Ultimate Guide to Resource Management
Resource management can be a tricky puzzle to crack but that is no reason to ignore it. I have spent many years working with different organizations over a range of industries to help them work it out.
Now I am sharing with you a host of tactics, best practice and tips to help you make the most of your resources.
I think you will agree, a solid resource management process is essential for any resource or project based organization.
But some people struggle to build a resource management process that works.
Are you one of them?
Or they build something in spreadsheets, only to find it doesn’t give them what they need.
The thing is, it doesn’t need to be this way.
In this guide we share tips, tricks and best practice we have learnt working with hundreds of organizations helping them with their resource management.
Whether you are new to resource management or want to refresh your skills, there is something for everyone in this guide.
Click here if you want to jump straight into the details of how to do resource management. With worked examples, screenshots and more.
First a quick pep talk
We know setting up a resource management process can seem overwhelming.
So take baby steps.
Start with the basics and build your capability over time. You don’t need to do everything in this guide now.
And the thing is, little changes to how you work make a big difference to your projects and your people.
As you probably know, resources are the largest cost in most organizations.
So small improvements in how you run your resource management can have big benefits.
And don’t forget to look at resource management software that will make the resource management process a lot less painful.
What is resource management?
Why is resource management important?
All organizations are resource constrained
Meaning they have a limited supply of resources to use on projects.
So to be successful, you need to ensure you are making the best use of your resources. This means taking steps to ensure:
- Organizational priorities drive which projects you choose to do.
- Your resources are working on the right projects.
- Resources neither have too much or too little work to do.
- You have the right mix of skills across your teams.
- You understand the headcount you need over the coming months.
Who should do resource management?
Most organizations need to do resource management. What changes is the level of rigor and detail involved.
Smaller organizations with a handful of resources might be able to handle resource management using an informal process.
However, as resource headcount increases and the number of projects grows the resource management puzzle becomes increasingly complex.
And things don’t need to grow that much before resource management becomes an essential part of the organizations toolkit.
What does this mean for you?
If you can answer yes to any of these 6 questions you likely need a robust resource management process.
- You run multiple projects at the same time.
- You share resources across projects.
- Your resources work on both projects and normal business activities (BAU).
- Resources make up a large part of your project costs.
- You often commit to projects that you do not have the resource for.
- Projects often run late due to resource constraints.
Take our resource management health check and see how you rank with your resource management.
Resource management in an agile environment
Some agile teams say that resource management is no longer necessary in an agile environment.
However, this is too simplistic a view.
Agile teams rarely work in isolation and often work on projects alongside non agile teams.
Organizations still need to forecast what resources they need to recruit and make commitments to what projects they can deliver.
With agile resource management the focus shifts.
- The capability of teams become the focus rather than individual resources.
- Focus on resource capacity rather than utilization.
- Assign teams to projects not resources.
- Restrict the number of projects being executed at one time by prioritizing and queuing projects.
Resource management in an agile environment is in many ways easier, but no less important.
Chapter 8 explores how to do agile resource management and ensure you get the benefits of agile while still delivering on the wider resource management needs of the organization.
What are the benefits of resource management?
Effective resource management brings immense benefits to the organization, the projects it runs and its resources. Chapter 5 of our guide takes a deeper dive into the benefits of resource management.
- Transparency so that everyone understands the capacity of the organization to deliver work.
- Visibility into desired resource pool size and skills mix needed for the projects you want to deliver.
- Improve project delivery by ensuring you have enough resources for the projects you are working on.
- Understand and manage the impact of project delays on resources and other projects.
- Prevents resource burnout by avoiding over allocation.
- Stops resources becoming roadblocks where they are the only people with key skills.
Project management vs. resource management
Although different disciplines, project management and resource management are highly dependent.
While most organizations have reached a reasonable level of maturity in project management, many organizations struggle with resource management.
And the brunt of this failure is felt by the project managers.
Project managers run projects.
They ensure that people know day to day what they are meant to be doing to help the project on its journey.
So this involves low level scheduling of work, managing risks, managing costs etc.
Resource managers do resource management.
Their focus is people.
And their responsibility is to ensure the organization has enough resources with the correct skills to work on projects it wants to run.
Project managers are highly reliant on resource managers and good resource management is a prerequisite for running successful projects.
Most organizations prioritize implementing project planning and management over resource management.
They do this because resource management is often the harder puzzle to solve.
