Google the top 10 reasons for project failure and we can guarantee that shortage of resource will figure quite high in the results. However, shortage of resource on a project is not really a valid reason for project failure. In fact, we could argue that there is never any excuse for insufficient resources on a project.
If your projects run out of resource, we need to dig a little deeper and get to the root cause of why. Let’s look at some of the reasons projects run out of resource and what we can do to stop it happening.
Taking on more than you can chew
Probably the most common issue and the one with the biggest impact on your ability to deliver is having unrealistic expectations about what your resources can achieve. Organizations will always be able to generate ideas for new projects. That’s what innovative organizations do and we don’t want to kill that innovation.
But we need to corral and review those ideas and ensure we don’t end up committing to more work than we can realistically achieve. The trick is to know when you have reached the capacity of your resources and stop taking on new work. A problem resource managers often run into is actually proving resources are maxed out and cannot take on more work when challenged by senior management.
To do this you need to know how much your resource pool can provide in terms of productive hours and compare this to the estimates coming in from your projects. This analysis should form the cornerstone of your resource capacity planning process. Capacity planning is tricky to do as rarely is there one correct answer to the planning puzzle. It requires you to model different mixes of projects, resources and timescales to get the most work done within the resource constraints you have. Really the only way to do this is using a dedicated resource capacity planning software solution like Kelloo.
Have your resources work on the highest priority projects first
A follow on from the point above is that organizations are often working on the wrong things. This is normally a failure to prioritize and select projects effectively. More often than not, the person who shouted loudest or did the best sales job on their pet projects gets the resource.
Focus resources on the things that add value and you have less risk of running out of resource. So when working out what projects you can take on, make sure you back fill resources onto the highest priority projects first.
Too often we see resources working on projects that are no longer important to the organization because no one has questioned if previous priorities are still valid. Prioritization and re-validation of work should be an ongoing part of the portfolio planning process.
Once we have selected our projects the next common resource management issue crops up when managers start allocating actual resources onto projects. Often resources are not dedicated to one project at a time, they may be working on multiple projects concurrently each managed by a different project manager.
The challenge here is to ensure that resources are scheduled within their daily capacity for work and there are no cross-project scheduling clashes. This is where a resource planning tool can really pay dividends. Kelloo uses a proprietary scheduling engine which ensures resources are never over allocated and handles the complexity of multi project resource planning and scheduling. One common mistake is to try and use a project planning tool like Microsoft Project to do resource planning. Microsoft Project is a great project planning tool, but when it comes to resource planning it really is not a great choice.
Review, re-forecast, rinse and repeat
Once a project is kicked off, it is essential that work estimates on the project are monitored and changes incorporated back into the planning process. Things change and work often takes longer than expected. But too often a plan is put together and never reviewed once the project is underway. So over time your capacity and resource planning drifts out of line with reality. There are various reasons why this happens, but often because people choose tools like Excel to do their resource planning. The problem with Excel based resource planning is that it looks simple and efficient at first but quickly becomes a major headache to maintain. So it does not get done. It is essential that changes can be easily incorporated into the resource planning process and the impact easily understood which is where resource planning tools like Kelloo can really help.