Agile workers collaborating on a mast of a sailboat

The Agile method has a dominating force in the project management world. What started as a method for developers is now being used by all types of professionals in many industries. Although the Agile method has proven to be extremely effective for many teams, it has posed a significant problem for resource management. When traditional project management is replaced by things such as Scrum and Kanban, how do you adjust your resource management to fit the new demands of the Agile method?

Understand your Capacities, Demand, and Resources in an Agile Context

Portfolio managers, department heads, and dedicated resource managers struggle to properly staff Agile teams and projects because they are bringing the wrong mindset to the task. To effectively staff resources on Agile projects, it’s necessary to understand the benefits of working Agile. Agile has become hugely popular for it’s focus on collaboration. Instead of individuals working on their own projects or splitting their capacity across many projects, individuals work on teams on one project or goal at a time. This team will share accountability of the project they are working on, while each individual team member owns their area of expertise. Working in this way greatly increases productivity. When teams work so closely together, any issues that could delay the project can be quickly identified and fixed. Teams also continue working on the project at hand until it is completed. Because of the way Agile teams work, some proponents have suggested that resource management is not necessary, but don’t throw in the resource management towel just yet.

Do We Still Need Resource Management?

Taking both perspectives into account, it becomes clear that we still want to manage resources in order to maintain an overview of our performance, identify the right people for specific tasks, and to maintain the ability to plan for external support as needed.

Making Resource Management Agile

To make your resource management more Agile, it would help to know the 12 principles of the Agile Manifesto. If you don’t have the time to read all of it (or if you are eager to get started), we will take a look at three of the most relevant principles.

#1 – Collaboration

A photo displaying a manager and her team collaborating for agile resource management

“Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.” – Principle #4

What This Means For Agile Teams

Agile teams are made up of individuals with similar or complimentary skillsets. This allows for team members to easily help each other with any issues that arise. This idea has revolutionized the way software and product development teams work. Everyone on the team has the skills and ability to help another team member. Importantly, teams meet daily to address any concerns, potential problems, and their solutions.

What This Means For Agile Resource Management

When considering resource management for highly collaborative teams, it’s important to understand that the level of detail required is significantly less than planning for traditional teams. What is important is that team members are able to meet daily, which is crucial to supporting collaboration. Some ways Agile resource management can be executed include:

  • Per project: Create an overview of which departments are involved in the project
  • Per division/department: Create an overview of which projects a department is scheduled for
  • Organizational: Identify the persons responsible for the independent capacity planning of a division/department

Of course, any Agile resource management planning will need to take into consideration issues such as time-off for individual team members, the depth of involvement of individual members or roles, and any other planning considerations like the time of day. However, when resource planning is less rigid, it creates the collaboration needed for the Agile method to function.

#2 – Teams

Soccer team members celebrating a win

“The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.” – Principle #11

What This Means For Agile Teams

The makeup of an Agile team is absolutely crucial to successful collaboration. These teams need to be self-organized in order for them to produce the best work. When teams have autonomy, you create the best products, software, and employees.

What This Means For Agile Resource Management

Staffing an Agile team is no small feat. There are several factors to take into consideration when creating these teams. First, expertise and skills must be well distributed. Second, the chemistry between team members must be very good. Because Agile teams work very closely together, personalities that don’t work well can cause serious issues. These two factors blur the line between resource management and organizational team formation. To overcome this, the person responsible for Agile resource management will need to collaborate with department heads and team leads to properly staff the right people on the right teams.

Not only is successfully staffing one Agile team a serious challenge, but a company working Agile will constantly have teams formed and dissolved as projects are completed. Successful Agile resource management needs to include a process to staff new projects based on the project’s requirements and the skills of the team members. This type of dynamic team formation will need to become a regular resource management task. While Agile resource management will still need to consider factors such as qualifications, cost, and availability, using too rigid staffing procedures will only hold back the teams. A fine balance will be needed to successfully staff teams. Additional factors to be considered for dynamic team formation include:

  • Frequency of collaboration – how often do team members work together on projects?
  • Location – are all team members working in the same office? If not, are there proper technologies in place to make communication easy?
  • Chemistry of team members – how well do team members work together?
  • Frequency of topics/products – how often are team members being asked to work on certain topics or products?
  • Capacity-oriented planning on the team level – how much can a team accomplish with the number of members it has?

While Agile has more team formation than traditional methods, there is a reason for it. Another Agile principle outlines its benefit: “Agile processes promote sustainable development. The client, developer, and user should be able to maintain a steady pace for an unlimited period of time.” If delivering projects at a steady pace indefinitely sounds pretty good (which it really does) then you can understand the benefits of learning to properly staff Agile teams.

#3 – Timeboxing

Boxes of vegetables at a farmer's market

“Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.” – Principle #3

What This Means For Agile Teams

This Agile principle created the concept of working in timeboxes. Working in a timebox means delivering a usable and valuable result in a specified timeframe. Certain Agile frameworks such as Scrum also add in skills and capacity as components to this principle. This means that Agile teams working in Scrum will need to plan their timebox (called a Sprint) before it begins. This ensures they have the skills and capacity to complete all the individual tasks required for project completion. While the length of a timebox can vary based on teams and organizations, two weeks is a commonly used length of time (when working in Scrum, a Sprint is typically two weeks).

What This Means For Agile Resource Management

Timeboxing actually makes resource management much simpler. Resources are allocated entirely to one project, rather than being split across multiple projects. It is much easier to plan resources full-time for one project or team than to divide up their time across several projects. There is always only a single project or product manager as a contact person. The whole team will be more efficient by working on one project at a time.

Additionally, the short-term allocation for timeboxes adds flexibility. In contrast to the very long-term allocations typically used in traditional resource management, a person or even an entire team in the Agile environment can be flexibly redistributed to new projects after the end of the timebox or Sprint at full capacity.

Timeboxing simplifies Agile resource planning by:

  • Creating fixed cycles
  • Allowing for 100% allocation of a resource
  • Utilizing short intervals

The Agile Revolution

Agile methods require organziations to think in a new way. This is particularly true for resource managers who are tasked with regularly creating collaborative and interdisciplinary teams. This new way of thinking will require some adaptation to make resource management work for Agile teams, but once accomplished, it will add significant value to the company. How each company makes these changes will vary, but every company will need a tool to help them execute Agile resource management.

Meisterplan is a project portfolio management and resource management tool that works with any type of project management method. Meisterplan even works if some of your teams are working Agile and others are using traditional project management. See how easy Agile resource management can be with Meisterplan by starting a free 30 day trial today.

Want to read more?