Archive for June, 2007

Workforce Management Meets Project Management: “Evolve Or Die”

On the blog The HR Capitalist (, Kris Dunn writes about how HR executives need to "get at the table, stay at the table" in terms of providing strategic value to the companies they serve.

In a recent post, Dunn referenced an article in the daily newsletter of the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) conference being held this week in Las Vegas. The newsletter is here: and the piece on page 2 is titled: "Readying HR managers for a post-HRO future." (HRO is human resources outsourcing.) Here is an excerpt:

The half-filled room at Saturday’s session on project management skills may signal that HR managers don’t yet understand that they must embrace the role of project manager now that more companies are outsourcing their HR processes.

As more companies turn over activities like payroll and benefits administration to vendors, HR managers either have to “evolve or die,” says Jason Corsello, a vice president at human capital management consulting firm Knowledge Infusion.

So here’s an interesting phenomenon: HR managers need to learn project management skills in a Workforce 2.0 world–not just to manage the outsourcing of IT, call centers, and other operational functions–but to manage the outsourcing of HR itself.

Overall, HR will lose its relevance if it assumes that workforces are staying large and static–that is the Workforce 1.0 model. As companies focus on their core competencies, become leaner, and participate in a global economy, HR will be more about managing vendor and partner relationships, accessing talent anywhere any time (not just inside the 4 walls), and developing the best teams for project-based work. This is the Workforce 2.0 model for HR.

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Talent Factory: Feeding the Project Workforce

Computerworld has published a great interview with Douglas A. Ready, co-author of a recent article in the Harvard Business Review about "talent factories." While these pieces are specifically addressing the need to cultivate talent for management positions, their findings have implications for the project workforce as well.

The Computerworld interview is here: "How To Build a Talent Factory."

The abstract for the HBR article is here: "Make Your Company a Talent Factory," by Douglas A. Ready and Jay Conger.

In the HBR, Ready and Conger describe two case studies: Procter & Gamble and HSBC Group. Each of these companies has very different processes in place for attracting and cultivating talent, but they share these fundamental principles in common:

  • Functionality–rigorously-followed business processes for recruiting, training, and succession management that are designed to align with real strategic objectives
  • Vitality (a wonderful concept!)–a commitment to the emotional side of the equation, addressing how leadership’s daily actions foster passion and engagement.

What does this mean for line of business and project managers who have to recruit talent for project-based work? Douglas A. Ready states in the Computerworld interview that the principles of functionality and vitality can apply at any level:

By all means, start with the areas that you can control and influence. There are lots of lessons from talent factories that you can duplicate. Start with your function or region. Then talk up the successes you’ve had: stronger retention, better accept-to-offers ratios, stronger engagement scores — those can give you confidence that talent initiatives are starting to bring about results. Then colleagues may follow your lead.

Project managers, PMOs, HR, services organizations, and anyone who regularly manages and staffs project teams need also to be aware of Functionality and Vitality. Without talent to feed their project workforce, companies will lack or lose their competitive advantage. This applies not only to management positions but also to contractors or employees who are hired for contract work on or assigned to specific projects.

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Your “Go-To” People and Project Workforce Management

The promise of "workforce management and planning systems" in all their various forms is to "put the right people on the right projects at the right time." Ideally–especially in large organizations–these automated systems will help us find the best available person, even from across the globe, to perform the tasks that will ensure a successful project.

But in reality, project teams are too often put together by "rounding up the usual suspects," as Mark E. Mullaly recently wrote on Managing Resource Capacity: How Do We Know We’re Full? (login required to read full article). As a result of relying on "go-to" people instead of adopting a workforce management process that does not use real data, skill set information and past experience to find and propose the best resources, companies end up creating project teams that do not have the optimal talent or relevant experience.

Mullaly observes:

To manage that budget [of available human effort], however, we have to name it, quantify it and track it. … It’s about being clear about our capacity for work, where we most value expending that capacity, and how to make use of the scarcest resources that we have.

He states that businesses are not tracking and managing their time as diligently as they do their money. I agree–this state of affairs frustrates me because the tools and technology are available today in a variety of options. And I do see that using technology to proactively manage the project workforce is making a positive difference for many, many companies.

Yet, we have a long way to go to manage and budget human capital as well as we budget dollars. Therein lies a tremendous opportunity for companies to gain a competitive edge, and an imperative of Workforce 2.0: don’t let human capital evaporate, the way money tends to evaporate when it isn’t managed or invested wisely.

In a future post, I will comment on a recent blog post about user adoption of workforce management tools, and how some simple tactics can enable good technology to do its job: identify, quantify, track and optimize human capital.

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Project Workforce Management Hits “Emerging Vendor” List

Tenrox, and the team behind our Referral Partner Program, is proud to be recognized by CRN (a publication of top channel publisher CMP) as an Emerging Vendor. Tenrox made this list on the strength and depth of our new referral program, which was unveiled in April.

Read about the CRN Emerging Vendors here.

What makes our program innovative and competitive is that it is multi-tiered, so there are opportunities for consultants, resellers, integrators, and others to earn bonuses and commissions in a number of ways, for many types of projects and clients. For more details about our Referral Partner Program, please click here.

The open nature of this program demonstrates our own belief in, and commitment to, the “workforce 2.0″ philosophy. We are engaged in relationships both large and small, across the globe, with businesses of many sizes and varieties. While many of our competitors are looking for a few large clients, we don’t believe that is the way of the future.

Forward-looking businesses will be prepared to handle the dispersed and global nature of business, with many relationships and partnerships. Not only do we support this philosophy with our technology, but we live it.

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Rise of the Project Workforce: New Book Released in August

riseofprojectworkforce_lgI’m proud to announce that my new book, The Rise of the Project Workforce: Managing People and Projects in a Flat World, is now available for pre-ordering, in advance of its official release in August.

Please click here to order The Rise of the Project Workforce from

This book is the culmination of a great deal of research and analysis to understand what is happening to today’s workforces.  In short, globalization, projectization, and rapid technology change are creating a “flat world” (a term coined by author Thomas Friedman) where projects and workforces must be managed in new ways.  Top-down, command and control, centrally managed departments are giving way to collaborative, project-driven, ad hoc, dispersed and outsourced project workforces: Workforce 2.0.

The book describes these trends in detail, and explains quite a few best practices for organizations who need to manage the project workforce effectively.

You can also read more about the book at

We welcome your feedback on the book and the Project Workforce concept.

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Project workforce management and Dell Layoffs: When is “Lean” not “Mean”?

Blogger and author Kevin Meyer has some interesting commentary on his blog about Dell’s recent announcement of layoffs. (Click here for the straight news story on CNet.)

Dell has been a model of a "lean" company, as Meyer describes. But ideally, a truly lean company would never get so "fat" that it would have to shed 10% of its workforce just to keep Wall Street happy. As Meyer points out, letting the company get to this state not only disrespects the employees who must be laid off, but also sacrifices "employee knowledge, creativity, and experience."

Dell has either made some terrible mistakes in letting itself get too "fat" to be "lean," or it is taking a tremendous risk lettting 10% of its human capital be lost forever. Possibly both.

In this highly competitive world, the quality and quantity of internal talent has to be constrantly evaluated — so that it never has to be "corrected" like the price of a stock. Too much value and spirit is lost in the correction. Let’s hope that Dell’s correction is a new start for truly lean operations and higher respect for the value of its current workforce. Companies now have access to new tools such as outsourcing and project-based hiring that reduce if not entirely eliminate mass layoffs which are the root cause of the growing mutual distrust and lack of loyalty between employers and employees.

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