In today’s environment, companies are under increasing pressure to deliver innovative, technologically advanced products and services with shrinking budgets. As a result, resources must be fully utilized and focused on the highest priorities at any given time. Of course the term resources can refer to a number of different types of assets, but here we’re focused on the most important type, your people.
Unfortunately, ineffective or suboptimal resource management will certainly lead to negative consequences such as poor productivity, delays, decreased quality, increased costs, missed opportunities, and low morale.
But how can we improve resource management? My teams are already at capacity, what more can we do?
A key part of the challenge is recognizing that high resource utilization is not an indication of good resource management. The key is ensuring that your resources are working on projects aligned to strategic corporate goals, that match their skill sets and where they have adequate bandwidth. Indeed, organizations continually overcommit their people resources¹, limiting growth and innovation. Determining what work or demand to undertake next and when resources will be available are huge challenges as well.
We should also mention that a part of the resource management challenge involves the various methodologies that disparate teams employ including milestone-driven, iterative, and collaborative methodologies. All have benefits when applied to the appropriate type of work, but each has its own nuances complicating the resource management process.
By combining disparate methodologies across a range of organizational maturities, companies find that there is no singular answer to these challenges.
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The Benefits of Enterprise Resource Management
We certainly recognize that resource management is a complex process, especially in an enterprise with shared, geographically dispersed resources. According to The 2017 Project and Portfolio Management Landscape report, almost half of organizations report they are stuck in silos. With so many approaches to work, it should make sense that resource management approaches can also vary. Regardless, there are three capabilities every resource management software should include:
- Capacity and Demand Management: Optimize resource utilization by prioritizing high value work with available resource capacity
- Resource Utilization: Ensure that the right resources are available to support your strategic goals
- Progress and Time Tracking: Ensure that progress can be tracked, which can be especially valuable when using time tracking. Compare planned effort vs. actual effort to improve estimates and better understand where your resources are truly spending their time.
Using an effective enterprise resource management system that delivers these three capabilities will enable your organization to:
- Obtain a realistic view of both demand and capacity to deliver
- Manage and prioritize work requests and set appropriate expectations with key stakeholders
- Determine true resource availability
- Put the right resources on the right work at the right time
- Understand what roles and/or skill sets to hire to fulfill stakeholder commitments
- Increase and improve communication between project and resource managers and team members
- Spot problems earlier in the process
- Provide objective methods to prioritizing work ensuring demand is balanced against capacity to deliver
- Connect strategy to execution
- Deliver programs that drive innovation and transformational change
Where to Start with Resource Management Tools
Using the right resource management tools for your organization is essential. Organizations often rely on spreadsheets for resource management because of their ease of use, simplicity, and ability to set up a file quickly. However, keeping multiple or even shared spreadsheets up to date doesn’t scale well and often becomes infeasible.
Using a manual, ad-hoc approach to resource management is labor intensive, leads to inaccurate and stale data, inhibits organizational agility, and produces unrealistic views of demand and capacity. It also fails to account for smaller work items on the demand side during the traditional intake process. For example, having to make a small tweak to something already implemented or helping others on (potentially lower priority) work.
As a result, when starting new work, you may already be behind without knowing it!
Regardless of the approach and tools used, organizations must determine how to balance their resources’ capacity and demand. Here’s a curated list of the top 12 resource management best practices to consider.
Top 12 Resource Management Best Practices
1. Understand which resources are in short supply and focus on them
- Often, you can employ the 80/20 rule, where basically 80% of the effects (or resource constraints) come from 20% of the resources. These are the people in high demand to do the work.
- Focus on these constrained resources, and plan around their availability, to help avoid bottlenecks and unnecessary delays.
