Resources are people too
Take a look at the table of IT elements a bit more closely. A slice through the middle of the table from left to right includes a lot of people or roles:
- (Customers replaced with Security)
- Project Managers
- Business Analysts
So, it’s not all about faceless soulless computers, people are literally the life-blood and the backbone through which Strategy is implemented, ideas get turned into designs and finished products & services, software and websites are maintained, mobile and cloud services are supported. Each of these roles or groups will be the subject of separate IT Element-ary bite-sized modules, but I want to focus on something else in the model.
Lurking in the middle of the table is Resources. In its generic sense a ‘resource’ is any commodity that can be used or consumed primarily to make something happen, including the day-to-day operation of a company as well as projects that create, maintain, upgrade and even dispose of the things that your organisation produces, sells, transports, manages or operates.
‘Resources’ includes all the physical materials, equipment and stock used or of-use, anything and everything from paperclips and post-it notes to electricity & water, the computers on your desk, even the desk itself!
However, the most important resources are the people, who are typically the single most costly and indispensable part of IT and software development activities. They are also the resource that is most difficult to acquire and manage*.
*Note: for the purposes of this post I will not consider time or money as types of resources. What do you think?
In most cases resources are scarce, there is a finite supply. You can’t easily ‘commoditise’ people or ‘throw more people at the problem’, for example, to do the same thing more quickly or react to unexpected problems. Fred Brooks, one of the great thinkers and writers in IT expressed the problem as Brooks’s Law:
[Only] Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.
Let me qualify this, adding resources may make a project later; people need to be qualified, possibly trained, definitely motivated and available in the right place and at the right time to help make a difference. Typically though more people also means greater management and administration overheads, and the subtle and often hidden costs (delays, drop in productively) of building relationships and maintaining lines of communication.
I am not a number – I am a human being!
Typically projects are planned in detail up-front, starting with some idea of the size, complexity, time-scales, assumptions & dependencies, followed by a breakdown (decomposition) of activities, with more or less detail depending on the approach and methodology being used. It is only later that resources are assigned to tasks or responsibilities in the schedule, not as real people, but as placeholders. I often start a new project or engagement as ‘Business Analyst’ or ‘BA1’, which I quite like, although this anonymity soon disappears when, as a named individual, I have to do things by a certain time, because the plan says so!
So bear this in mind, especially if you are a Project Manager, resources you can plan and manage on paper, but real people do the real work 🙂
I hope you enjoyed this. Please have a look for other interesting and related topics at the IT elementary school.
(c) 2015 Antony Lawrence CBA Ltd.