It’s a common and constant challenge for organizations: Making sure there are enough resources and funding on hand to complete work well and on time is critical. And that’s where resource management can help.
Resource management within the context of project portfolio management (PPM) enables organizations and managers to gain control of the basic resources needed for projects. If there’s no resource management, projects are more likely to fail because of a lack of money or people, or because resources are focused on the wrong areas.
Research firm Gartner Inc., in a report, “Supercharge Your Resource Management to Support Advanced PPM Maturity,” notes that:
“It wouldn't be so bad if resource management mediocrity resulted only in frustration, extra planning work and meetings to find out what's really happening. At least that is survivable, as many low-PPM-maturity organizations have found. However, what is not survivable is repeated failure to meet commitments, to provide promised new products and services, and to sustain a competitive edge. It is the pervasive impact of poor resource management, across a number of organizational functions and capabilities that prevents being a highly effective organization.”
Reaching advanced maturity in PPM requires new resource management techniques. Program and portfolio managers need to enhance their resource management practices so that they can deliver improved performance.
Often, portfolio and resource managers claim to have resource management. But they can’t escape the cycle of facing too much work with too few resources, which leads to being constantly in short supply of resources and seeing projects fall farther behind schedule.
For CIOs, program managers, project management officers, and others, poor resource management can mean missing out on opportunities. And it’s not just a matter of falling short on needed resources. Poor resource management can also lead to overallocation of people and funding, and people in these roles will be held accountable by finance leadership and the C-suite when that happens.
While there’s much talk about the need for new skills in a variety of technology areas, much of resource management has to do with making sure existing resources are being used best. The right titles and roles need to be aligned to the work that will deliver the most value.
Resource management software helps enterprises address a number of the pain points related to managing their money and people resources. These challenges might include such issues as work overload, “scope creep,” and project failures due to time constraints.
Key challenges associated with resource management that an organization might face, and that software can address, include:
- Managing and prioritizing project work requests and setting appropriate expectations with key stakeholders
- Managing resource capacity vs. demand for that capacity and understanding who is available to take on new work and when
- Understanding what roles and or skill sets are needed, either internally or through new hires, in order to fulfill stakeholder commitments
- Ensuring that available resources are working on the highest priority projects that are best aligned with the strategic goals of the organization
- Optimizing scheduling for when the appropriate resources are available to work on projects
When evaluating resource management solutions, companies should look for particular features and capabilities. At a basic level, solutions should enable:
- Planning, so managers can prioritize and forecast resources
- Execution and change to help increase responsiveness to the resource plan and prioritize changes
- Tracking and measurement to ensure a financial return on deployed resources
More specifically, resource management software should have:
- The ability to recommend how companies should use resource capacity to deliver the highest business value
- What-if scenario planning to help determine whether the organization can absorb and adjust to changes in the plan
- A centralized resource workbench to review, approve, and schedule resources
- A standardized resource request workflow for project managers and resource managers to communicate and collaborate
Addressing the Pain Points
Organizations in a variety of industries leverage resource management tools to address challenges and more effectively allocate their project resources. Here are some real-world examples.
A building materials company that designs and manufactures insulation products was quickly growing through acquisitions and global expansion. One of the challenges the company faced was the need to establish governance for new product development.
The faster the business grew, the more difficult it was to control processes and scale. As a result, development of the product portfolio was slower than it should have been, and costs were running too high. Much of this was due to a lack of visibility into reliable data and resource capacity.
Along with governance, resource management was a challenge. The company had the talent in place but did not always know what these resources were doing or what they were capable of doing. Some areas experienced bottlenecks while others had underutilized resources. And with facilities and resources in multiple locations around the world, communication and collaboration suffered.
Resources were being pulled in many directions at once, and without visibility into where funding was going, discerning margins and determining return on investment was difficult. The company had lost the ability to take on the innovative products it was known for quickly enough to keep its edge in the marketplace.
