What are the essential resource planning best practices you need to adopt to get your resource planning process running like a dream? Kick back, grab a coffee and take a look at these top tips and ideas.
1) Ensure you capture all of your resource demand
You need to ensure that your resource plan contains all your demand. So this means including all the projects and programmes you are working on. It also needs to include all the “other” work and business as usual work your resources work on.
2) Account for administration, meetings etc
Also include in your resource plan the time your resources spend doing things like administration, meetings etc. There are two ways to do this:
- Include admin etc as demand items in your plan (like a project).
- Reduce the supply of your resource by the amount of time they spend on admin etc.
3) Set an appropriate planning duration
At Kelloo we don’t really see much point in having resource plans that run out for many years. We think for the average organization a plan extending out around 12 months provides the optimum balance between detail, usability and ease of maintenance.
4) Planning time frames
In a resource plan you should aim to have the following planning time frames:
Resource budgeting. This element of your plan is looking between 6 months and 12 months out. It has a sketchy level of detail and may include demand that is still under consideration / yet to be approved. But it is giving us a good idea of our required resource levels. We will be planning at the skill set level – not by individual resources. Estimates will be captured at a high level and not decomposed into tasks (think more like a line per project or programme).
Resource forecast. This element of your plan is looking between 1-2 months out and 6 months out. It is going to be more firmed up in terms of the demand and should give us a pretty clear picture on what we will be working on. We will still be planning at the skill set level and the plan will not be decomposed into tasks.
Resource schedule. The detailed element of your resource plan should be looking at the next 1 – 2 months. We still won’t be planning at the task level, but perhaps a little lower than project level – maybe phase level. While we are probably still planning at the skill set level for larger teams, smaller teams or those where niche skills are only provided by key individuals may choose to plan by named resource.
5) Create a demand management process
Following on from (1) above, you need to put in place a demand management process. This doesn’t have to be overly complicated but you need a way for the wider organization to start feeding requested demand into the resource planning process and to communicate back to the organization the status of their requests.
6) Watch your constraints
Generally between 10 – 20% of your resources will serve as bottlenecks as these are the resources that everyone is competing for. There are typically two reasons for this (a) they have a skill set that is limited within your organization or (b) they have a reputation as the guys to have on your project due to their experience.
Either way, these guys can block up your resource plan double quick. You need strategies to deal with (a) and (b) above. However you also need to work your schedule around these constrained resources otherwise your end dates will be bound by them.
7) Prioritise your resource plan
Ensure you prioritize your resource plan and allocate your resources to the highest priority demand. Ideally you want something more granular than a high, medium or low status so consider using a scorecard to derive your priorities.
8) Regularly review your resource plan
For work that is currently underway you want to be getting updated work estimates and feeding them into the resource schedule element of your plan (i.e. the next 1-2 months) at frequent intervals. You also need to keep an eye on changing priorities and re-organize your plan around these.
9) Organize and categorize your resources
To help organize your resources consider placing them in resource pools. Then work out the skills they provide your organization and record those also. When resource planning, you will want ways to narrow down your choice of resource.
10) Create dynamic resource plans
Things change and you want to be able to model this within your resource plan. Often this is called scenario modelling or what if modelling. Typical things you may want to model are:
- Changes to resource supply (hire or fire staff)
- Changes to working hours (periods of over-time / under-time)
- Putting work on hold
- Changing the priorities of work
- Changing work estimates
To do this you need your resource plan to allow you to apply the metrics above against your plan and see the affect. What if modelling needs to be simple to undertake so you can evaluate multiple competing scenarios quickly and easily. If it involves copying spreadsheets and hacking formulas – you are using the wrong tools and approach.
11) Use the technology available
Most folks starting out with resource planning use Excel but quickly run into its limitations. So why not look at dedicated resource planning tools such as Kelloo.
12) Assign approval states to your demand
For each demand item in your plan categorise it so you can easily identify demand by approval state. A nice sequence of approval states might run something like this:
- Under review
- Seeking more information
13) Focus on reporting
- Are key projects on track?
- Are they adequately staffed?
- Do we have resources sat around with not enough to do?
- What are people working on?
- What capacity do we have to take on new work?
As a resource planner, these are the kind of questions you are going to be regularly asked and you need to be able to provide accurate answers fast. And that doesn’t mean gathering up out of date spreadsheets and mashing them together to get answers. If you don’t have a way to get these kind of answers out of your resource plan fast then you need to find a way.