Organizations are under pressure to deliver more products and projects with less resources.
Which means resources must be optimally utilized and focused on the right projects.
Poor resource management leads to poor productivity, delays, increased costs and missed opportunities. While the benefits of a well oiled resource management process are immense.
But how can you improve your resource management?
In this article we explain a range of easy to implement techniques with proven success.
Better resource management starts here.
Don't get too detailed
Don’t fall into the trap of getting too detailed. The more detailed your resource plans the more time and effort needed to keep them up to date.
The truth is – a high level resource plan will give you 90% of the benefit with minimal effort.
Here are some things to think about:
- Consider planning at the project level and not the task level. Resource management is about working out how many resources you need and what projects they should be working on. Leave detailed planning to the project managers or let your teams organize their day to day work.
- Try planning at the skill / role level. Only plan at the individual resource level if you have resources that are shared or critical.
- Plan future work in less detail and near term work in more detail.
Don't try to utilize your resources 100% of the time
As resource managers it’s tempting to try and plan resources so their utilization levels are close to 100%.
But this is unrealistic and your plans will over estimate how much work people can do.
We suggest aiming for a utilization rate of around 80% and measuring it regularly. This provides some headroom for the other things that people end up doing.
Focus on the resources in short supply first
In most organizations we work with, 90% of resource constraints and delays come from 10% of the resources. Identify the resource with bottlenecks and constraints and focus on managing their utilization first.
Then look at some longer term strategies:
- Build better resource forecasts so you spot resource pinch points earlier.
- Stop knowledge silos by sharing resources across projects.
- Use capacity planning to check you have enough resources before you commit to new projects.
Take a look at the resource planner in Kelloo which lets you keep tabs on utilization and resource constraints.
Manage resources shared across multiple projects
Having to share resources across projects is probably a resource manager’s biggest headache. Even though studies show us resources get more done if they focus on one project at a time, unfortunately we rarely have that luxury.
Here are some tips to help:
- You need a consolidated and up to date view of your resource utilization and allocations across all projects.
- Consider using resource management software. This helps as you can easily adjust plans and see straight away the impact on other projects and resources.
- Have a common approach to setting work priorities. Avoid “whoever shouts loudest” gets the resource situations.
Use software to help with the heavy lifting
Organizations often rely on spreadsheets for resource management.
The attraction is obvious. Most people have spreadsheet software and on the face of it, it is quick to put together a resource management template.
But there are big problems using spreadsheets for resource management:
- They require complex formulas or macros to replicate the features you will find as standard in resource management software.
- They do not scale and take a lot of effort to keep up to date.
- Information silos develop as each team and resource manager uses its own spreadsheet.
For the sake of a few hundred dollars, invest in some resource management software. This will include features such as scenario planning, priority based resource allocation and what if planning which you will not find in any spreadsheet based resource management solution.
Kelloo's resource management tools
Resource planning, forecasting and reporting in one place. We help you get the most from your projects and people.
Have a common approach for setting priorities
This is probably the most important piece of advice I can give you.
Always allocate resources to the most important work first.
But to make this work there is another step. You need to implement a prioritization method that is transparent, fair and that everyone understands.
Then simply tie the prioritization process back to what is important to your organization – your strategic priorities.
Separate the capacity planning and resource planning process
Unless you run a very small number of projects with a handful of resources it’s essential that you separate the capacity planning and resource planning process.
They are different process with different outputs.
- Capacity planning determines if the organization has sufficient resources with the right skills to execute the projects they want to do. It is used to make hiring decisions and during project selection.
- Resource planning is the process of coordinating and allocating actual resources to projects so the project managers know who they are working with. It is used to manage resource allocation and utilization.
Resource management and portfolio management go hand in hand
Take account of different ways of working including agile
While agile is becoming increasingly popular, many teams still use waterfall / timeline / Gantt based planning techniques.
So your resource management process and tools need to accommodate whatever way your projects are run and planned.
We can see below how the Kelloo resource plan includes waterfall, agile sprints and BAU activities.
Resource management never stops
Once you have established a resource management process it never stops.
The truth is, resource plans quickly become out of date and yet people rely on them to make decisions.
Luckily, it is possible to build a resource management process which lets you monitor and manage utilization, capacities and new project work on a regular basis without too much hassle.
I suggest you look at the resource management tools available as these can automate a lot of the resource management activities.
I learnt this the hard way, but you don’t have to.
Ensure you account for all work
Too often resource management focuses on projects and neglects non-project work and business as usual activities.
Your resource management process needs to capture everything your resources work on.
Fail to do this and you are heading for a fall.
Vacations and time off make a big dent in your resource supply. You need to have a way of accounting for these when calculating your resource supply and skills capacity.