Resource planning is important - don't let these common misconceptions stop you
Resource planning – it is hard to do, we don’t need to do it, we run agile projects, we have a spreadsheet for that.
We have heard all these push backs over the years.
However resource planning is an essential process in any project or resource based organization.
The problem is there are a lot of misconceptions about resource planning. Here we tackle 5 of these common myths head on.
Reasons organizations don't do resource planning - and why they are wrong
1. Resource planning is hard to do
Oh you are so right there – resource planning is hard to do.
It is hard if you are trying to build resource plans in spreadsheets or Excel.
9 out of 10 organizations who reach out to us for help are caught in this common trap.
They have a spreadsheet that no one understands, takes hours to keep up-to date or just does not give them the information they need to make decisions.
A small investment in resource planning software can go a long way.
Let us use our resource planning software Kelloo as an example.
In one easy to use solution you can build your resource forecasts, use capacity planning to figure out what projects you can take on and resource plan your people to work out how best to allocate them to your various projects.
Kelloo does all the hard work and clever stuff for you – all you need to do is set priorities and time frames and see the results.
Doesn’t that sound like a better way to work?
If you want to learn a little more about how Kelloo works this is a good place to start.
Fact: Resource planning can be done quickly and deliver real results if you use the right tools.
Kelloo resource planner showing utilization heat map
2. Resource planning is only for big teams
A common fallacy is that resource planning tools only benefit big teams of resources.
However, we often see organizations with only a handful of resources really struggling to keep tabs on who is doing what when.
With only a handful of resources it should be easy for them to keep a handle on their resources plans.
But if they have plans that change often, lots of smaller pieces of work or resources that work on different projects at the same time they quickly struggle.
Fact: The size of the team is not the only factor that drives the need for resource planning. Complexity grows as the number of resources and projects grows.
Even teams with small resource pools and a limited number of projects will benefit from resource planning tools if their schedules are subject to constant change.
3. We do agile development - we don't need resource plans
Agile resource planning in theory should be a breeze.
However In an agile environment there is an assumption that resources are dedicated 100% of their time to a single project.
And that simple statement leads us to two big problems…
(1) In many organizations, time available for project work can drop to as low as 50% – 60% of a resources initial capacity once things like support, meetings, administration etc. are taken into account.
(2) With the need to keep many projects moving forward at the same time, there is pressure to have resources working on more than one project at the same time.
In an agile environment, short term scheduling is no longer a consideration – agile removes the need for this.
But looking further out, resource plans are still needed so the organization can answer questions such as:
(1) How much time can our resources dedicate to projects?
(2) How many projects can we take on?
(3) Do we have the right mix of people going forward?
(4) Can we better distribute our resources across our projects?
In an agile environment the focus for resource planning shifts.
The focus becomes about capacities and forecasts so the organization can ensure it has the right levels and mix of skills to deliver its projects.
Different questions but answers are still needed.
Fact: Agile environments still need to do resource planning but the focus is different.
4. Project planning is the same as resource planning - we don't need to do both
I hear you saying right now, “Our project managers build project plans for our projects, so why do we need another layer of planning?”.
Project plans and resource plans are fundamentally different and serve different purposes.
However there is a link between them…
A key objective of resource planning is to allocate resources across projects in a multi project environment. Allocation of resource should take account of the relative priorities of the projects and the skills of the resources involved.
The output of which is a resource plan which records who is working on which project when.
Project planning then steps this down a level of detail.
Whereas the resource plan merely records that a resource is working on a project for the next 6 months, the project plan details what they are doing on the project and when.
Resource plans are resource focused and multi project.
Project plans are task focused and for a single project.
Fact: The resource plan is used to coordinate, organize and allocate which resource are working on what projects. The project planner then plans within these resource allocations.
5. Resource planning adds no value
Holey moly, we need to stamp on this myth right now.
In the average IT shop, software or consulting organization, the fully loaded cost (i.e. salary plus benefits, accommodation contribution, hardware and software etc.) of an employee can easily run to between $80,000 – $150,000 a year.
People are the biggest cost and it is critically important to ensure that people are utilized in a way that ensures maximum efficiency and profitability for the organization.
And yet in many organizations, resource planning is at best haphazard, often ignored and more often than not so difficult to get a handle on that people just guess.
Fact: A key metric in resource planning is utilization. Organizations who implement Kelloo typically see improvements in resource utilization in the range of 5%-10% per resource*.
That may not sound a lot, but think of each of your resources, each costing you say $100,000 a year and that improvement adds up to a lot of extra resource hours, costs saved or hires postponed.
* Achieved by improved forecasting of future resource levels, better forecasting of skills required and improved allocation of resources to projects.