICHAEL HATFIELD on: August 13, 2010 03:21 PM | Permalink


I agree that Procurement and Human Resources are two different animals, as are Asset Management and Project Management.

I currently work on Projects as a PMP in training so to speak within the Asset Management Division. My projects always deal with assets as being resources that support our company's main goals and objectives, minus PEOPLE resources, which is where I think the Human Resources element comes into play.

I am just taking a wild guess here, but it would almost seem as if the PMBOK puts Procurement and Human Resource Mgmt together as a catch all for those resources that comprise a project. People being the Human Resource and Procurement Management for dealing with assets that are Operational or consumable. Just taking a wild guess.

Robert A. Dudley, PMP, PMI-SP
PMI placed this material in the PMBOK because it is directly related to project management. Project managers have the duty of managing resources assigned to them or ones that work directly for the project manager (dependent on organizational makeup). Projects are very dependent on the resources allocated to them and the scope and budget management is directly related to the resources applied.

As for procurement management, this is what project managers do. Procurement is not only buying things, it is also managing the things that you bought or have on hand. Procurement management is also contract management. When a project manager brings on temporary workers (sub-contracts), a procurement has occurred and with this procurement comes HR management. The project manager may not in all cases be the procurement master but he or she better know what is going on and understand the terms of such procurement.

Let’s not get confused between HR management outside the project and HR management within the project. As you have noted, your project was within the HR department. The HR manager in your case is a stakeholder and not a resource under you guidance. Now, one could argue that HR management and stakeholder management fall along the same lines and I would not argue this much. The skill sets are close to the same but as a project manager, you have to be able to delineate the differences between the two.

I find it a bit concerning that this was said with such certainty and to leave out even a shadow of a possibility that project manager is about asset performance. Project management is about the performance of assets. This is a key element behind attaining cost, schedule and scope requirements. Assets are what make or break a project and a project manager who fails to identify with this is more of a problem than a solution. Without assets, there is not project. You will never make the schedule, you will fail to meet your budget and you will never obtain the objective of the scope.

When you say “most project managers don't concern themselves about whether they should have bought or rented a key piece of equipment,â€쳌 you are pointing to a specific industry. In construction or other high dollar industries, there is a concern about purchasing or renting. This is also true in many other industries where budgets are tighter. In your case, it must be nice to just burn money and not be concerned with this, but in real life project managers are concerned. We have to make a lot happen with little budgets. If a project manager is concerned about getting a job done on time and within budget, they are concerned about what they buy or rent and how quickly either of these can occur.

While your article or line of though may be off from the rest of the world, the article was stimulating. I would seriously consider reviewing basic project manager theory and skills. Remember that the project manager is in charge of the project and as such, he is the one that will held responsible for failure within the project whether he or she was part of the problem or not.

Dmitri Ivanenko
I see project management as a self contained object. If you use a programming analogy, where it will take care of the core elements all within itself, i.e. managing the human resources of the project, procurement elements, such as contracts, resources, other assets.

The project connects with the organizational elements of HR and procurement, among other elements, for support and org standards and policy compliance reasons. Therefore seeing the project operate like an object with it's own independent and self contained functions and procedures is helpful in understanding why it's possible that the project would have smiler elements that the organization itself would have.

Granted, projects will have a specific set of functions it will deal with, i.e. manage, and it won't have the HR or procurement staff per se, but will have the roles for those incorporated into the other roles existing in the project, like the project manager, project control officer, etc.

Collins Oladele
I can't see much in what we argued about. In a simple way, project managers have duties to manage joint resources, both tangibles and intangibles. Performing these roles makes you more supreme and better than others.

Also, you plan actions and forecast risks together with all your activities.

We all go round management every day of our life, but managing with profit perspective make project managers outstanding.

You are outstanding because of the management of the joint professional task you involved in.

So, procurement and human-resources were just branches of activities to be done!

Jonathan Carter, PMP
As an HR professional, I agree that project management and HR disciplines are fundamentally different. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that there are conflicting interests, or that working together productively must be difficult. There is some degree of overlap in which PMs should have a basic understanding of HR strategy and management theory, which is why I believe PMI addressed it in the PMBOK. For the same reasons, basic project management strategy is covered in the SHRM body of knowledge. I'm not sure why an HR director would recommend crashing a project with staff that aren't assigned to the critical task. Perhaps he/she simply was not well-versed in PM terminology and didn't realize that this wouldn't have any impact on the schedule (or that the IT task was a prerequisite for the remaining project work to continue). If that's true, what the HR director essentially gleaned from your conversation is "the project is behind schedule". From his/her perspective, adding staff makes complete sense, until as a PM you explain why that's not the case. It can't always be assumed that other functional areas "speak your language" and it helps to plan accordingly. The alternative is that there was some other organizational priority in consideration - such as assigning the team members towards some other project or task that lacks buy-in, which needs to be handled with sensitivity. The decision could also be driven by pressure to meet certain performance metrics, by culture ("demonstrating the entire team is committed to getting this done"), or any number of variables that ultimately become HR's responsibility. As in project management, there are environmental factors that influence HR decision-making which are not always obvious. Robert is correct that this issue is more aligned with stakeholder management than HR. It's not as much about managing the quality, motivation, and performance of your team, as it is about establishing clear expectations from your client's perspective.

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