Planning and scheduling multiple projects

multi-project-scheduling

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How hard can it be to schedule multiple projects? Well to be brutally honest, 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 tips and best practice to help you crack your multi-project scheduling and planning problems.

Multi project planning and scheduling challenges

Let’s take a minute to understand what makes multi project planning and scheduling hard.

  • Resources typically work on more than one project at the same time.
  • Each project has 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.

How to do multi project planning and scheduling

There is no secret formula for multi project scheduling. Rather a series of best practices that if followed will give you a basis upon which you can build a winning process that will deliver benefits for your planning process. Below we outline key tips that should incorporated into your resource planning framework.

Create a central resource pool

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 scheduling – it only monitors 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.

Don’t plan in isolation

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.

The difference between project planning and resource planning

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 organisations 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.

Prioritize your 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. So you should know that Task A in Project 2 is more important than Task B in Project 1.

You are probably asking why? Well is comes down to resource levelling. As a resource manager, you don’t want to be manually scheduling your resources and manually solving resource allocation problems – you need an automated resource levelling process.

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. It is a pretty cool resource planning technique called priority based scheduling.

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.

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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