Your risk management process allows you to evaluate and
respond to high-level project risks. Some of these risks involve project
resources and require that you consider ahead of time how you will respond if
you need to replace or add resources. In fact, in some cases, you must actually
plan ahead to understand what the contingency resources look like and how you’ll
get them if they’re needed. This contingency planning could affect either labor
or non-labor resources. Here are some examples of where you should plan ahead.

Personnel

On many projects, if you find that work is taking longer
than you anticipated, you might have the flexibility to ask for additional time
and budget. However, if the deadline date is critical and can’t be moved, you
may not have time to look for new resources to get back on schedule. Likewise,
if a member of your team leaves, you may need to find a replacement in very
short order.

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When deadlines are firm and the project deliverables are
critical, you need to have some plans in place for finding resources when
needed. For example, let’s look at the YR2K projects of a few years ago. If you
were entering the final six months of 1999 and needed more resources, you would
not have time to spend three months finding people. You should already have had
a plan for acquiring resources on short notice. This may have meant having
employees or contract people in reserve to allow you to make staffing changes
quickly.

Resources

A high incremental cost of resources.
You may have resources that are less expensive when purchased in bulk, but very
expensive when purchased incrementally. For instance, if the solution you are
building requires new hardware, you may find that the price per unit is less as
you purchase more units. Let’s say that you estimate you will need 100 routers,
plus or minus 10. Your hardware vendor may give you a very attractive price for
buying in bulk–perhaps 50 or 60% of the unit price. In this case, you may
choose to purchase the full 110 now and have ten units in reserve. You would do
this because the price to purchase the extra ten units now (as a part of the
bulk order) is much less expensive that having to purchase ten units later,
when the incremental cost would be much higher.

Long lead times

Long lead times for specialty resources. Sometimes there’s a
long lead-time to acquire hard-to-find specialty resources. If the need is
critical enough, you may need to know ahead of time how to find these people on
short notice if needed. For example, you may need experts in some obscure tool.
One way to plan ahead is to work with the vendor to have resources identified
that can be made available to you in an emergency. If an expert on your team
quits, you will not be stuck. You would have already worked out a deal to have
substitute resources available on short notice–even if only short-term.

You can see that not all projects require this sort of
advanced planning. However, on some projects it’s absolutely critical. The
project manager should understand ahead of time whether there are resource
risks such as those described above. In those cases, once you discover that you
need these resources it may be too late to find them and still complete the
project on time and within budget. So, do what a smart project manager would
do–plan ahead of time and understand where you will go to acquire these
critical resources when needed.