Project planning for your holiday

PMO tips – keep your projects on track during the summer holidays

Holiday project ganttWe are now nearing the end of June and the holiday season is fast approaching (the period mid July to mid September).  This is the time many of the people working on projects decide to take their main holiday of the year, which can be a period of 2 – 3 weeks.  With so many people out of the office, it is only natural that productivity and progress slow down.  Therefore, I wanted to share some tips and ideas how you can demonstrate the value of your PMO by being proactive.

Holiday Plans

Before putting contingency plans in place, it is good to understand if there is a problem.  Make sure that each project has put together a holiday planner showing the dates when project resources are out of the office.  In fact it is good practice to prepare a holiday planner at the start of the project and then keep it up to date.

In the UK it is normal for people to take 2 weeks holiday.  In Europe this can be up to 4 weeks and in certain countries you will find very limited staff in the office in August.

Having a clear understanding of the holiday dates will act as an important input to assess impact on the deliverables and plan.

Key Deliverables / Milestones

Ask the project manager to review all the key deliverables and activities over the period July to September.  Make sure they consider the resources who will be on holiday and then evaluate how this may impact deliverables and what this will do to the overall project timeline and benefit realisation profile.

Dependencies

In a similar way to Deliverables, ask the project manager to identify where key dependencies need to be delivered during the period.  This will then allow a check with the project manager who is the ‘giver’ to assess if the delivery will be delayed due to staff holidays.

This is where a proactive PMO can add real value as they should have a good overview of all the key milestones and dependencies allowing them to quickly identify potential hotspots.

Decisions

Are there any key decisions or sign-off’s required from senior management or sponsors over the holiday period?  If so, will they be in the office and able to attend the appropriate steering committee, etc.  Again show your value to the project managers by building a holiday schedule of senior management and sponsors.

Where they will not be around, see if there is a way to accelerate the decision meeting, arrange for an empowered delegate to be appointed to take the decision.  On this it helps if you can layout something like “If deliverable meets x,y, z criteria then it is possible to sign-off / make decision”.  By doing this you help the delegate to make the decision as they know their boss has laid out the criteria.  Likewise, it helps the project manager to remember what standard they need to meet.

Run Rates

When all the information has been pulled together, it is worth looking on how it will impact the run rates.  In many cases, project planning does not take into account holidays.  This is normally OK when there is a only one or two people out.  However, when there are lots of people, this will reduce the run rate.

It will reflect very well on the PMO if they can identify that not so much budget is needed in a given year providing senior management to redeploy the surplus funds on other projects.

Conclusion

Using some or all of these tips will demonstrate that you are a forward-looking, proactive PMO that delivers real value.

If you look at all of these tips, none are rocket science, just good practical, common sense.  Unfortunately this type of thought process gets lost when people are focusing on near term deliverables.

This leads to my overarching tip.  As a PMO manager, always think ahead to try and identify what will cause problems in the future.  Doing this gives you the best chance to take action and avoid issues.