One of the key reasons why organisations invest in Project, Portfolio Management tools (PPM) is to improve the way they manage their resources. People are expensive and if people are idle this wastes money and is an inefficient use of resources. Alternatively, if they are over-utilised this will have an impact on whether key projects or operational activities can be completed on time. So, I agree proper resource management can have a big impact on an organisation’s bottom line and often makes for a compelling ROI case for purchasing PPM software.
Being in the PPM market ourselves (we develop and market PM3), I have come across many examples of failed resource management initiatives. The top three pitfalls to effective resource management, I have listed below:
1. Don’t be too ambitious with the level of resource granularity. You can manage your resources and their capacity at different levels, e.g. month, week or daily. Recently, one prospective client asked whether we could manage resources in 15 minute intervals! There is no right answer to the question of the right level of granularity but you need to understand your resource management objective. If you are looking for a high-level forward view of whether you have enough resources for the coming fiscal year then monthly granularity of resources may be sufficient. If you want to ensure that you have the right resources available in the specific weeks when you want them, you may need to go down to weekly granularity.
The danger of going to increasing low-levels of granularity is that you need to input and manage increasing volumes of data. We have seen organisations trying to manage resources at the daily level and they literally drown in a sea of data. You have to also ask yourself whether data at this level is accurate enough to bother inputting. What normally happens when an organisation tries to manage resource and capacity at too low a level is that resource management and the PPM tool are abandoned as it is too onerous to manage and delivers no real benefit. My advice is to start off with as high a level of granularity as possible and then increase granularity if needed. Starting off with too low a level usually ends in failure. The good old Pareto (80:20) rule here should be practiced.
2. Don’t Plan assuming 100% capacity. Even for ‘project resources’, no one is really available for five days a week. It is surprising how many resource managers assume that their staff is available all the time. You will need to decide what the right level of availability is, per week or per month, that you need to put into your capacity plan. You should allow for administration, training, meetings, etc. Holidays should be managed as distinct activities that reduce the ‘normal capacity’ of an individual. Holidays aside you need to determine what your standard capacity is for a week; is it 80%, 75%? Starting with a premise of 100% capacity for 5 days a week is going to result in resources not being able to deliver the tasks that have been allocated to them.
3. Don’t Select the wrong tool! There isn’t a one size fits all tool that will meet the needs of different organisations. If you fall into the first pitfall of planning at too low a level of detail, you may end up with one of the expensive leviathan tools to manage your resources. Unless you have an army of PMO analysts feeding the beast with data this may not work for you. Also, many tools that manage resource and capacity at a very low level are not as nimble as other tools that manage resources at a higher level. Too often the procurement exercise picks the tool that can manage resources by the hour and it is not the right fit. Selecting the wrong tool sometimes forces you to adopt a set of processes that the tool requires and these may not be the processes you want to use.
Managing resources and capacity properly is potentially a big win for project-based organisations. Effective resource management saves money and delivers confidence that the portfolio can be delivered.
All too often people fall into one or more of the pitfalls listed above and the PPM tool is ditched for spreadsheet hell!