Resource management addresses one of the biggest concerns portfolio and project managers, technology executives, and other business leaders have: Not knowing what people are working on at a given time and whether there’s a danger of not having enough resources to complete high-priority work.
With many IT and project management offices (PMOs) regularly facing a significant shortage of skilled talent as well as limited funding for projects, resource management – and the software tools that provide the needed capabilities – have never been more important.
In addition to providing better visibility into what people are actually spending their time on and which people are available to take on given tasks at a particular time, resource management software and processes are important for building a business case for adding more resources.
Despite the potential benefits of the latest resource management technology, the fact is many organizations are still using spreadsheets to keep track of resources. This not only results in a drag on time but can lead to misinformation because there might not be clear oversight of different project work.
With such an approach, resources can quickly become overbooked and processes slow down. That’s not acceptable at a time when many enterprises are looking to execute digital transformation strategies that could impact the business for years to come.
Resource management software solutions including project and portfolio management (PPM) help organizations address the challenges of lacking visibility into what projects people are working on, and whether projects will be delayed because of a lack of available resources.
Impact Across Industries
Organizations in virtually every industry face the challenge of managing resources effectively. Many have been able to overcome these difficulties after deploying resource management platforms. Following are some examples from various sectors.
Financial services technology
A provider of processing and payments tools for the financial services industry has a client projects business unit comprised of about 50 business analysts, project coordinators, project managers, and others overseeing initiatives classified into about 20 project types.
Projects at the company typically involve 200 to 500 tasks, with many task interdependencies. About 125 active projects are in the works at any given time, drawing on some 700 resources. Due to problems related to resource allocation:
- Projects were experiencing repeated delays
- Resources were failing to attend important project status meetings
- Necessary work packages were being delayed
These resources indicated that they were mostly overworked and double-booked. Managers had no insight into their resources’ workload.
The company deployed a demand and capacity management tool that helps resource managers understand the present state of work. It lets them analyze data such as time sheet reports and average reported hours by project type and role and use this information to forecast future states.
A reporting feature provides weekly timesheet reports to all resource managers to give them insight into resource work activities. This helps to shed light on the true nature of the work resources are doing and can be used to support requests for additional hires. Resource managers can make more informed decisions in terms of which people to assign to which projects.
The company now holds resource assignment meetings where resource managers and members of various departments can access reports to make more informed decisions. Resources are now experiencing fewer conflicts between projects and know their managers have a better understanding of workloads and can identify areas of needed improvement.
Perhaps most significantly, managers are able to justify requests for additional staff, with data to back up the request.
Another example comes from a university that faced a variety of challenges, including:
- A struggle to maintain resource data
- A lack of real-time data available for decision-making
- Inconsistent communication between project managers and resource managers
- A lack of traceability on commitments of resources
After deploying a demand and capacity management tool for resource scheduling, the university is able to ensure that resources are working on the right projects.
There is improved accuracy in data about resources, and the institution has now used the platform to process more than 12,000 resource requests. The system quickly provides valuable data to senior leadership, project managers, and resource managers.
A health insurance firm lacked an integrated view of demand and capacity and found it difficult to prioritize and communicate pipeline demand without restraining its resources. The company wanted to improve the management of work, resources, investment planning, and reporting.
Governance was highly important to the firm, as was being able to forecast demand and capacity for accurate investment planning. The ability to expand reporting capabilities became a top priority, to provide executives with the information they needed to make critical business decisions and ensure the project portfolio was being measured against strategic goals.
The firm deployed a work and resource management solution to balance demand from multiple sources and assign work to resources in order to ensure that the most valuable projects are delivered. It can now:
- Make the best use of available resources and prioritize work that creates value and aligns to the corporate strategy
- Optimize resource capacity so the right mix of work is being handled at the right time
- Make sure staffing is done strategically to maximize value and productivity
- Ensure various groups work together to make sure staffing and resources are distributed based on project prioritization
Granular reports give managers actual and forecast detail by portfolio and project, as well as staffed and unstaffed work, so they can identify resource gaps. Detail at every level gives decision makers the data they need to ensure capacity meets demand now and eighteen months in the future.
