Skills database – a foundation for consistent project success

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

Multi-project enterprises are generally organized 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 in getting 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 suitable skill, other attributes may be required. Minimum levels of competency, specific technology experience, preferred location and language proficiencies are common examples. The skills database must support requests for resource to this level of detail, if resource managers are to propose only suitable candidates.

Resource managers generally look after teams of people with similar skills or experience, or those that are co-located in regional offices. They strive to maintain high levels of team utilization, so use the skills database to showcase their team members’ capabilities;  an approach not dissimilar to that of a Dating Agency, as one of our consulting engineering clients described it!

There must be effective collaboration between project and resource managers to ensure that every project remains appropriately resourced. 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 jeopardize key project milestone dates, whilst resource just sitting on the bench will quickly erode operational profits.

If individual projects are not to suffer, regular review of resourcing levels is 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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