Jim is a top-performing project planner. His employer operates in a fast-moving high-tech industry with demanding clients and has marked him as a potential leadership candidate.
What they don’t know is that Jim is actively looking at other employers. He likes his colleagues and the work interests him, but the irony of his day to day role is grinding him down.
These are his frustrations, taken from real conversations:
“Data about our people and operations is held in multiple systems, lacks consistency and is error-prone.”
Sally isn’t at the Tuesday morning scrum. Where is she? Her Outlook calendar, once Jim gets into it, tells him nothing. No surprise. There’s no out-of-office active. Is she on holiday? She didn’t mention anything. The receptionist thinks she might’ve been upset yesterday, but nobody’s sure.
The only thing Jim can say for sure is that Sally - professional, dependable Sally - isn’t in the morning meeting, delivering her project update like she’s supposed to be.
“It is difficult and takes too long to find the right resources to staff a project, so planning decisions are often made based on gut feel rather than good quality data.”
The morning doesn’t get much easier.
A complex new brief lands unexpectedly and the account director needs a detailed estimate before lunch. The shared spreadsheet suggests who is available to work on it, but Jim wouldn’t bet his mortgage on the information it contains, so he hits the phones, confirming availability.
This job is roughly the same as a FinTech client project he helped deliver last year, with massive success.
This is a big opportunity, and the COO pops past to suggest the same team works on this one. Great suggestion. Who worked on that? When was it, March? Jim trawls back through his notepads like an archaeologist.
“The skills and experiences of our staff are not fully utilised or recorded.”
Jim realises he can make a strategic addition to this plan because he learned about a colleague’s highly niche and desirable experience over a drink last week. This revelation was as frustrating as it was welcome.
Why didn’t the colleague ever mention it? Oh, he did, it was discussed at length in his interview. Right.
Off the top of his head, Jim can think of three separate projects where this capability could have been used, instead of drafting in freelance talent.
“Our top performing individuals are under constant workload stress.”
Sally’s been located. It’s not good news. She’s at home, signed off for two weeks.
This is a disaster. She’s the delivery team’s top performer. A crucial cog in the machinery. In fact, now Jim thinks about it - and looks back through some spreadsheets - Sally’s reliability has meant she’s been heavily involved in virtually every project that’s occurred in the last eighteen months. Oh yes, says the receptionist when he investigates further, she always works at least ten hours, sometimes on a weekend.
Sally isn’t a cog. She’s a person who’s burned out. How has this happened? Why didn’t she say anything? Why didn’t Jim spot it? Project management is people management, after all.
“Administrative work is time consuming, cumbersome and inefficient.”
Jim joined the business to work on cutting-edge projects but the tools available to him do not reflect the high-tech brand he bought into as part of the recruitment process. He spent over an hour this morning digging through old notepads and trying to break into a colleague’s Outlook calendar.
The time that should be spent ensuring the smooth running of projects is taken up looking for information, corroborating conflicting information and making best guess judgements.
Dejected, Jim signs into LinkedIn to see if any recruiters have been in touch.
“Key people data is not accessible.”
HR holds the data Jim needs on a day to day basis, but his employer is one of the 95% of organisations that do not integrate people data into wider business systems.
That means information that can provide planning insight is out of reach - location, grade, salary, performance, learning and development, availability, experience, personal goals and motivations.
Instead, duplicate records are held in spreadsheets, written notes or saved in emails, which is neither reliable nor secure. In addition, information about people’s roles, skills and experience may be stored locally in Word documents or simply in people’s heads - largely inaccessible, un-managed, out of date and prone to error. This is not a solid foundation upon which to manage a business.