Chapter 6 explores the relationship between project management and resource management in greater depth.
Resource management and portfolio management
As mentioned earlier, most organizations are resource constrained.
So when it comes to running projects, they can only do so much with the resources they have.
Which means they only have so many levers they can pull to ensure they meet their organizational goals:
- Which projects they select to execute.
- The timing of their projects.
- Their resource levels.
- Resource skills mix.
- How they choose to allocate their resources.
Resource management is an integral part of the portfolio management process. It helps organizations make decisions about what they can achieve with the resources they have.
Sometimes this may mean delaying projects, cancelling projects or re-deploying resources to higher priority projects.
Chapter 7 explores how resource management and portfolio management work hand in hand to ensure organizations maximize the value of their resources.
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Ultimate Guide to Resource Management
How to do resource management
Organizations are constantly being forced to deliver more with less.
Ineffective resource management leads to project failures, cost overruns and dissatisfied people.
So what are the must have components of a resource management process?
Read on to discover the pieces of the jigsaw you need to assemble to get started with effective resource management.
We will explain the resource management process using screenshots from our resource management solution to better help you understand the concepts involved.
Understand your resource supply
First you need to get to know your resources.
This means calculating your supply of resources. This is also sometimes called resource capacity.
The supply of your resources is the number of people you have multiplied by the amount of labor time they provide.
This is normally expressed in terms of FTE (full time equivalent) but you can also record it in days.
Getting this step right is essential as most organizations overstate the resource capacity they have available for work.
Once you have figured out the supply of your resources, summarize this by role or team.
Roles are the skills each person provides your organization for example project manager, engineer etc.
You should now have a clear view of the capacity of your resource pool.
Here is how the resource pool looks in Kelloo once we have added our named resources and teams into their roles.
Figure out the resources your projects need
The next step is to work out the types of resources needed for all the projects and work you want to do. This is called demand.
So start by pulling together a list of all the work you are being asked to do.
This could be projects, programs or even business as usual activities.
Then record the type of resource needed (using roles) and how much time is required for the work (again in days or FTE).
Record your demand on a period by period basis so you can see how demand fluctuates over time.
Ideally you should set up an ongoing process to capture demand. This is often called demand management.
Ultimately you are going to want to filter your demand so you can focus your resource management efforts on the things that are most important to your organization.
So it can be helpful to also record things like:
- Status (approved, requested etc).
- Who requested the work.
- Rough timings for when it needs to happen.
- Any dependencies to other work.
Use capacity planning to figure out what projects you can take on
Capacity planning is where you work out which projects you can do with the resources you have. In this guide we take you through the main steps involved in capacity planning. Or take a deeper dive into this topic in our Ultimate Guide to Resource Capacity Planning.
Capacity planning is high level
When capacity planning, you are not concerned with individual resources. You are comparing the labor demand for resource roles with the labor supply of roles.
Capacity planning is about understanding your organizations capacity to take on work.
Capacity planning helps you make tough decisions
If you have a shortfall of resources, capacity planning helps you make decisions about your resources and work:
- Should you hire more resources?
- If so what type of resource and when?
- Can you re-deploy resources from lower priority work to higher priority work?
- Would it help to delay working on some projects?
Capacity planning identifies gaps between your resource capability and your demands.
This is important so that you can demonstrate to your organization the amount of work your resources can realistically be expected to do.
Capacity planning forms one of the main processes in portfolio management. It involves tough decisions about what projects and work is going to be approved.
Here is how the capacity plan looks in Kelloo and we can clearly see which projects have resource capacity issues and when.
The importance of prioritization when capacity planning
To perform effective capacity planning, your projects and work need to be prioritized.
There are two key reasons for this.
- You will always be asked to do more work than you have capacity to do. So prioritization acts as a budgeting tool helping you to approve enough projects without exceeding your capacity.
- Prioritization allows you to ensure you are working on the right projects.
Projects should not just be prioritized on a simple high, medium and low scale. Rather they should be priotitized on things like return on investment, risk and strategic alignment.
In a recent PMI Pulse of the Profession report, it was clear that the very best organizations have far higher project success rates than everyone else.
The top performers deliver 7x more projects on time than poor performers.
One thing these organizations do differently to “the rest” is that they have a real focus on strategically managing their portfolio and their resources.
They ensure that projects are aligned to strategy and that their resources are deployed to support the most important projects.
