Resource Management Software and the Changing World of Work

In an attempt to become more responsive and adaptive to evolving customer and market demands, companies are embracing the fact that the world itself is changing. How work is done is no different. There are many ways to execute work and manage resources, including utilizing resource management software. The key is to integrate management of work and resources while accepting that every organization within the enterprise likely has a preference for how they will execute and deliver work.

While different work methodologies have their benefits, resource management challenges can arise when a variety are used across an organization.
While different work methodologies have their benefits, resource management challenges can arise when a variety are used across an organization.

It’s easy to prefer a single work methodology to bring consistency; however, the characteristics of the work vary as much as the people who execute that work. Companies are adopting a range of work methodologies, such as traditional Waterfall, Lean-Agile, and collaborative / unstructured. While each work methodology has its benefits, the variety running concurrently in an enterprise adds to resource management challenges.

Balancing Capacity with Demand

The most common constraint on work is resource capacity, with nearly 80 percent of product development organizations with low capacity planning maturity overcommitting resources on a regular basis. The real issue is that work can come from anywhere and even when moving towards fixed teams, shared resources are a reality.

This challenge is only increasing as the lines between enterprise organizations are becoming blurred. Companies are breaking down silos in favor of cross-organizational collaboration.

While seen as beneficial for innovation and speeding products to market, the enterprise-wide focus uncovers the many disparate tools being used throughout the organization, including those for project management and resource management. Even though the organizations may be collaborating, their data is fragmented, fails to provide a big picture view, and requires data management over a number of tools that may not integrate with tools used in other departments.

Resource managers and executives, therefore, have no real way to balance overall (and limited) capacity with increasing demand, nor prioritize the highest-impact work coming in from multiple requestors. In fact, they have a hard time understanding if they have enough of the right resources to deliver on strategies and often have little evidence to justify additional headcount. Bringing all of this together, no matter the type of work or methodology, to ensure there is enough capacity to deliver, and that the highest-priority work is aligned to strategy, is a huge challenge.

These challenges don’t just live in IT. They have a ripple effect that impacts the entire organization’s ability to innovate and remain competitive. There is a high cost of doing nothing to improve the situation, such as:

  • Unsatisfactory department performance
  • Frequent, unexpected setbacks
  • Minor issues that grow into major financial problems
  • Lower morale and higher turnover from over-utilization of resources

In Depth: The Cost of Poor Resource Management

Learn more about the reasons why projects fail and how resource management is providing stability.

Resource Management Software Brings Order to the Chaos

Functional and well-aligned resource management software is giving organizations the boost they need to deliver effectively, despite the changing world or work and the challenges it brings. The first thing to recognize before a software solution is chosen is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The best practice is to combine resource management with project management or collaborative work management tools so work and resources can be managed simultaneously.

Resource Management Software is Only a Tool

Resource management software is not the end-all. It must come with process changes in order for its implementation and adoption to be successful. Providing the organization with such a tool, however, will help drive those changes for improved work prioritization, better visibility, and effective management of resource utilization.

The primary goal for resource management software is to create visibility that reveals whether the existing capacity can meet prioritized demand, determines the cost of resource time, and illustrates whether it can be capitalized.

Integrating work and resources to manage capacity will ensure high-value work is prioritized. Finally, the organization must support a full range of work methodologies to deliver on strategy.

Selecting the Right Resource Management Software

Begin with Best Practices

When choosing any software solution, start with best practices and then drill into specific features: Resources (people), “must be fully utilized and focused on the highest priorities at any given time.” To do this, the PMO must first understand the organization’s objectives and align them with software capabilities.

In some cases, it is beneficial to allow the vendor to provide guidance based on their experience as they demonstrate how the software can be optimized. Much can be learned from the vendor and how they have built functionality out of the box, giving the PMO a jumpstart as they avoid a future restart from too much complexity and/or customization.

Evaluate Key Features

No matter the resource management software, there are three core features it must provide:

1. Visibility

The most important aspect of any resource management software solution is the visibility it provides. It must offer insight into capacity and demand, particularly the resources and skills in short supply. If the right mix of skills is not available or even present within the team, project delays will ensue.

Resource managers must also be able to see resource availability across a timeline based on a flexible set of attributes, such as role, skill, organization, location, cost center, and resource type. These types of details, plus any configurable attributes to allow for unique requirements, will ensure managers can plan, forecast, and assign the right resources to the right projects at the right time.

Managers also need dynamic views of resource utilization based on current work and assignments. Only then will they be able to determine over- and under-utilization, and whether their team members are being fully optimized. A “just right” amount of work goes a long way to keeping your people engaged and high-performing.

