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[Donna Fitzgerald Video Series] Video 3 of 9: How Many Skills Should I Have In My Skills Database?

November 26, 2019 | By admin

Tune in to the third installment in our 9-part video series with renowned resource management expert, Donna Fitzgerald.

Donna Fitzgerald is the Executive Director at NimblePM. With over 39 years of experience in product development, operations, implementation and research, Donna is widely regarded as a premier thought leader in the resource management and project portfolio management spaces. Prior to founding NimblePM, Donna spent ten-years with Gartner Research as lead analyst in the PPM space where she covered a range of critical topics including IT resource capacity planning, demand management and strategy execution.

In this video, Donna explains how to approach your organization’s database of skills with regards to capacity planning. You’ll also learn:

  • How to categorize your skills into FTE, people, and what Donna refers to as “organizational effectiveness”
  • Why you need skills in your database that your organization may not be using yet (and how this can have a positive impact on employee engagement)
  • Why skills serve as the basis for turning your resource capacity planning systems into people capacity systems
  • The ideal number of skills you want to have in your database

Transcript: How Many Skills Should I Have In My Skills Database?

One question that comes up a lot with regard to resource capacity planning is how many skills should I have in my skills database?  I’ve done a lot of things in my life and one of the things I actually did back when I was at Oracle was to start to actually work with was what should a skills database start to look like.  For Oracle Consulting we had 1100 skills.  Let me tell you that is way, way too many.  Also at that time the Oracle HR system had 35.  Way too few.

So what really determines the number of skills?  The answer is going to be that you start out with basic forecasting skills.  So what is that?  The first thing you start with, and it depends on how your people think, you need to know the unit of skill that’s going to allow you to do a high level model of a work effort.  So if somebody says I want to do a project to do XYZ, what’s it going to take.  This is going to be if you’ve got a senior developer, if you’ve got a constant language or a senior developer Java, maybe a UI person, DBA, doesn’t matter.  Whatever list of skills that people commonly think of.  Often those are real job titles.  You start there when you start resource capacity planning because that’s the unit at which you do FTEs.  So to start resource capacity planning, you’re going to build if you’ve got 100 people you’ve got to put in 100 FTEs with those levels because that’s something everybody understands.

The next level you get, we’ll call it medium skills, and this is where you actually have to break down and talk to your people.  Oh, what a surprise because this is how they define themselves.  This says, I know Python, I know Ruby on Rails.  But you may say, “But Donna, I don’t care about Python.  I don’t care about Ruby on Rails and my answer is today you may not, but the people who work for you have those skills.  You need to give them the opportunity to make you aware of them and to offer them up to you in your organization.  I know organizations that never thought they’d be using it and later found a reason and this was useful.  This is a really important issue.  We talked before on the fact that we have a massive employee engagement problem.  Believe it or not, a simple little thing like acknowledging people formally and, believe it or not this is formal, for what they can do starts to be important.

Now the next level is actually peripheral skills.  One of the fundamental things we always want to know is who knows what where.  In today’s multicultural world one of things we may want there is languages.  What has that got to do with software development?  Well, how many people don’t have a development team?  I have friends with teams in Viet Nam.  I have friends with teams in India.  All over the world.  Knowledge of languages that people, I remember I’m there with a whole development team one night.  It’s 11:30 and they don’t speak English worth a darn.  Production’s come down and we’re not communicating.  Luckily I was rescued by somebody who did speak their language who decided it was probably time to check in and make sure we were all doing fine.  If I’d known who spoke their language, I could have picked up the phone and said how can we do this over the phone?

You never know where it is, but this starts to build up.  You don’t have to do this all at once.  Nothing says that this is all you need to start day one.  This is where you start going once you’ve done this because this is apt to be this is your real people.  This is what we’ll call organizational effectiveness.  There’s a lot more we could add on to this, but skills are going to be the basis for taking your resource capacity planning system into a true people capacity and start to provide opportunities for growth.

Do you know what your people would like to learn?  Do you know with technologies and where you’re going to go?  Take machine learning.  Do you know who knows that?  Some people could be taking classes at night and you don’t even know.  You have no mechanism for hearing it.  These are user-defined which means you actually ask your people what it is.  My experience with having done this is while 1100 skills were way too many, about 350 served as a good sort of let’s hold to that number.  Let’s see what’s lacking; let’s see what we have to move around.  So that gives you some idea of what to do and I hope makes it clear that you do not want to go out and do Big Bang all at once.  Part of the trick here is building this up incrementally with the involvement of your people.  So hopefully that explains it.

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