The PMBOK describes “Plan Human Resource Management” as the process of identifying and documenting project roles and responsibilities, determining the skills required to perform in those roles, defining the reporting relations of the people on the project, and creating a staffing management plan. As you might expect, two of the primary inputs to this process are the project management plan and the activity resource requirements. This makes sense, in that you need a good idea of what work needs to be done before you can do that other stuff. But most projects operate under constraints, which the PMBOK refers to simply as “enterprise environmental factors.” These constraints can add complexity to your human resource management plan, and may affect cost and schedule.

Availability of Resources

Some of the people with the required skills, knowledge, and authority to work on the tasks described in the project plan have other responsibilities, aside from the project. It is not uncommon for projects to be delayed, because a project resource with production duties is unable to complete a task on time. For example, those who work on year-end financial reporting or tax processing may be largely unavailable for project work in December and January. When you identify a resource, determine if their work schedule may conflict with the project schedule. It might make sense to back-fill the production work with a temporary worker, or make some other arrangement.

Availability of Skills

Some skills required to perform in certain project roles may not be immediately available. You have several alternatives: train a current employee, hire a new employee with the requisite skills, engage a contingent worker for the duration of the relevant tasks, or outsource the work to an external firm. Each of these alternatives has cost implications, and most organizations have policies governing them. Engage the right people in the Human Resources or Purchasing departments, as required, to assist in estimating cost and time required for each alternative.

Remote Locations

Many organizations are global in nature these days, and virtual project teams are not uncommon. While this adds complexity to communication and collaboration, coordination with distant managers also adds complexity to project governance, and possibly introduces certain risks. I know of one project that was delayed because a key team member in another country was downsized, and no one notified anyone on the project team. In another case, a team member was injured in a traffic accident. Ensure that you record contact information for the managers or administrators of your team members in remote locations. Establish communication with the responsible person, and ask them to notify you in the event of an unexpected absence or change in status.

Projects that involve team members from multiple organizations, across multiple locations and time zones, are challenging to plan and execute. In creating your staffing management plan, be sure you understand the constraints that imposed on your access to human resources, consider your alternatives, and anticipate the issues and risks, so you can manage for success.


Dave Gordon teaches and writes on project management topics. For more, visit his blog at The Practicing IT Project Manager.

The Practicing IT Project Manager