To address these challenges, the company created an Innovation Development System (IDS) department to concentrate solely on product ideation and development, and deployed a PPM solution to manage data, process, and resources. The PPM tool quickly became a valuable diagnostic solution to identify risks, costs, conflicts, and resource issues.
By leveraging skills from under-utilized resources, the company can now develop products faster and at reduced cost. The PPM system shows the company where the gaps and problems are in simple-to-read reports for ongoing analysis of scope, schedule, and budget estimates.
The technology has enabled the company to get back its competitive edge as it manages the next generation of product development. Among the key benefits are that the right products are developed by the right people on budget and on time.
Facing multiple challenges
A company that sells young children’s apparel worldwide through a multiple-channel business model made it a strategic and operational priority to revamp its IT project and resource management efforts to continue business growth.
IT had multiple project lists maintained separately by various business units, with no governance in how to select or create projects or tracking of project costs or resource requirements. This made regulatory compliance virtually impossible.
Managers and IT resources had no way to identify which projects were the most valuable for the company. IT staff was being expensed on software projects that depreciated over multiple years, there was a mismatch of project costs, and auditors were concerned about improper annual expenses.
Furthermore, each workgroup within the company had a different set of “run the business activities,” creating more than 100 different activity types. There was no way to determine how IT personnel were actually spending their time.
In addition, several groups were involved in almost every project, with minimal coordination between projects. It was impossible to forecast resource capacity issues, and this created constant resource conflict issues.
The company deployed a work and resource management solution to address its multiple challenges and support business growth. The solution provides simple workflow and project structure that was missing, and the company can now define project tiers to establish priorities.
The use of comprehensive time tracking enforces standard rate roles for all project members, based on salary ranges. All IT project members are allocated to projects and tasks, all managers and users are trained on new activities, and new reports are created for managers and activities.
Due to improved processes and planning, the company has seen more than $2 million in capital savings and $2.6 million in expense savings.
It has also improved prioritization of work and resources with a six- to 12-month view of resource planning activities.
Lacking visibility into resources
A health insurance provider lacked an integrated view of demand and capacity and found it difficult to prioritize and communicate pipeline demand without restraining resources. The company wanted to improve the management of work, resources, investment planning, and reporting.
Governance was important, as was being able to forecast demand and capacity for accurate investment planning. With a half dozen internal delivery partners, the firm needed to look at how to best broaden its view to understand supply, demand, capacity, and systems.
The company deployed a resource management solution to balance demand from multiple sources and assign work to resources to ensure that the most valuable projects are completed.
With the solution, the company can make the best use of its resources and focus on projects that align best to its strategic plan. The insurance firm is also focused on optimizing resource capacity, so the right mix of work is being tackled at the right time.
Previously, the company struggled with data in various spreadsheets. Managing resources was nearly impossible in static documentation that was always seemingly out-of-date or incorrect. Using integrated investment and capacity planning capabilities, it can now ensure staffing is done strategically to maximize value and productivity. Staffing and resources are now distributed based on project prioritization.
Granular reports give resource managers actual and forecast detail by portfolio and project and staffed / unstaffed work information so that they can identify resource gaps. Status detail at every level provides managers with the data they need to ensure capacity can meet demand now and 18 months in the future.
Using their configuration of resource management software, the firm can forecast demand 12 to 24 months ahead and use that information to allocate resources weekly. Roles are better defined, with more detail to provide greater insight into capacity and demand.
Among the key benefits:
- Resources are optimized by focusing staff on efficiency and value
- Work is prioritized and aligned to roadmaps for better visibility
- Investment planning is used to maximize portfolio and staff productivity
- Plans can be integrated to measure capacity and demand
- Demand is prioritized by capacity and role
Effective resource management is not simply a “nice-to-have” feature of project portfolio management; it’s essential to success.
If organizations lack visibility and can’t keep track of resources, such as people and money, and direct these toward the most valuable work, they will likely fail to complete projects and deliver the products that bring competitive advantages, missing out on potential benefits.
With the right resource management solution in place, organizations have the basis to ensure that the right people and sufficient funding are applied to those strategically aligned programs and will deliver value to the organization and its customers.