A manufacturer of optical lenses had inaccurate portfolio planning and a lack of visibility into its resources. Typically, the project management officer (PMO) manages a $20 million portfolio of programs and projects, with another $10 million in unplanned projects.
Balancing resources and work was difficult. The company was using spreadsheets to manage 150 people and all of its projects. A customized project management tool was inadequate and labor intensive, and there was no real resource management.
Project delivery teams often had to decline new projects because the resources didn’t exist to support them. With no visibility into resource allocation and skill sets, the PMO lost credibility with stakeholders.
The company implemented a work and resource management solution for resource governance and can now prioritize demand and evaluate the impact it will have on resources.
The solution gives the company an enterprise view of its portfolio, and the ability to get the right programs and the right projects in alignment. It shows how each proposed project will impact other projects and resources, both immediately and long term.
Now, instead of groups committing to projects without regard for resource capacity, data shows which:
- Resources are available, and which are not
- Resources are over-committed, and which have the capacity for new work
- Skill sets are available and where outside resources might be needed
Within a state government the Senate, council bureau, and other related groups all share the resources of the legislative data center. The problem was, management did not know what all of the resources were working on.
By deploying a PPM solution as a system of record, project managers can keep track of resources and know what percentages of those resources are allocated to which projects at a given time. They can know whether or not someone will work on an approved project in the coming year, for how long, and what role that person will have.
The PPM system has increased efficiencies and reduced the cost of operation. The government has had several hundred people and many of its 900 or so projects integrated with the solution, and has been able to double throughput and cut costs by 75%.
The platform is used to capture resource demand and every thirty days puts out reports on how projects are doing. The real value of the solution is that project managers know they are working on approved projects and can get resources when they need them.
Building a Business Case
One of the biggest benefits of effective resource management is that it can help managers build a business case for hiring or retraining resources.
One of the key steps for building a business case is to perform an audit of the staff’s current work, according to talent acquisition software provider Optimize.
Conducting such an audit will indicate just how much work staffers are doing. Those who make decisions about hiring will want to see current performance levels to determine whether they are actually working at full capacity.
Managers can complete audits by speaking with people individually to learn how much time it takes to complete certain tasks and what their responsibilities are, and then use resource management with demand analysis to map out tasks and show how much time is needed to complete each task.
On the other hand, these one-on-one audits can be time consuming, expensive, and based on subjective judgement. Using a system is objective and overall less time consuming once put into play.
By showing how resources are struggling to complete workloads or take on any more work, senior management can be convinced to hire more people.
Managers trying to build a case can also highlight the downsides of not hiring more staff, which they can do by leveraging resource management with capacity analysis. By explaining the negatives of not hiring, they can demonstrate how much damage might be done if the organization lacks necessary resources. Examples include:
- Failure to complete projects on time
- Declining customer satisfaction
- Reduced quality of work
- Negative impact on return on investment
- Employee stress and turnover resulting from too much work
Role capacity and demand analysis tools can also help managers explain what type of team members they need, including:
- How many people need to be hired
- What job titles new hires would have
- How much experience and what skills are needed for each role
- A description of their main responsibilities
- Market salary ranges
Summary and Call to Action
Organizations today are operating in a business environment in which there is a limited number of resources and an increased demand for projects related to digital transformation, new software development, market expansion, new facilities, and much more.
That means companies have to manage their resources well or risk delayed or even cancelled projects. But this is not an easy task. Managers have long faced the challenges of not knowing who’s working on what and whether resources will be unavailable when they’re needed.
Resource management provides a solution. By delivering the visibility into the work resources are committed to, managers gain an understanding of utilization and they can allocate appropriately for current work and more accurately estimate future demand.