Importance of Human Resources in Software Projects
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by Arindam Ghosh
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Tools and Techniques for HR Planning

There are various formats available to document team member roles and responsibilities and most fall into the three types: hierarchical, matrix and text oriented.

Hierarchical Type Charts

The traditional chart structure can be used to show positions and relationships in a graphic, top-down format. Work Breakdown Structures (WBS) show how project deliverables are broken down into work packages and become one way to show high level areas of responsibility. The Organizational Breakdown Structure (OBS) can be shown similar to WBS, which is arranged according to an organization’s existing departments, units, or teams allowing any operational department to see all of its Project responsibilities by looking at its portion of the OBS. The Resource Breakdown Structure (RBS) is another hierarchical chart that is used to break down the project by types of resources. The RBS can contain resource categories other than human resources.

Mixed-based charts

A Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM) is used to illustrate the connections between project team members and work that needs to be done. RAM's can be developed at various levels like a high level RAM can define project team group or unit is responsible for each component of the WBS. Lower-level RAM's are used within the group to designate roles, responsibilities, and levels of authority for specific activities. The matrix format, which is also called table, allows a person to see all activities associated with one person or to see all people associated with one activity.

Text-oriented formats

Text-oriented formats are used to specify team member responsibilities that require detailed descriptions. Usually in outline form, the documents provide information such as responsibilities, authority, competences, and qualifications. These descriptions and forms make excellent templates for future projects, especially when the information is updated throughout the current project by applying lessons learned.

Other sections of the project management plan

Other sections of the project management plan contains some responsibilities related to managing the project, such as the risk register contains risk owners, the communication plan contains team members responsible for communication activities, and the quality plan designates people responsible for carrying out quality assurance and quality control activities.

Organizational theory

It provides information regarding the behavior of people, teams, and organizational units. By applying proven principles, the amount of time needed to create the Human Resource Planning outputs can be shortened. It also improves the likelihood that the planning will be effective.

Staffing Management Plan

It is a subset of the project management plan that describes when and how human resource requirements will be met. As per the needs of the project, staffing management plan can be formal or informal, highly detailed or broadly framed. The plan is updated continually during the project to direct ongoing team member acquisition and development actions. Information in the staffing management plan varies by application area and project size, but items to consider include the following.

Staff Acquisition

While planning the acquisition of project team members, many questions need to be answered, like will the human resources come from within the organization or from external, contracted sources? Will the team members need to work in a central location or can they work from distant locations? What are the costs associated with each level of expertise needed for the project? How much assistance can the organization’s human resource department provide to the project management team?


Timetable is the necessary time frames for individual and collective project team members. It also describes when acquisition activities such as recruiting should start. A tool that can be used for charting human resources is a resource histogram that illustrates the number of hours a person, department or entire project team will be needed each week or month over the course of the project. The chart can include a horizontal line that represents the maximum number of hours available from a particular resource.


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User Comments

Title: Importance of Human Resources in Software Projects   
Name: Toti Bayudan
Date: 2007-05-01 10:54:56 PM
I found your article very interesting and helpful. I think it would help us more if you could point us to case studies where
human resources are clearly critical either to the success or failure of a software project. Thanks.

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