People are at the heart of projects – whatever the industry, whatever the output. Without people, projects wouldn’t happen. But now more than ever, there’s an increasing pressure on our people to work to shrinking budgets, delivering to tighter deadlines in order to stay competitive in a rapidly changing landscape. This can impact morale and can compromise on the quality of work produced. But it doesn’t need to. The way in which we approach and manage our project resources can make all the difference to our teams, our business and our clients. In this article we explore how smarter resource planning can support long term and sustainable project management.
1. Identify the resources needed well ahead of time
Before a project even starts, it’s imperative to know what roles will be required for its delivery. This will directly influence the project scope, timings and how a project is quoted, so it’s essential this is given the right consideration upfront. With time pressures, it can be easy to fall into the mindset of just ‘getting it over the line’ but adequate time spent here will save unnecessary stress when it comes to delivery.
But where to start with building a prospective project team? Depending on the size of your organization / department, it simply might not be viable to stay across the skillset and up-to-date experience of the resources that are available to you. It’s also arguably not the best use of a Project Manager’s valuable grey matter to hold onto this sort of information. This is where Resource Profiling will take out the hard work. At Mission Control, our Resource Profiling tool includes a matrix of skills proficiencies allowing you to quickly identify the most suitable resources for your needs. The search can be filtered by availability – although if there’s a strong business case for a certain individual (who isn’t available) then let the profiling tool support your discussions. If that’s not possible, outsourcing might need to happen so account for this in the scoping and quoting stage. A feature like this takes out any personal bias and serves up objective resourcing recommendations. It’s also great for bringing those quiet performers to the forefront and putting them on the radar to a wider project network.
2. Strategically review current project resource plan
This is where the real differences in smarter resource planning can be instantly felt across a business. It’s a common complaint that an organization’s resources are at full capacity (although it’s a good thing in many ways!) but new business / project wins can feel daunting to an already overstretched workforce. This is a perfect time to review how efficiently current resources are being used. Some good questions to ask upfront:
- Are the right resources being used for the right projects? Yes, they might be capable but is it the best use of their time? If a deadline isn’t pressing, could a less experienced resource deliver work in a longer time frame? Or flipped on its head, would it make more sense to pull in a Senior resource for a shorter timeframe to meet project milestones? Allocating project resources isn’t always the obvious answer, challenging the way it’s always been done will serve up different avenues – and might free up some valuable resources.
- Is the current project resource allocation in line with the organization’s strategic goals? It can be easy to get caught up in the detail when planning a project’s resourcing. Take a step back to consider how this project contributes to the organization’s bigger picture. Is the project in a focus or growth area for the business? How much should the organization be putting behind it? What’s the expected profitability for the project? Where does the project sit amongst other bodies of work?
Be proactive in asking questions and then be innovative in your resourcing solutions.
3. Assign accurately and plan ahead
Mapping out a project’s key actions and milestones, and more importantly, what and who is involved in each stage is critical to a project’s success. A well thought out project plan supports clear communication, expectations and also resource buy-in of objectives right from the off-set.
At Mission Control, we employ the help of our Resource Assignment Wizard before rolling-out a project. Not only does it help identify who is the best fit in terms of skillset, it also shows real-time capacity (based on existing allocation of work across other projects). From here, project actions can be assigned directly to resources, whether as an Action Owner or a Contributor. A time allocation for each action (and sub tasks) and deadlines are also assigned here, ensuring every resource is clear of what is expected of them.
4. Allow time for ongoing review and change things up if needed
Planning a project’s resourcing certainly isn’t a set and forget task. It requires ongoing monitoring and reviewing to ensure resources are being optimized. A critical component of this is timesheets. Every project resource should be recording time spent and an organization should make this as simple and easy as possible. At Mission Control, our Timesheet function has many automation features, for example, automatically recording time for all attendees of scheduled meetings. This not only saves time for the resource but safeguards against potential discrepancies on how long the meeting ran for…etc. A Project Manager’s resourcing decisions should be based on insights from real-time data so it’s imperative this information is accurately captured.
With individual time tracking in place, being able to see what’s coming up across a team is essential for day-to-day project resource management. What does the week, month, quarter or year look like? Is the team resource over-committed? What if there’s a public holiday? Or a part-timer? So many considerations! We built the Scheduler feature to address all these factors. It’s presented as a calendar style view and provides a holistic view of resource capacity, current allocations and non-working days. It’s a must-have tool to see real-time bandwidth and identify bottlenecks, long before it impacts on a project. At Mission Control, this is our main tool for resource capacity planning. The project workload can be filtered by Actions, Teams, Skills, or roles providing plenty of options depending on what you need to see .
We recommend regularly looking at how well roles are being utilized. We practice what we preach and undertake this frequently at Mission Control; it shapes how we resource projects. For this, we use the Resource Utilization feature – it’s arguably our most important tool to improve resource planning. In a nutshell, it allows the clear monitoring of a project’s resources in real time. You can view how well an overall team (master team), task team or individual roles are being utilized – showing scheduled billing hours vs actual billable hours being used. The simple traffic light system provides a clear visual representation of how well targets are being met. And if they’re not, then you’ll know well ahead of time – essential for keeping a project on track and maintaining a steady cashflow. Sometimes a project action might need to be reassigned. Again, this should be easy to implement through project management software. At Mission Control, we simply jump into the Resource Re-Assignment Wizard to reallocate actions to keep a project moving.
5. Always debrief
The most informed resource planning comes from insights – both in real-time and after a project is delivered. Before looking forward, take time to look back on what worked well on the resourcing of a project. For this, we use a combination of the Resource Utilization tool and also the PMO Dashboard. The PMO Dashboard allows you to review a project’s performance against KPIs including planned value, earned value, recognised revenue and actual cost. Looking at this alongside Resource Utilization gives valuable insights on where a project’s profitability is impacted and what resource trends might correlate with these. It can help shape expectations for resource roles moving forward and what level of billable vs non-billable hours are expected against differing roles.
Considered resource planning can boost productivity, quality of work and team morale whilst opening up many other opportunities for an organization. The key is dedicating the time and using the right tools to help at every step of a project roll-out – from quote through to debrief. To discuss improved resource planning for your next project, speak to our team today.