Dear PM Advisor. July 2nd, 2012

Dear PM Advisor, What % of resources on a project should typically be allocated to Project Management?  For example, if I plan a project with 2000 hours of work, how many additional hours should be allocated for project management?

Planning in New Jersey

Dear Planning,

There's a quick question with a long answer.

Start by taking off the technical work that the 'Project Manager' will do on this project. Quite often we wear two hats: that of the PM and that of a technical expert of some aspect of the project. That second part will vary greatly with the project but I'm sure you're already planning for those activities anyway. That leaves you with the pure Project Management activities that will take time.

Let's split these activities up:

  1. Planning the project. This depends on how many similar projects you've planned. One project I'm currently running simply required me to pull out the previous Gantt chart and run through it with three key team members for two hours. Other projects require planning from scratch. A 2,000 hour project can be planned using the methodology I teach in about two days. So add these hours in at the beginning. (16 hours so far)
  2. Running Status meetings. These require planning, scheduling and preparing as well as the time required to run them. While I keep the actual meeting to 30 minutes, they take an average of 30 more minutes of my time to prepare everything to make it run smoothly for the participants. Run these on a weekly basis until the project is running smoothly, then cut it back to every two weeks during the long stretches when not much happens. Then back to weekly during the busy moments again. If your project lasts 6 months, pretty typical for a 2,000 hour project, plan on about 18 meetings for another 18 hours. (That's 34 hours to date)
  3. Putting out status reports. If you use a good template, the first one will take some time but after that, you should be able to update the template and send it to the distribution list in about an hour, less if you're not doing Earned Value reporting. Do one per status meeting for another 18 hours (We're up to 52 hours)
  4. Managing the Project. This is the most variable part of the equation. How much management will this project actually require? How reliable are your people? How new is the work being done? How stretched are your resources? How many ad-hoc meetings will you have to set up to resolve project issues? How much time will you have to spend doing Risk Management, Stakeholder Management, etc? The simple project I'm managing, the one where I just dusted off the old Gantt, requires no more than one phone call on average per week. The other two I manage, where we are doing things from scratch, requires my presence about 10 hours per week. The range is so large, I'm not sure I can give you a percentage. So let's break it down further into a menu you can pick and choose from:
    1. Risk Management. If your project is formal enough to require this, Risk Identification can take place at the end of a couple of status meetings using the Crawford slip method, then two hours for you to sort these out. Add two session on Risk Qualification for another four hours of your time plus four more hours of Risk Management. (That's 10 hours)
    2. Stakeholder Management. Meet with your team for about an hour to identify your Stakeholders and  to decide how to deal with them. Your dealings with stakeholders shouldn't add any time to what's listed above and below, but it may add to the complexity and variety of your communications. (One hour)
    3. Managing regular tasks. Walking around, ensuring tasks are going according to plan, warning people when their tasks are coming up. This should be bout an hour a day for projects that require your management, zero for those that don't (0 - 130 hours)
    4. Removing Obstacles. This is entirely dependent on how many problems your project is likely to face. The more times you've managed a similar project, the fewer problems. Let's figure 1% of the project time on average. (20 hours)

So what does that all add up to? 72 hours minimum on a 2000 hour project with another 11 for risk and stakeholder management and up to another 130 for managing a newer project or team. Doing the math brings it to 4% for a known project and 10% for a new project with an untried team.

Notice I have only counted up the time spent by the Project Manager. If you want to allocate time spent by team members in these activities, (Project Planning, Risk Management and Status Meetings) add them in multiplied by the number of team members attending. I usually don't. I allocate their time spent in PM tasks to the project tasks they are working on at the time.

Have I forgotten anything?

PM Advisor

Send me your questions at Bruce@RoundTablePM.com