The output of the capacity planning process should be an agreed list of the projects you are going to do and approximate dates when you think you can fit them in.
Use scenario modelling to evaluate alternatives
When capacity planning there is never one correct answer to the question “Which projects should we be doing when?”
Rather there will be competing project selections that need to be evaluated against each other.
Each alternative may have different sequencing of projects, different resource hiring plans etc.
This is called scenario modelling.
Scenario planning lets you adjust your capacity plan to model changes. This lets you seek the best outcome for your organization in terms of resources, priorities and timeframes.
It is not untypical to have four or five options that each fit the bill in terms of resources, budget and alignment to your organization goals.
The trick is to work out which plays out the best for your organization.
Ideally you want to be using a resource management tool that has a scenario planning feature built in.
Because the truth is.
Trying to do this in a spreadsheet is near impossible.
Scenarios in Kelloo are like versions of the resource plan that you can compare against each other.
Use resource planning to optimally allocate resources to projects
Whereas capacity planning is a strategic high level technique used to help you figure out what projects you can do and the resources you need, resource planning is used to work out who will be working on which projects.
This is where the rubber really hits the road in resource management.
To confuse matters a little, this process is sometimes called resource allocation.
Resource planning happens after resource capacity planning
Before getting into resource planning, organizations need to have worked out which projects they want to do using capacity planning.
The output of the capacity planning process is a prioritized list of projects and the types of resources they need.
Organizations with smaller resource pools or limited projects can sometimes skip a formal capacity planning process and move straight into resource planning.
Resource planning involves looking at the resource demand for each project and allocating a named resource to the project for a period of time.
Again resource allocations should be based on project priorities.
How to handle multi-project resource planning
Often resources will be allocated to more than one project at the same time, which means their time must shared across projects.
This poses a particular challenge when resource planning as a delay or change to one project can have a ripple effect across other projects.
To resource plan effectively in a multi project environment there are some critical success factors:
- Have all your work in one place so you get a true picture of resource utilization.
- When you make changes to projects you need instant feedback so you can see the impact on your portfolio and resources.
- Try to limit the number of parallel projects by prioritizing your work.
- Have appropriate tools to allow you to easily model the effect of swapping resources into alternative allocations.
When resource planning in Kelloo cross project resource allocations are taken into account when calculating availability and utilization.
How to track and manage resource utilization
Resource planning is an ongoing process and you need to keep a constant eye on resource utilization.
Projects slip and things change so the resource plan needs to be kept current with up to date resource estimates.
Inevitably resource utilization issues will happen.
Resource utilization is a metric that tracks whether your resources are under or over utilized.
It is normally calculated as:
Allocated time / Available time and expressed as a percentage.
So 100% would be fully busy, 0% would be fully available.
Optimal resource utilization would be having every resource allocated at 100% of their time.
This an ideal and never realized in reality.
A well optimized resource plan should not have peaks of over allocation (resources with too much work) or under allocation (too little work).
Re-allocate resource or level resources to smooth the allocations.
Ultimate Guide to Resource Management
Resource management health check
Do your projects often run late?
Do you struggle to forecast what resources you need?
Or find it hard to figure out if you have sufficient resources to start up new projects.
These are all symptoms of poor resource management.
And here is the thing.
To solve a problem, you need to know what your problems are.
So take our resource management health check to see how your resource management process stacks up.
And visit our resource management best practice chapter for some tips on improving your resource management.
6 point resource management health check
1. Do you share resources across multiple projects?
Do you have a way to balance your resources across multiple projects and ensure they are not over allocated?
In an ideal world resources would work on one project at a time.
But that would be too easy wouldn’t it?
The reality is resources are often shared across projects.
And the upshot?
Managing resources in a multi project environment is incredibly difficult without appropriate tools.
2. Are you able to balance resources across projects and business as usual work?
Do your resources work on projects and business as usual activities?
If so, how do you manage how their time is split across these different streams?
Resources don’t just work on projects.
Some studies estimate some resources can spend as much as 60% of their time on non-project work.
3. Can you forecast the resource and skill needs for your organization?
Do you have a clear picture of the resource needs of your organization 3 to 6 months out?
It can take months to get resources on board.
So you need a way to gather, review and prioritize projects so you can keep track of resource hiring needs.
4. Do you allocate resources to projects based on organizational priority?
Does your resource management process take account of organizational priorities?