2. Agree on a common approach to prioritizing work across shared resources
- Create an agreed-upon scoring/evaluation process in advance to help facilitate objective decision making, rather than fall victim to the “squeaky wheel” problem
- Monitor unplanned work that can steal from your capacity and create hidden delays
- Keep in mind that overcommitting people can lead to quality problems and a reduction in overall throughput
3. Embrace different ways of working across the organization and resources
- Different types of work, and even different groups within your organization, may benefit from a specific methodology
- As such, ensure that the tools and selected approaches align and create efficiencies
- At higher levels, a more standardized roll up can provide the metrics needed for a comprehensive view of your organization
- This will enable your organization to plan, manage, and deliver work – utilizing a range of methodologies such as traditional or milestone-driven, iterative, Agile, and even collaborative work
4. Realize resource management is an ongoing process
- Recognize that conflicts will occur because unexpected events and changes are inevitable (and more frequently than we would like!)
- Work together to resolve resource conflicts based on your immediate and downstream priorities
5. Manage work and resources uses a blend of granularities
- Planning work, managing assignments, and reporting time doesn’t all have to utilize the same granularity. Find the balance that works for each situation.
- Planning work is often the most granular, while time reporting may be elevated to simplify the reporting process of those tracking time, which leads to a greater level of accuracy
- When assigning resources to work, long-term assignments often work best at the high-levels while near-term assignments tend to be well understood allowing for more detailed planning
6. Plan work
- Consider traditional tasks with start/finish dates and durations for formally defined work and less formal lists to handle lightweight assignments
- Align projects and other work to the strategic outcomes they are meant to support
- Utilize automated processes where possible to reduce administration
7. Manage resource assignments
- Use high-level buckets at the project or phase level as a starting point if resource management is new to your organization
- Remember that one-size doesn’t fit all and varies usage based on specific, constrained resources or groups. For example, DBAs may be shared and overutilized so you may want to increase the level of detail to minimize conflicts.
- Ensure that your resource management usage decisions can evolve as needs and challenges change over time
8. Report time
- Remember that different groups may be more reluctant to time reporting, so keep things simple and easy (especially in the beginning)
- Further ease adoption by tracking time in the execution tool of your resources’ choice
- Utilize actuals to assess performance and understand trends to improve future planning
9. Apply assignment types that align to your business needs
- Utilize unnamed, role-based resources for long-term planning, or when the specific resource isn’t known in advance
- Soft-booking of named resources can benefit medium-term planning and prioritization processes
- Hard-book named resources for the short-term when detailed information is known
10. Account for non-project time
- Ensure that administrative time, paid time off, etc. are accounted for when planning in both the long and short terms
- Don’t forget about unexpected project activities; be sure to provide a mechanism to capture this time – otherwise you will lose visibility to this reduction of capacity
- Realize there will be a natural time loss from common, everyday items, such as administrative tasks (e.g., email, general meetings, etc.)
11. Avoid or limit multi-tasking
- Multi-tasking sounds efficient, but often results in lower overall productivity
- Try to limit the number of parallel tasks and your resources will perform better
12. Keep your most valuable assets and resources productive and happy
- Last but certainly not least, take care of your resources because turnover causes a tremendous loss in productivity/capacity
- Offer training programs and don’t over-utilize to reduce burnout
The Rewards of Good Resource Management
Great resource management software and following these best practices can lead to significant improvements in your resource management. This will ideally translate to higher productivity and satisfaction levels across your teams and individuals.
As a result, you’ll be able to:
- Centralize demand intake and optimize project portfolio and resource capacity to deliver your organization’s strategic initiatives
- Get the right people working on the right projects at the right time
- Align your resources to changes in the market and management demands
- Keep your projects on track, on time, and on budget
The Planview Solution
Whether you are just getting started or are continuing along a resource management journey and advancing to the next level, Planview can help with a data-driven, enterprise-wide solution. Based on our 29 years of experience partnering with global customers, we can help your organization optimize your resource management to create capacity for innovation and transformation.
Today’s organizations are under pressure to drive innovation and transformation, given the reality of constrained people and financial resources. By integrating strategy, planning and delivery, Planview’s Work and Resource Management solution for Portfolio and Resource Management enables PMOs to optimize their portfolios, balance capacity against demand, link plans and resources to projects, and manage the underlying financials. Stakeholders can visualize portfolio performance against plans and make decisions that ensure resources deliver the highest value projects for the business.
- 2016 State of Resource Management and Capacity Planning Benchmark Study, conducted by Appleseed Partners