Project Skills Matrix

Project Skills InventoryA few years back I got caught on an extremely complex project with a resource shortage. It didn’t look like I had a resource shortage…I had an army of people, all working like fiends. I had all the technical and business expertise I could possibly need. Everyone had a strong plan, and estimates were all validated multiple times. On the surface, everything looked good.

However, one resource was a single point of failure. She had very specialized knowledge in one area that none of the other 100-odd people on my team possessed. Worse, she didn’t report to me directly, but rather spent most of her time tucked into a corner giving her updates to her manager, who diluted her updates to his manager, who passed them to me, along with updates from many other resources.

To be frank, I never saw it coming.

Because she was the sole person with crucial knowledge, other project resources sought her advice. Often. While she had provided her estimates through to the project, she wasn’t able to meet them because of all the other demands on her time. Other resources dragged her along to meetings, and her work bogged down to a crawl.

Thinking I might be angry, her manager covered up for her and didn’t pass accurate information along in his status reports to his manager. By the time I noticed there was a problem, it cost the project weeks of catchup, which impacted other parallel projects.

I swore that wouldn’t happen again.
And so I built this matrix in Excel and have used it on all my projects ever since. It’s a very simple tool, and while it’s subjective and relies on self-assessment, it’s a great way to quickly identify any knowledge gaps or single points of failure, and it takes no time to complete. You can take it and use it however you like.

Work with a trusted subject matter expert on your team. List important knowledge areas down the side, and break them into “domain” and “technical” categories. List your project team members across the top. Have each team member rate themselves on each knowledge area according to the legend at the top. You’ll likely find clusters of people around certain knowledge areas. But some knowledge areas may stand out as needing your help. You’ll be able to identify risks, and take steps to plug any holes before they become a problem.


I’m a professor of project management at the college where I work. My students continually amaze me with their insights, passion and all-around awesomeness. I figure they deserve access to more answers than I can give them by myself. This site is for them.
  • Guest

    Except the first tool link, none of the other free tools link for download works!

  • D'oh! Epic fail on my part. I have gone through and corrected each of the download links. I think the break happened when I transferred hosts. It should be all corrected now. Sorry for the trouble!

  • This spreadsheet is a good resource. I'd love to feature it in our Knowledge Network wiki as a free download that references your site and other information. Here's an example of other tools by other partners featured in the KN wiki:

    I'm assuming from your “take and use as you like” statement indicates that you allow us to do this. Please be in touch if not, or if you want to disuss further.

    John Storts

  • Hi, John! Absolutely you're free to take and use my templates! That's what they're meant for so the more people that can benefit from them, the better!

    Thank you so much, my friend! 🙂

  • I’ve crowned you the best thing since sliced bread. Thanks for sharing — this is the kind of goodness that boomarangs and brings great things. Cheers!

  • HAHA thank you very much, Kelli!! What a great comment to come back from the holidays to! Happy New Year! 🙂

  • Pingback: Skills matrix | Edebat()

Real Time Analytics


My name is Geoff. I write about project management pretty regularly. From time to time, I also make tools and templates to give away.

You can keep on top of these freebies in one of two FREE ways:


Subscribe to my RSS feed. Every time I publish an article, it will magically appear in your reader.


Join my community. A couple times a month, you'll get a digest of my latest articles. You ALSO get my FREE ebook, Nine Destructive Behaviours.

Either way, you'll never miss a post! How cool is that? (Psst...if you'd rather just hide me, click the tab again. No one has to know.)