If you are a customer facing organization these are normally quite easy to understand.
But for internal projects you need a way to prioritize your projects so resource allocation is aligned with what is valuable to your organization.
Successful organizations are not the ones who deliver the most projects.
They are the organizations who deliver the right projects.
It’s a no brainer – but often overlooked.
Often there is a disconnect between your organizations strategic priorities and the projects that resources get allocated to.
5. Are you able to easily compare different schedule and resource options?
Sometimes you need to model the effect of things like new hires on your project schedules.
But are you able to do that without impacting your current plans?
Modelling the effect of changes to resources and projects is an important component of resource management.
Let me explain why.
Optimizing your portfolio requires evaluating different project and resource options.
This can involve modelling adjustments to resource levels, schedules and the priority of work.
6. Do you have information at your fingertips to make the right decisions?
A new project needs starting up or an existing project needs more resource.
Where do you get the data to make decisions?
Spreadsheets that are likely weeks out of date?
Spreadsheets are often the initial go to tool for building a resource management solution.
But don’t go there.
They do not scale and require a lot of manual input to achieve what a dedicated resource management tool can do with a couple of clicks.
Ultimate Guide to Resource Management
Resource management best practice
Organizations are under increasing pressure to deliver more products and projects with scare resources.
Which means resources must be optimally utilized and focused on the right projects.
Poor resource management leads to poor productivity, delays, decreased quality, increased costs and missed opportunities.
But how can we improve resource management?
It requires a mindset shift.
High levels of resource utilization are not necessarily a good measure of resource management effectiveness.
This means prioritizing your projects using your strategic goals then allocating your resources based on the priorities.
9 best practices to improve and streamline your resource management
1. 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 is a big problem with this approach.
As you know, spreadsheets are passed from one person to another to manage and update.
And quickly they get filled with formulas that no one understands and bugs and errors creep in.
And there is more bad news.
They do not scale and take an age to keep up to date.
For the sake of a couple of thousand dollars, invest in some resource management software.
Which 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.
2. 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.
3. Allocate resources based on project and work priority
It goes without saying that resources should always be allocated to the highest priority work first.
This is called priority based resource allocation.
If you are still trying to run your resource management in spreadsheets then priority based resource allocation is near impossible to do.
And here is why.
It will involve a lot of spreadsheet hacking and formula editing every time you want to change the priority of your projects (which happens often). Unless you are some kind of ninja coder / macro guru.
I learnt this the hard way.
Here is what you need to do. Choose a resource planning tool that highlights resource capacity constraints based on project priority.
4. Separate the capacity planning and resource planning process
Unless you run a very small portfolio of projects with a handful of resources it is essential that you separate the capacity planning and resource planning process.
They are different process, undertaken by different people and with different outputs.
- Capacity planning determines if the organization has sufficient resources with the right skills to execute the projects they want to do.
- Resource planning is the process of coordinating and allocating actual resources to projects so the project managers know who they are working with.
5. Resource management and portfolio management go hand in hand
Portfolio management and resource management are highly integrated processes which both feed into each other.
So don’t neglect one over the other.
And make sure you use a software solution that combines both portfolio management and resource management in the same package.
6. Resource management should take account of agile, waterfall and others
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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. Do resource management at the right level
It is essential that resource plans reflect the needs of the organization.
If projects are volatile and often slip or change then your resource planning time frame and level of detail should reflect this reality.
(1) Consider only planning at a detail level for the next month or two.
(2) Use skill based planning as opposed to resource based planning when the actual resource in unimportant.
(3) Base longer term plans on forecasts and accept they will change as more is known.
Ultimate Guide to Resource Management
Benefits of resource management
For project and resource based organizations, effective resource management can have immense benefits.
However resource management can be a tricky problem to crack.
Using resource management software can go a long way to making the job easier.
The rewards for getting resource management right are significant. Organization cite benefits including increased growth-related spending, cost cutting and improved margins.
4 key benefits of resource management
1. Free up resources to work on valuable projects
It is no longer sufficient to review upcoming projects every six months or so.
Let me get straight to the point. High performing organizations constantly re-evaluate their portfolio to ensure their resources are working on the right projects.
But how to do this?
By connecting your resource allocation plans to your strategic priorities it becomes easier to validate if your resources are still working on the most valuable projects.
Good resource management enables the organization to constantly validate the decisions it makes about resource allocation and spot opportunities for moving resources onto higher value work.
