As you review your skills matrix, you may also include another field (or column) and that is the cost of the resource. Unfortunately during a downturn in the economy, cost is a factor. However, I have seen in some cases where the reduction is more a factor of a headcount number than the cost of the headcount. If cost is the driving factor, then including the cost of the resource on this matrix is important. If the driving factor is number of headcount, then while it still may be a good idea to include the cost of the resource, the skills become more of a deciding factor.
Within this framework, a senior person does not necessarily have precedence over a mid-level or junior person. This is because as you consider moving forward with less staff, it is important to align the staff with the work ahead. As an example, if you have to halt all discretionary work, then not as many senior skills are needed. Another example using the matrix above, Employee B appears to have better overall skills than Employee C. However, if the discretionary work of Makefile improvements takes a high priority, then Employee C with better Makefile skills may be preferred over Employee B.
Advocate for CM
Now is also the time to either visibly or subtly advocate for CM. The objective to advocating is to either keep staffing levels status quo or reduce as little as possible. During these downturns, many managers are advocating for their groups or functions in order to minimize the potential number of staff reductions. CM'ers should do the same if it is possible. Indicate the importance of the non-discretionary work. Indicate the advantages of some of the more important discretionary work and how it can benefit the company or reduce costs in the long run. The amount of positive impact this campaigning will have will vary. It is also important to note that there are various ways to advocate for CM and a lot of it is subtle. Individually talk to engineering managers highlighting where CM has helped them out of trouble in the past and how CM can help them in the future.
As the economy gets tough, it is important to make adjustments in planning. In general, the more regular you are in adjusting for changes whether they be the economy or project needs, the more successful you will be. Adjustments to planning can take the form of a balancing act between identifying the type of work you have, prioritizing it, and understanding the skills on the team. By applying an objective approach, you will better be able to more objectively handle cost and staff reductions when they are thrust upon you. It is always better for those who understand CM to help make the unenviable decisions of staff reductions than those who do not. Ultimately, it is important to be in a position to adjust your CM planning so that you have the resources that best meets your needs according to the work moving into the future.