it_resource_planning_challenges

Resource planning for IT projects

While the challenges of resource planning in an IT environment are not unique to IT, there are some specific challenges that increase the complexity level.

Mixing agile alongside waterfall projects, using external resources and priorities that constantly change complicates the IT resource planning process. But there are simple tactics to improve things.

Here we look at five of the key challenges faced by IT and software development organizations when resource planning and some of the things they can do to make their life easier. You can also take our resource management health check to see how you rate and look for areas to improve.

To help explain this topic we have used examples from our resource management tool Kelloo.

1. Using internal and external resources

IT projects often use a mix of internal and external resources.

The knowledge, skill levels and capabilities of the resources are often different meaning managers have decisions and trade-offs to make about which resources to use on projects.

Getting the right resource mix on a project can make a huge difference to the costs and outcomes.

But making decisions about which resources to use on which projects is incredibly complex and time consuming.

Take away: Build a resource planning process that lets you quickly test the impact of using different resources, grades and skills on projects.

This means you can easily see how different resource selections can dramatically improve project timescales and costs.

2. Running both agile and waterfall projects

IT organizations often have a mix of agile and waterfall projects which share the same resources.

This poses a number of challenges in the resource planning process:

  1. Understanding the total resource demand across both agile and waterfall projects.
  2. Agile and waterfall projects operate on different planning time-frames.
  3. Resource planning for agile shifts the focus to resource capacities and away from detailed work planning.

Take away: Your resource planning process and tools needs to accommodate different planning time-frames, styles and levels of detail. Agile resource planning can be a tricky puzzle to solve, here are further tips for agile resource management.

Here we can see the resource plan in Kelloo including both agile and non agile activities
Here we can see the resource plan in Kelloo including both agile and non agile activities

3. State of “doneness”

Building software is different to building a physical artefact like a bridge.

With a bridge you know what it has to do and you know upfront what a finished bridge will look like.

But the finished state of an IT project is often unclear and speculative.

Until we start building it, it is hard to understand what “done” will look like.

Resource planning on IT projects can be volatile and needs to be flexible so changes to resource needs and estimates can be easily incorporated into the resource plan.

Take away: Your resource planning tool or process should allow you to easily update forecasts and estimates and model the impact of changes as they happen. Ease of making updates is essential so that resource plans are always up-to-date.

4. Changing priorities

Most IT organizations hold a periodic review of their portfolio to decide what projects they should be running (here are some tips for setting up a winning portfolio management process alongside your resource planning).

The outcome of this can be new projects starting up, lower value projects being put on hold and resources re-allocated to higher priority projects.

Key to making these decisions are:

  1. Being able to understand the impact on resources that any changes will have – before you commit to the changes.
  2. The ability to compare different project timeframes, priorities and schedule options.
  3. Ensuring you are able to balance resource demand to resource supply (or understand areas of under supply or over supply of resources).

Take away: The resource planning process needs to be able to model the effect of proposed portfolio changes on resources before the changes can be approved.

Often called scenario modelling or “what-if” modelling this allows managers to validate changes before they are committed to.

Scenario planning
Scenarios in Kelloo let you compare different planning options

5. Projects, business as usual work and small changes

IT organizations typically have a mix of project work, business as usual work (keeping the lights on activities) and small changes.

Therefore resources in IT organizations often have to divide their time among different work streams.

For example, a software developer may need to allocate 10% of their time to working on technical support queries with the other 90% of their time spent on project work.

Take away: The resource planning process needs to be able to allocate resource supply across different sources of demand and also reserve resource time for BAU activities.

Conclusion

Resources are typically the biggest cost to an IT organization so optimizing resource planning can pay huge dividends.

While there are specific challenges faced by IT organizations, the great news is that resource planning tools like Kelloo can help you meet these challenges head on.

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