2. Better forecast your required capacity and capabilities
Capacity is the headcount requirements of your organization and capabilities are the types of skills you need.
Being able to forecast these means you can develop better recruitment plans and make clearer decisions about what projects you are able to do.
3. The capacity of the organization is clear
A major reason for project failure is that organizations over estimate their ability to deliver work given the resources they have.
I see this time and time again.
Needless to say, without a clear vision of all the work you are doing (project and non project work) it is too easy to over commit resources.
Good resource management gives you the tools to validate you have sufficient capacity and skills within your organization to do work being requested.
If we take a look at the portfolio in Kelloo below we can clearly see we do not have sufficient capacity to take on the data center project.
4. Look after your resources better
It is often the resources who bear the brunt of poor resource management. Organizations commit to projects that are under resourced and make promises to customers that can’t possibly be met with the resources available.
Unfortunately, this leads to stressed resources who are more likely to burnout.
But there is an answer. Use resource management tools to help you keep track and report on your utilization and capacity.
This can include spotting individual resources who are constantly in demand (pinch points) and roles that have high levels of utilization.
For example, Kelloo show resource utilization inline with the resource plan so you can easily see the impact of plan changes on your resources.
Other benefits of resource management
1. Obtain a realistic view of both demand and capacity to deliver.
2. Manage and prioritize work requests and set appropriate expectations to stakeholders.
3. Identify accurate resource availability.
4. Put the right resources on the right work at the right time.
5. Understand what roles you need to hire.
6. Increase and improve communication between project and resource managers and team members.
7. Spot problems earlier in the process.
8. Provide fair and objective methods to prioritize work.
9. Ensure demand is balanced against capacity to deliver.
Ultimate Guide to Resource Management
Resource management vs project management
In this chapter we are examine the differences between project management and resource management.
The use of project management techniques is quite widespread within organizations, while resource management is often overlooked or an afterthought.
But the truth is, good project management is hard to do without effective resource management.
The gap left when organizations fail to get these two related techniques working in harmony leads to project delays, over utilized staff and poor use of resources.
Read on to understand if you should be doing project management, resource management or more likely both!
Project management is task focused - resource management is resource focused
While project and resource management are related and complimentary activities they differ markedly in the approach they take and the outputs they seek.
Project management involves planning, scheduling and managing people to reach an end goal.
As well as this, it also includes other important activities such as managing costs, risks and issues as they arise.
With project management, the scheduling is normally low level and involves matching resources to task level assignments or sprints if agile development is being used.
On the other hand, resource management shifts the focus away from the tasks to be done and instead focuses on the resources required to work on the projects.
It gives you an overview of your resources, helps you identify resource or skills shortages and shows you how resources have been allocated between projects.
So to summarize:
- Resource management involves deciding which people are going to work on which projects.
- Project management involves assigning and scheduling work to people on the projects.
In the example from the Kelloo resource planning software, we can see how work is defined at a high level by just entering the project, the type of resources and the amount of work to be done. It is not required to break the work down into detailed tasks.
Should you do project management or resource management?
The truth is, for all but the smallest organizations with a handful or projects or resources the answer is almost certainly that you should be doing both project management and resource management.
To make decisions about which projects you should be doing, resource hiring and optimal deployment of resources the data from project management systems is too low level.
For managing timelines and delivery dates to customers, data from resource management systems is too high level.
So embrace both techniques.
Get your resource management and project management working in step and you will see your teams and project performance improve and your profitability increase.
Ultimate Guide to Resource Management
Portfolio resource management
Resource management forms a cornerstone of the portfolio management process.
Resources are normally the most expensive part of an organizations moving parts and require a strong focus to make the most of them.
And interestingly, more and more organizations are adopting a lightweight or lean approach to portfolio management. If you want to learn more about Lean PPM take a look at this article.
Portfolio resource management includes processes to help organizations forecast resource needs and allocate resources to the right projects.
In addition, it helps to inform the organization about their ability to execute current or prospective projects given resource constraints.
Portfolio resource management takes a high level broad view of the organizations resources and how they may be best deployed to meet the organization’s needs.
For effective portfolio resource management organizations need accurate information about:
1. Current resource capacities. The resources they have to hand and their skills.
2. Project priorities. A prioritized list of projects is required to ensure that resources are being allocated to the right projects.
