A project’s success rests significantly on its team, making resources one of the most important investments in the project. Yet in most cases, Resource Management is practically non-existent. How do you ensure that the right resources, are working on the right thing, at the right time?
There are 2 things that must come into play: prioritizing projects based on the value provided to the organization, and assigning the right resources to the priority projects. If you don’t understand the required skillset, or the resources capacity, availability, and utilization, this is difficult to do.
Resources (employees and contractors) are typically the biggest investment for a company, yet most of the time they are not fully or efficiently utilized. Also, there may be a need to balance the ratio of employees and contractors to provide flexibility in the ebb and flow of projects from year to year, and still provide continuity. If you don’t understand the required skillset, or the resources capacity, availability, and utilization, this is difficult to do.
Resource Management can help remedy these pain points by:
1)Taking inventory of the resources you have
2)Determining what skill sets and experience you need
3)Seeing how your resources are currently allocated
4)Determining current resource capacity and utilization
5)Strategically assigning, allocating, and hiring employees + contractors
6)Tracking and managing resources on a regular basis
Taking inventory of the resources you have
First, understand the resources you have. What are their strengths and weaknesses? Can they perform in multiple capacities or are they experts in a particular area? Do they have the right experience and expertise to perform the project work required? Taking inventory of your talent is the first step.
Determining what skill sets and experience you need
While taking talent inventory, determine what projects add the most value to the company and prioritize the projects. Are your current resources capable of completing the priority projects successfully? If not, what skill set and/or experience is lacking? Determine if there is a hiring or contracting opportunity.
Seeing how your resources are currently allocated
Next, understand what your current resources are working on and how much of their time is allocated to projects and other work. Most teams operate in a complex matrix organization, so how does this factor into their project availability? How does their current availability align with the priority project list? When will they be available to work on the priority project? Do they need to be backfilled on their existing work, so they can be available? Capacity, rolling off, rolling on, utilization, these are all components of Resource Management.
Determining current resource capacity and utilization
Before assigning resources to projects, it’s important that the project schedules identify the resources needed to accomplish the work and provide accurate estimates on when they start, how much of their time is required, and when they roll off. Plan in generalities, so there is flexibility when transferring to and from projects. For example, resource A is needed the first week of April, will be about 50% utilized, and will roll-off the end of July. Specific dates are difficult to manage and are not realistic, there is usually project overlap on the resources transition from one set of work to another.
Strategically assigning, allocating, and hiring
Strategically allocate resources to the priority projects based on project dates, resource requirements, and availability. This is more of an art than a science, and sometimes creativity and thinking out of the box is required. Also, this is a good time to evaluate whether to use an employee or contractor and determine what benefit and flexibility the resource would provide. Once the resources are assigned, look at their allocation to make sure they are not over-utilized or significantly under-utilized. Over-utilization definitely should be addressed. If slightly under-utilized, that is usually acceptable, since work is often underestimated. If there is at least 25% availability, determine what other work can be assigned or where they can assist others. Making sure resources are fully utilized is also referred to as resource levelling.
Tracking and managing resources on a regular basis
Once the resources are assigned and levelled, make sure their time spent is tracked by project. It is important to compare their actual work to the estimates to determine if the resource estimates should be adjusted. If the actuals are tracking to the estimates and the work results are to expectation, then monitoring is all that is needed. If there are large variances between estimated and actual work or the work quality is not satisfactory, determine if estimates need to be adjusted, training is needed, or other resources are required.
As you can see, Resource Management consists of 5 parts: planning, estimating, allocation, leveling, utilization. By managing the resources, you can ensure you have the right people, working on the right thing, at the right time. Your employee/contractor investment is used to it’s full potential and the benefits from completing the priority projects successfully and quickly adds tremendous value. When the organization recognizes this value, be prepared for an increase in projects, which will require more resources to manage. As Resource Management matures, so does the organization’s continuous improvement.
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