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Practice Areas: Human Resource Project Management, Leadership, Talent Management
How can a weak matrix PM obtain busy human resources that aren't dedicated but required?

Currently at my job I'm the PM for a software adoption project.

I have 1 main technical manager who is working with me to complete this project, as well as 2 of his technical employees.

Problem is, even though our project is of vital importance to be resolved inside the company, there are numerous other, smaller projects (sometimes customer focused of which they have to attend but not always) that keep popping up, taking the vital human resources away from my important project.

How can I get commitment towards my project, which is very important company wide and is a company priority, if smaller emergency projects continue to pop up?

The more ideas as well as real life examples and their solutions I can receive, the better.
Thank you
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Regardless of whether this is a weak/strong matrix, this problem is not uncommon.
First I would ensure the top leadership is doing a written communication that this project is #1 priority, and why it is vital for the org. and what loss it would incur if not given the importance.Then the tech.manager is bought into this idea and importance first and is able to commit his resources to this project first and then address the later next.
As a PM, you could also communicate this issue to leadership and make sure you are planning dates/leveling resources based on their time committed to other issues as well. Hence your dates are not impacted by other work.
I don't know if the smaller emergency projects are managed by another PM or a tech lead, you should regularly meet with him/her and align your project plan to theirs. This will help ensure alignment, resource leveling, and commitment.
The last, but not the best options IMO are overtime work by the resources so they are able to complete your work as well.

By great negotiation sills.

In real life and the current economical challenges most of companies face, interruptions for other popup projects is unavoidable; it is all about coordination and clear communication with all related stakeholders. From what you described, first of all you need to assess the impact on your own project's schedule and how much is it eating up your contingency time, hopefully you had the luxury to add such buffer during planning :). As long your deadlines are not impact, you just need to track it on your risks log and have some mitigation options on hand.. hopefully this way you can clearly communicate your project status to relevant stakeholders and work with other project managers to plan resource utilization.

We just need to keep in mind that if resources are needed for urgent work then it is most probably a legitimate request which needs to be looked at. The key here is to somehow understand (maybe you or a higher management personnel) why such requests keep popping up without planning, and see on the organizational or PMO level how this could be better managed.
One more thing, if you get some statistical numbers on how frequent such interruptions occur and how many hours did your resources put time then you can adjust your resource utilization and reduce the risk of slippage in your own project.

I am living it each day. Sponsor must solve this type of problems. Sponsor must keep the project from political circumstances. But perhaps it is not enough. The other thing we do is to make a 15-30 minutes meeting one day per week to show the key people impacts created with any type of changes (for example "informal" changes in resource assignment) in order that key people to decide about any type of impacts.

If your project is getting delayed or if risks are propping up, because of lack of qualified resources, then you need to inform this to the higher mgmt/sponsor. You have to show this as a opportunity cost which could not be fulfilled. You dont need to bluff, but somehow need to quantify how this missed opportunity affects the $ from your project.
Higher mgmt/sponsor usually only get serious only when they feel that revenue is getting affected. This is a reality I have faced in many projects

Mike, at the end of the day, there are only so many resources to go around. Even with proper prioritization activities, someone's project will ultimately have a delivery past the requested date.

If these are internal, noncapital, projects, the choices are either 'wait in line' or find an outside vendor to complete the work. Many times these 'must have' initiatives were not planned for in the budget, so while the need is great, the budget is not. Where it gets tricky is having to reshuffle the deck when a high priority initiative comes in while resources are allocated and commitments have been made. If the need was not included with budget forecasts, it will prove difficult to acquire additional resources. Also, change requests can cause significant impacts to the project queue, so restricting CR's will greatly help keep the roadmap in check.

Like others elude to, the decision to increase head count is at the leadership level. The best thing to do is showcase the gaps with a project roadmap, technologies, and resource types, with resultant impacts with the current head count. Or in this case, the specific impacts to the schedule of your project - request is by 'X' date, but with the current resource constraints, it will be completed by 'Y' date. In order to make 'X' date, we would need ....

Hi Mike,
Senior management buy-in helps. If the technical manager and technical resources are invested, they will come up with a plan that will work.

For example, on one of my previous engagements, senior management wanted 15 projects completed yesterday and operations cannot be interrupted for whatever reason. Keep in mind, i am a contract PM and really have no idea how this organization worked. Every suggestion was met by no, it isn't going to work here. I proposed reprioritizing projects based on timelines to knock out the quick deployments before embarkingon the dev projects.

I then deferred to the team and asked what their thoughts were. They came up with interesting ideas. Splitting the team into two, having team A handle this and team B handle that. Sorry i cannot go into more specifics than that. It worked because they came up with the prospect and it was an easy sell to their management because it was coming from their trusted employees, not the contractor.

Lesson learned was that organizations would hire really smart people but wouldn't listen to their ideas whether it had merit or not. So work with the team to come up with different scenarios that your management can choose from. They can choose to prioritize adoption project or let you hire temporary resources to get it done.

Are these small emergency projects both urgent and important?

I'm going to take an extreme stance on this and say that until all work is tracked and prioritized, this will continue to be a problem. Not just projects, but ALL commitments to work.

This may be an exaggerated response, but the idea is that work that is not tracked and prioritized, that uses the same people and resources as work that is tracked and prioritized, creates completely avoidable collisions. It is a lot of work to track everything, but it's less work than having people work on things they shouldn't be working on.

If the collisions you are experiencing are due to projects that are more important and more urgent than your project, there's not a lot you can do about it, even if you are tracking everything. Never mind that any type of adoption project is challenging, even when it is something that people want.

Another consideration is the question of how much time your team can dedicate to the project. Obviously, they are not 100% dedicated. Based on how things are going, can you ballpark what they can commit to, and work out an agreement on how much time they will dedicate to the project, each week?

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