3. Current resource allocations. Which resources are currently working on which projects.
4. Resource forecasts. Expected resource needs for projects in the pipeline.
Portfolios by their very nature involve many competing projects and initiatives all seeking resource.
And portfolio resource management helps by allowing us to treat resources as a strategic asset.
Key to this is managing resources holistically as resources are often shared across projects.
Portfolio resource management process
An optimized process for portfolio resource management has many integrated and moving parts.
A fair and objective way to prioritize projects is required.
The right prioritization method to use depends on the organizations strategic intent and what it seeks to accomplish during the coming years.
Ideally some combination of metrics including financial return, risk and implementation difficulty should be used.
Understand resource constraints and limitations
Using the prioritized projects, an initial matching of resources to projects should be done.
The aim of this is to gain an understanding of resource shortfalls or over-supply.
This provides a cut off point showing which projects are likely not to be approved due to resource issues.
This is often called capacity planning.
We can see how Kelloo uses a cut off line to clearly show which projects have a resource shortfall. The higher priority projects above the cut off line have sufficient resource while the lower priority data center project falls below the cut off line due to resource constraints.
Refine priorities, timings and resource levels
You can use this information to review priorities, timing of work, shift resources between projects or use temporary resources to move more projects above the cut off line.
Now, this is really important.
To enable organizations to consider the multiple permutations of project selection, timings and resources levels in a portfolio, it helps to use a resource planning tool with a scenario planning feature.
This enables management to model changes to the portfolio and consider “what if” we make this change.
Allocate resources to projects
Once a balance between the project demand and resource supply has been achieved resources can be allocated to projects. All the time being aware of utilization and capacity constraints.
Once resource allocations are finalized, the resource allocations can be communicated to project managers who can commence high level project planning.
Again, using an example from Kelloo below, we can see how the resource plan combines resource priorities, allocation data and utilization reporting to allow decisions to be made.
Portfolio resource management software
Traditional PPM (project portfolio management tools) have a strong focus on project execution and project selection but a weak capability around resource management.
Whereas traditional resource management tools have a focus on managing utilization and time reporting.
Using a tool like Kelloo allows you to align priorities, resources and allocations across a multi project portfolio. It enables this by providing portfolio prioritization, portfolio management, resource allocation and resource planning in a unified solution.
Ultimate Guide to Resource Management
Agile resource management
Some folks question if resource management applies to the agile world.
And why do they think this?
Let’s consider how agile teams work for a moment.
Agile teams are self-organizing.
So at the team level resource management is relatively straightforward and happens within the team itself.
Agile team members work on the higher priority work items first.
And then limit the number of things they work on at once to limit over utilization issues.
Agile teams have a fixed resource capacity.
Which naturally controls the run rate of the work.
So there you have it – agile teams deal with resource management themselves.
However, there is a big problem with this.
It ignores the wider resource management needs of the organization.
Irrespective of the delivery mechanism (agile, waterfall or hybrid) organizations need to plan.
They need to plan what products they will be launching, how they will invest their money and how many resources they will need.
And these plans can stretch many months into the future.
In this article we focus on agile resource management and planning and how this becomes a key process when attempting to scale agile.
8 best practice for agile resource management
1. Agile still needs a plan
There are competing tensions when doing resource management in an agile environment.
Agile teams have a near term view.
While resource management requires a longer term view.
And this leaves us with a problem.
It can take months to recruit people and teams.
You need an idea of how many people you will need to hire further down the line.
It’s a common misconception that agile does not require a plan.
It does, but a high level plan showing the gaps between your demand and your capacity.
With agile resource management the focus becomes understanding what level of resource capacity you need over the coming months to work on the projects and products you want to deliver.
2. Start with the vision of what you want to work on
The starting point is understanding what you want to be working on over the coming months.
What do you want to focus on over the next quarter, six months or even year?
This is a high level vision.
Not individual features, but describing the big ticket items.
Launch a new website in June, release a new version of your product in September – you get the idea.
Now for the really important thing:
Your work should also be prioritized.
You will not be able to do everything due to resource and cost constraints.
Then lay our your work visually with big blocks representing projects or initiatives.
Often this is called a product roadmap.
This gives executives some clarity as to what is happening when and also ties the agile team into the overall vision of what the organization wants to achieve.
It is important that the roadmap at this point is not talking about specific features. You don’t want to get locked into building a specific feature set.
