Skills database – a foundation for consistent project success

A skills database maintains details of each person’s skills, competencies and technical expertise. It is particularly useful in geographically dispersed project organisations, where locating suitably qualified staff can be far from straightforward. Managing a portfolio of projects with a limited pool of resources can be a lively ride. As competitive pressures build, high levels of staff utilisation must be maintained if the enterprise is to remain profitable. This highlights the importance of maintaining a comprehensive skills database within your resource management tools.

Multi-project enterprises are generally organised along matrix lines, where the key relationship is between project and resource managers. Project managers are charged  with ensuring the successful delivery of individual projects to meet the client’s expectations, within time and cost constraints. Their success and the performance of their projects rely heavily on suitable resources being allocated to each and every task; there can be strong competition between project managers to get the best staff assigned to their projects.

Project managers may well need to specify their resource requirements in some detail. Rather than simply requesting a skill, other attributes may be required. Minimum levels of competency, specific technology expertise, preferred location and language proficiencies are common examples. The skills database must support requests for resource with the required level of detail, if resource managers are to propose only suitable candidates.

Resource managers generally look after teams of people that have similar skills, or are co-located in regional offices. They strive to maintain high levels of utilisation for their team members, so will us the skills database to showcase their talents. If this sounds like what you’d expect from a dating agency, that’s how one of our consulting engineering clients describes it!

There must be effective collaboration between project and resource managers to ensure that every project is properly resourced, throughout their lifecycle. The multi-project workload is a volatile environment, where unexpected changes can easily create new skills bottlenecks or periods of underuse. Both are equally damaging. Bottlenecks can jeopardise key project milestone dates, whilst resources just sitting on the bench will quickly erode operational profitability.

If individual projects are not to suffer, regular reviews of their resourcing levels are essential and switching individuals between projects can become necessary. Regular access to a well-maintained skills database is a prerequisite for effective collaboration and consistent project success.

Barry Muir is a Director of Innate Management Systems Ltd. We have been implementing resource management software in a wide variety of professional services organizations for more than 20 years.
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