January 2011 IT Business Consulting Newsletter

Think “Functional Roles” when Allocating Staff and Resources!

By Tom K

As today’s organizations become more efficient, leaner, and more flexible, the old static Organization Chart’s value has diminished. Staff and resource management can become quite tricky as Users’ functional roles cross these static borders. My November 2010 article, (Simplify Data Organization and User Management… with Active Directory!) often mentioned Functional Roles and Functional Departments in relation to efficiently managing and allocating your resources.

This month’s article discusses using the concept of Functional Roles to rethink classifying, utilizing, managing, and optimizing your most important resource: your talented staff.

Evolving the Functional Role Chart

A good place to start is with your existing Organizational Chart. This chart is structured using relatively static positions within a reporting hierarchy. Remove the “who”; at this point we are really interested in the “what”. When finished, you will have a picture of the positions you are currently using to operate your business.

Next, we want to evolve this static Org Chart into a Functional Role Chart. We need to expand each position to list the functional roles (or responsibilities) being performed by each position. Note we are attaching roles to a position, not to the staff currently occupying the position. Once we have the functional roles, we expand further by including the percentage of a week’s time that is dedicated to each role, and who supervises each role. I have noted with great interest when helping clients perform this task that the total percent almost never equals 100%... which is one of the key reasons to re-conceptualize resource optimization!

We also want the department heads and Executives to request that all their direct reports provide a list of what they believe are their responsibilities/roles, the amount of time per week each role consumes, and to whom they report for each role.

Functional Role Verification

The expansion described above should be performed independently at the executive level as well as by the department heads. We want each stakeholder to document their individual perception of how the functional roles are distributed and managed, as each stakeholder perceives company operations with a different perspective. These differing perceptions are invaluable during the next step, where all the stakeholders collaborate to combine, refine, and create management’s Functional Role Chart. This is where the management team determines the relative value of the roles, adds or removes roles, negotiates time spent on each role, and determines who manages each role. Don’t adjust the role-to-position distribution at this time to “fix” positions that have too many roles or require excessive amounts of time. We’ll clean that up later.

Once the functional roles are documented and distributed amongst the positions, we tie people to positions. This task invariably involves further role-to-position adjustments.

Positions tend to be modified during this phase. Consider adding, removing, or moving positions within the structure to adapt to the defined functional roles.

At this point, it is very interesting to compare each employee’s perception of their responsibilities and roles (gathered earlier) with those of the management team. Sometimes they are quite close, but more often, they are not!

If everyone has accurately portrayed their understanding of the functional role structure within your company, we now have an excellent picture of what roles are required within your organization, who performs those roles, how much time they spend on each role, and to whom they are accountable for each role. Now we can utilize this data to derive the benefits of this exercise!

Benefits of Functional Roles

The many benefits of defining and utilizing Functional Roles include:

1. Management now has a clear view of what roles are needed to efficiently operate the company. When roles need to be adjusted as the company evolves, the Functional Role Chart helps define the new role and its impact on the organization.

2. It becomes graphically clear which positions/staff have too many (or too few) roles and resultant time consumption. This provides excellent data for staffing decisions and performing role reorganization, IE: you can see the need to shift roles to better utilize underperforming staff and balance over utilized staff.

3. It becomes apparent when a position’s roles have shifted such that they are more accountable to a manager other than whom they currently report to, so we can perform positional reorganization.

4. Defining roles to positions inherently develops job descriptions for all positions, which are quite important as you expand, develop your staff, and seek new talent.

5. Goals can readily be defined based on a position’s functional roles, and performance can be graded based on the roles and the importance of each role to the success of the position.

6. Staff having multiple roles and roles that cross positions or managers can better manage their responsibilities and become better accountable to multiple managers as they understand the relative amount of time and importance that has been assigned to each role.

I have found that organizations that conceptualize and manage staff as role resources rather than as position resources become much more flexible and nimble, allowing them to adapt to changing business drivers much more quickly. They tend to operate more efficiently, as they are better utilizing their staff. Finally, they become “lean & mean,” as through this efficiency they can provide enhanced levels of service with fewer staff.

As always, if you have any questions or comments concerning this article, I’d be happy to discuss them with you at your convenience. Feel free to contact me at TomK@TomKConsulting.com, or via my cell 443.310.5110.

Next month I’ll shift back to the technical management side of the business and discuss Group Policy. (See "Use Group Policy to Centrally Tune YOUR Business Computing Environment"). This is an awesome systems management tool that absolutely shines in a Windows Active Directory environment (your typical Windows network). Group Policy is a tool that globally controls processes and functionality on all your servers and PCs. Priceless!