3. Estimate the resource needs of your teams or skills
The next step is to roughly estimate.
- The work involved.
- The types of resources needed to do the work.
When we talk about resources the focus is either on the skills or teams required. Not individuals.
You may not know the exact effort level for the work you’re considering.
But at this point the estimates are being used to get an idea about how much work you can consider taking on.
When you get round to doing the work, the teams can refine the estimates.
4. Balance your resource needs to your resource capacity
Your resource supply will be relatively fixed.
And the chances are your road map will be showing more work that you have resources to complete it.
You only have a few levers you can pull to fix this problem:
- Change the priority of work.
- Adjust the timing of work.
- Adjust the supply of resource (either by hiring or re-allocating from lower priority work).
So using your work priorities as a guide pull the levels until you get a balance between the resource demand (coming from the work) and the resource supply.
To do this you need a portfolio style view of your projects and resources, as project priorities will come into play when making these decisions.
Let’s use an example to explain this
Take a look at the screenshot of the resource planner in Kelloo shown below (note the work is prioritized top down in the view).
1. The purple bars show us when the work is scheduled for.
2. The planner compares the demand (from the projects) to the capacity of the skills, teams and resources.
3. Below the bars are numbers showing us the amount of work allocated per week to the work.
With me so far?
4. The red numbers below the bars tell us which projects will run out of resource and when.
This helps us decide which projects we may need to re-schedule or re-prioritize.
5. And the heatmap at the bottom tells us which resources and skills we are running short of.
This helps us decide which resources we need to re-allocate or hire.
This is the trick to resource planning that most people miss.
You need to look at the status of both resources AND projects when resource planning. Most times, people only focus on resources – often because the tools they use only show resource utilization information.
So we can see straight away that unless we make some changes, the Website Project cannot happen and we need to look at the resource levels in the Engineer role.
5. Resource management is an on going process
What is important on the road map today may not be important in six months’ time.
Some work may get done faster, other work will take longer.
Resource management in an agile environment should be a continuous exercise.
As the road map changes and work is completed so the resource plan should be re-visited.
6. Resource management and agile work together
By combining longer range high level planning with agile we get the best of both worlds.
But this does require meeting in the middle.
Stakeholders need to accept that the high level vision driving the resource management plans will change.
While agile teams need to raise their sights and recognize that organizations do need some form of planning.
The trick is finding the sweet spot.
7. Use agile resource management tools
Agile resource management requires tools that raise the focus above the day to day working of the agile team.
Tools like Kelloo blend resource management, capacity planning and agile into an integrated toolset and provides the higher level portfolio and resource view of work necessary to scale agile.
Ultimate Guide to Resource Management
Resource management software
Quite simply, resource management software helps you streamline, manage and optimize how your resources are scheduled to work on projects.
Most organizations start by using spreadsheets for resource management but quickly hit limitations that makes them unusable for resource management.
So instead they look for dedicated resource management software.
What does resource management software do?
With resource management software you can:
- See the resource capacity of your organization.
- Understand the available skills mix.
- Compare this to the resource demand coming from your projects.
- Make better informed resourcing decisions.
This allows you to identify resource shortfalls, make decisions about which projects you can do and how best to allocate your resources to projects.
Resource management software can sometimes be called resource planning software.
Resource management software - 6 key features
Different resource management solutions have different capabilities.
But the fact remains.
The two key things resource management software does is:
- Compare the supply of your resources to the demands being made upon them.
- Performs a gap analysis between the resources you have and the resources you need.
If resources have too much work you either need to:
- Hire more resources.
- Reduce the amount of work you are doing.
- Re-allocate resources.
Here are some of the must have features you should look for when comparing resource management software.
1. Role, team and resource based planning
Being able to plan resource by role (skill), team or individual resource is essential.
Resource management is an iterative process which starts by planning roles to projects and then swapping the roles for teams or actual resources.
So don’t choose resource management software that forces you to do your planning at the named resource level.
2. Support for agile, waterfall and BAU work
Resource management software needs to support the way you plan and organize your work.
And this point is really important.
Look for resource management software that supports both agile and waterfall planning.
Secondly, not all work an organization does is projects.
So ensure the software can also be used to plan the other non-project work your resources do.
In Kelloo a resource plan can contain a mix of agile and traditionally planned work alongside general business activities meaning your resource management picture is complete.
3. Scenario planning
There is no right answer when doing resource management.