2. Planning and Prioritization

Any resource management software worth the investment must offer detailed planning and prioritization across shared resources. The software should allow them to evaluate and score potential resources to fulfill resource requests. The scoring system makes it quick and easy to see which resources are most suited for a particular project.

The software must be flexible, accommodating whatever view a particular stakeholder most wants to see. For instance, it should allow for hard and soft booking, as well as handling team versus individual assignments.

Find the right resources to staff work using Resource Management Software.
Find the right resources to staff work using Resource Management Software.

The system should be flexible enough to provide both high-level planning as well as detailed, bottom-up planning. It must allow options to plan at various ranges of granularity over the short and long term.

3. Actuals and Financials

Modern resource management software can help the organization better understand planned versus actuals. Executives and finance care about capturing actuals and costs, yet traditionally, these metrics have been little more than best guesses and estimates.

With the right resource management software, however, the PMO can speak in the same language as finance and give them the data they want, such as how much time was planned, what actually happened, what that time cost, and how it was split between capital and operational expenses. In one instance, a company reported more than $2 million in capital savings and $2.6 million in expense savings due to improved processes and planning.

To ensure accurate costing of resources, it’s important to know the associated resource rate functionality, which is often somewhat complex. Typically, costing requires time delimited rates based on a flexible set of resource attributes, such as role or location, as well as individual resource rates. Depending on the work, there is probably the need for the ability to override the standard rates with project / activity-level rates.

Time tracking provides the granular detail necessary to cost resources. Many organizations fail at accurately tracking time, mostly because people are resistant to having what they view as more work without understanding why it is relevant.

But time tracking has evolved considerably and is highly effective in helping organizations know how long specific work takes so they can estimate future capacity and schedule appropriately. This data not only facilitates proper resource allocation for projects, but it also provides the necessary justification for requesting additional headcount when needed. When people see how tracking their time can potentially reduce their workloads, they are more apt to comply.

Improve utilization of teams and resources with Resource Management Software.
Improve utilization of teams and resources with Resource Management Software.

Time tracking can be used for traditional projects or lighter weight, iterative Lean-Agile practices. As companies are making the Agile transformation, some vendors are starting to pair high-level planning with team-level Lean-Agile Kanban tools with time being automatically calculated based on the natural flow of work on a Kanban board. This allows finance to get their actuals and resources without needing to reference a timesheet.

In Depth: The Challenges of Agile Software Development Capitalization

Learn how time tracking and Agile costing is important to capitalization, and how capitalization impacts Agile team funding and headcount.

Vendor Support

Finally, vendor support is critical. Resource management software offers a range of functionality that can be daunting without the right vendor support. Assess which vendor will best meet the needs of the organization and will help the PMO best meet its strategic goals to deliver value with speed.

In Depth: The Savvy PMO’s Guide to Resource Planning

Learn the five guidelines PMOs at any level can leverage to enhance resource capacity planning and management to accelerate business growth.

Summary of Next Steps and Benefits

Once the PMO knows the organization’s goals and objectives, the next step is to understand how well resources are being managed today. Identify known risks when those resources aren’t being properly assigned to projects that align with the company’s strategic initiatives. This will be a powerful exercise that inevitably reveals gaps and opportunities for improvement.

When the right resource management software is implemented in partnership with the vendor, a wealth of benefits soon follows:

  • A realistic view of demand and capacity to deliver, with the ability to spot problems early in the process
  • A dramatically improved ability to execute on strategies by focusing resources on high-value work
  • An enhanced ability to respond to the dynamic nature of business as scope and priorities change, driving the organization towards agility
  • Fully-integrated work and resource management with the ability to provide detailed cost information to key stakeholders to inform decisions
  • Happier, more productive teams and people that lead to greater retainment, efficiencies, and capacity to deliver real value to the business

The PMO must transform itself to meet the challenges of the changing world of work. Integrating work and resource management is key to enabling the PMO to do more than dictate processes and enforce governance. With robust, integrated resource management software, the PMO can facilitate growth through innovation and efficiencies.

Meet our author
Scott Townsend
Scott Townsend

Sr. Product Line Manager for Enterprise One – Portfolio and Resource Management

Scott Townsend has worked closely with customers at Planview for more than 18 years. After spending 6 years on the consulting side of Planview, he took this customer-driven focus first to the Customer Success team and then quickly to the Project Management group where he drives innovation to enhance the Portfolio and Resource Management side of Enterprise One. Scott holds a Bachelor of Science in Systems Engineering from The University of Virginia and an MBA from The University of Texas.

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