How to plan and schedule multiple projects


How hard can it be to schedule multiple projects?

Let’s cut to the chase.

Multi project scheduling and planning is one of the trickiest challenges planners face.

But don’t despair – there are techniques to help with multi project scheduling.

Read on for easy to action tips and best practice to help you crack your multi-project scheduling and planning problems.

Multi project scheduling and planning is one of the trickiest challenges planners face. But there are simple tactics you can adopt to make things easier.

Multi project planning and scheduling challenges

What makes multi project planning and scheduling hard?

The simple truth is, that it’s a combination of factors.

  • Resources working on more than one project at the same time.
  • Each project having its own project plan meaning no consolidated view of who is doing what and when.
  • Failure to manage resource allocations across multiple projects leads to over-allocation issues.
  • Lack of clarity about priorities leads to resources being allocated to the least valuable work.
  • Organizations trying to do too much with not enough resources.

Kelloo's resource management tools

Resource planning, forecasting and reporting in one place. We help you get the most from your projects and people.

How do you do multi project planning and scheduling?

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

There is no secret formula for multi project scheduling.

But there are a number of best practices that will deliver huge benefits to your planning process.

Here are some things you should incorporate into your resource planning framework now.

And you know what?

Some of these changes are so easy to action you will be kicking yourself you haven’t done them already.

1. Get a consolidated view of your resource utilization

Let’s start with resources. You know the pesky people who work on your projects.

In the real world, resources are normally allocated to multiple projects at the same time. A resource working on a single project is the exception to the rule.

This means that at any point you need to be able to check on the availability and utilization of each resource taking into account all the projects they are working on.

This is one of the main drawbacks of using tools like MS Project for multi-project planning and scheduling. It only reports resource utilization on a plan by plan basis. There is no consolidated, cross project view of resources.

Take away #1

Don’t use MS Project for resource planning as it does not have a cross project focus nor a shared resource pool that can be used across projects.

Take away #2

Ensure your resource planning solution has a central repository of resources that can be shared across every project being planned. The resource data should include things like working patterns, time off and skills.

2. Don't plan in isolation - plan in a common tool

Using tools like Excel, Google Sheets, MS Project or Gantt charts for resource planning causes plans to be developed in isolation.

Each project manager ends up maintaining their own schedule in whatever tool they favor using.

While this may work quite well for the individual project managers, it means you will never have a view of what is being done when so will not be able to pull together overall schedules.

Take away #3

Projects don’t exist in isolation so do not attempt to schedule your projects and resources in isolation.

Delays or changes in one project will have a direct knock on effect to other projects (remember – your resources are bound to be shared across projects).

So ensure that all resource planning is being done in the same planning tool and that it provides a consolidated view of your plans, projects and resources. Without this you will suffer constant over-allocation of resources.

Resource planning software

The resource planner in Kelloo showing multiple projects being scheduled

3. Separate the project planning and resource planning process

Resource planning is a process used to decide who is working on what projects (sometimes called project resource allocation).

Its aim is to match resources to projects while ensuring that no resources are over-allocated. Resource planning is typically a resource manager or team leader process.

Project planning on the other hand involves the project manager taking the resources allocated to their projects from the resource planning process and scheduling them to work.

Take away #4

Consider separating your resource planning from your project planning.

Even small organizations with a handful of resources and a handful of projects will struggle to manage multi-project scheduling unless they separate their resource planning and project planning activities.

Separating the resource planning process from project planning is the #1 factor in cracking the multi-project scheduling puzzle. Resource planning deals with who is working on what projects. Project planning deals with what they are doing on the projects.

4. Prioritize your work and assign resources to the most valuable work

Each project and each piece of work in a project should be prioritized – and here is the tricky bit, they need to be prioritized relative to everything else that is going on.

You are probably asking why? As a resource manager, you don’t want to be manually scheduling your resources and manually solving resource allocation problems.

Even with a handful of resources and projects you would spend hours each day trying to manage your resource management manually (and remember whenever something changes in a project this will have a knock on effect in your plan which means more re-planning).

By assigning priorities to work we can leave the hard work to our resource planning software and let it work out the schedules for us based on priorities.

Take away #5

Ensure you use a resource planning solution that supports priority based scheduling. Otherwise you will spend hours each day manually adjusting schedules.

5. Use a multi project scheduling and planning software solution

While it can be appealing to try using tools like Excel, spreadsheets or Google Sheets for resource planning, due to the points mentioned earlier in this post you will quickly run into problems. Dedicated planning software, applications and systems should be investigated.

Software tools like Kelloo provide an easy way to do your multi project scheduling and planning and the benefits will quickly outweigh the initial investment. In addition Kelloo also provides a host of features that help with resource capacity planning and resource planning.

In conclusion

Resource planning and scheduling across multiple projects is a challenge that all organizations face. But with the use of appropriate resource planning tools and by adopting best practice, it is a problem that can be solved.

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