Instead, there are competing project and resources options that must be evaluated against each other to strike the best balance.
Often this is called scenario planning or what if modelling.
This lets you see how approving a new project, hiring more resource or cancelling a project would impact your current schedule and resource utilization.
So ensure any resource management software you select allows you to create different planning scenarios.
4. Utilization reporting
Utilization reporting is a metric that shows you how busy resources are.
So conversely, it can also show you how available your resources are.
Resource utilization reporting is an essential component of resource management software which shows you which resources are in short supply or have capacity to take on more work.
Look for resource management software that lets you view resource utilization at the individual resource level as well as the role (skill) level.
5. Capacity planning
Most organizations have a finite capacity of resources.
So look for resource management software that allows you to compare the overall capacity of your resources to the projects you are being asked to do.
This is an important process when deciding which projects you can approve.
Too many resource management solutions focus on utilization reporting and ignore capacity planning.
Kelloo shows a cut off line in the resource plan to indicate projects with sufficient resource vs. those that cannot be approved due to lack of resource.
6. Remember the money - finance tracking
While resource capacity and utilization levels are key metrics, resource management software also needs to focus on resource costs.
Decisions on allocating resources will often be constrained by financial considerations.
So look for resource management software that lets you allocate usage costs to resources and then shows you how your resource plans stack up in terms of money.
Benefits of resource management software
Here are some of the benefits of using resource management software:
1. Get better alignment between organization priorities and how resources are allocated to projects.
2. Improve resource utilization tracking.
3. Ability to see the capacity of resources and compare them to demands being made.
4. Better resource forecasting to support resource hiring plans.
5. Ability to see the impact of approving new projects before committing.
Spreadsheets for resource management
A spreadsheet is normally the first tool that organizations turn to when trying to move their resource management into a software based platform.
And why is that?
It is easy to use and most organizations have a copy of Excel, Google sheets or some other spreadsheet tool.
If you are planning a handful of resources and one or two projects you may just get away with using a spreadsheet.
However as the number of projects and resources increases you should look to implement dedicated resource management software.
Here are some of the reasons using a spreadsheet for resource management may not be the best way to plan and manage your resources:
1. Spreadsheets are cell based.
So rescheduling a project in your resource plan will require editing lots of cells.
Which is time consuming and error prone.
With a tool like Kelloo, rescheduling work is easily accomplished by just dragging bars and the schedule and utilization will automatically be re-calculated for you.
2. Lack of reporting.
Spreadsheets do not include any standard reporting capability and reporting is a major need in resource management software.
3. Error prone.
One big downside of using a spreadsheet for resource management is that it is too easy for errors and bugs to creep in.
Make a single error in a formulae and your resource plan could be way off track.
Errors often creep in when copying formulae forward – which is something you will need to do a lot to model timescales in a spreadsheet.
4. Spreadsheets do not include standard resource management features.
Using a spreadsheet will mean developing the solution from scratch and trying to implement features that are standard in resource management software.
Things like utilization reporting, scenario modelling, financial tracking and capacity vs demand management will have to be designed and built into the spreadsheet.
5. Macros and programming.
Spreadsheet formulae will never be enough to implement a workable solution.
So inevitably you will have to use macros or program the spreadsheet to work like an application.
Ultimate Guide to Resource Management
Resource management software glossary of terms
Confused about the different terms used in the resource management world? Don’t know the difference between resource allocation and capacity planning?
Our resource management glossary explains these commonly used terms and more.
A physical identifiable resource.
When the type of resource needed is known but the exact resource is not a placeholder can be assigned in a resource plan.
Portfolio resource management
Combining the disciplines of portfolio management and resource management to enable an organization to make informed decisions on projects using project prioritization and resource availability information.
Resource allocation planning
See resource planning.
The assignment of a resource to a detailed task or piece of work.
See resource supply.
Resource capacity planning
Strategic process of determining which projects and organization can do and the resources it needs.
The total amount of work an organization wants to do.
Longer range estimate of the resource needs for a project.
Tactical process of allocating resources to projects.
Detailed process of deciding what resources are working on what tasks or work and when.
The total amount of labor that resources provide. Normally given in days or FTE.
A metric used to determine what % of a resource time is allocated to work.
Normally the main skill a resource provides to your organization. Such as project manager, engineer.
Similar to a placeholder. Rather than assign a resource a role (or skill) is assigned.