Resource management and project portfolio management are intertwined. If you really wanted, you could do only one without the other, but that would make as much sense as only wearing one shoe. They work best when they work together. Despite the importance of doing both of these things, resource management can sometimes suffer from less time and attention than project portfolio management. To get the most out of your resource management and your project portfolio management, resources managers can follow these best practices.
Common Resource Management Problems
Even though resource management is a crucial part of many organizations, companies often struggle to achieve successful resource management. While no two organizations are the same, some of the most common issues that arise with resource management include:
- Few people (or sometimes no one) have a clear overview of all employees’ qualifications and skills. If you, the resource manager, aren’t completely sure what qualifications and skills your employees have, then it is even more difficult to allocate the right people to the right projects in a sensible and efficient way.
- Because there isn’t enough transparency about workload and capacities, the resource manager or the Project Management Office (PMO) often plans with inaccurate capacities, leading to overallocations.
- Everyone, including executives, department managers, and project leaders, wants the best employees assigned to their project or to what they consider the highest priority project. This creates the potential for conflict, especially in smaller companies, where resource management takes place directly at the individual level. Project managers and employees have to learn how the resource manager decides who is working on which project. In large companies, there is less potential for conflict because the resource managers usually plan based on roles and the project leaders are solely responsible for the staffing.
- Key resources or high-demand employees often create a bottleneck. They are often assigned to several tasks and projects at the same time and are chronically overallocated, while other employees have ample capacity.
- Employees are constantly switching between projects. This leads to delays and a noticeable reduction in quality and productivity (Source: Harvard Business Review).
Although these problems are common, they’re not easy to fix. So, how does a resource manager overcome these challenges and successfully plan resources?
#1 Consider Capacities When Multi-Project Planning
Ideally, an organization would only take on as many projects as they can deliver. Take on too many projects and people start working overtime, projects get delayed and costs start to skyrocket. In order for organizations to not overcommit to too many projects, they need an accurate estimate of capacity. To get an accurate capacity of resources, first, start with the 80/20 rule. This means that employees spend only 80% of their time on project work and the remaining 20% on administration duties, answering emails and attending to emails. As you continue to advance your resource management, you may need to adjust this ratio to better reflect resources’ time.
#2 Set Priorities
Prioritization can definitely be a challenge, but if done correctly, it can make resource planning easier and improve project success rates. When you prioritize your projects, resource managers know which projects need to be staffed first. This is very important for regulatory or client projects that absolutely have to get done. Staffing these projects first reduces the risk of project failure. Prioritization is also helpful for resolving resource conflicts of important resources. If a key resource is overallocated to too many projects, you’ll have to decide which projects will be handed to another resource or rescheduled to another time. The highest priority projects will likely remain with the key resource, while lower-priority projects will be restaffed or rescheduled.
Resource Management ≠ Staffing!
Anyone who equates resource management with staffing is a bit too short-sighted. Staffing is in fact only a subset of resource planning. Resource management is divided into three areas:
- Available Capacity: The task of the resource manager is to assign the required roles and skills for the current project portfolio. He/she records and keeps the company’s internal resource data current. He/she also assigns a role to every employee.
- Project Initialization: The project managers will determine which resources are required for their projects and then make the request for those resources to the resource manager. Then, it is up to the resource manager or team leaders to assign or staff the right employees to those projects and inform the employees.
- Tactical Resource Management: The resource manager must deal with changing framework conditions and find solutions to resource management conflicts as they arise.
#3 Focus on Key Resources
An employee with advanced skills and qualifications who is central and indispensable to the company is considered a key resource (sometimes called a Subject Matter Expert or SME). When a key resource is allocated to a task or project, then he/she should be blocked from being assigned to any other projects. Because key resources are typically in high demand, the resource manager assigns key resources to only the most important projects and informs the project leaders and project managers. This avoids overallocating key resources and also allows project leaders and managers to plan their projects in such a way that other capable resources are assigned to most tasks, and key resources are saved for only the highest priority tasks and projects.
#4 Consider Future Resource Requirements
Resource managers should always consider “what if” cases. Projects that are still in the approval phase may also require resources and time in the near future. This should be taken into account by resource managers, even if the final approval for the project has not yet been made. This will minimize the need for resources to be removed from ongoing projects to work on the latest high-priority projects. In principle, newly added projects should never jeopardize ongoing projects, but in reality, sometimes priorities need to change. Keeping a Plan B in mind and staying flexible with your planning will allow you to accommodate changes.
#5 Keep Track of Resource Information
For the best possible resource planning, you must know employees’ abilities, qualifications, and current utilization. It is the responsibility of the resource manager to collect and maintain this data centrally in a skill matrix or task matrix. Employees typically personally complete the company standard skills matrix. The results can then be collected and evaluated using suitable tools. This makes the search for qualified and available staff quick and easy.
#6 Reduce Project Risk with a Response Team
If companies want to minimize project risk, putting together a flexible “response team” is an excellent idea. This is a team made up of efficient employees with specialized know-how, who are available on demand. They step in when bottlenecks arise or specific expert knowledge is needed on critical projects, reducing stress and resource conflicts. For the rest of the time, the team simply works on the most prioritized projects to contribute to overall project quality.
Successful Resource Managers Need the Right Tool
Successfully managing and planning an organization’s resources is not an easy task, but resource managers can use powerful tools to help them improve resource optimization, spot and resolve resource conflicts, manage a resource pool of skills and simulate plan alternatives to find the best path forward. Meisterplan is a project portfolio and resource management software that provides all the resource information you need in one place for successful resource management. If you’d like to see first-hand how Meisterplan can help you improve your resource management, check out our 5-minute product tour today. For more best practices and information on resource management, visit our blog.