Most organizations work with limited resources. Over-scheduling your resources leads to burnout and turnover. With more discipline and process around resource management, you can keep your team members happy, and build trust in your customers that you can deliver on time.
What is resource management?
Resource management in project management involves managing and assigning your organization’s resources like budgets, capacity, and team members. To be successful at resource management, you must provide the following:
Insights: Resource management relies on granular insights into what your team is working on and how long it takes them to complete each task.
Priorities: Priorities management for the project and expectations must be articulated clearly and shared to the relevant stakeholders and team members.
Tracking: Status updates need to be tracked throughout the project life cycle.
Resource management gives your team the ability to work on the right work at the right time. In project management, the resource management process happens in two stages: resource planning and resource scheduling.
The resource planning phase of resource management is where you identify the necessary resources for the project. You won’t be assigning tasks to any team members at this stage of the process, or allocating budget—just laying the foundation.
Forecasting your resources includes considering “what if” scenarios. This will ensure you know how other priorities and project timelines will be affected. When you utilize resource planning as a part of your resource management plan, you avoid blown budgets, miscommunication, and a lot of frustration across tasks and teams.
In the scheduling phase of your resource management management plan, you will check your needs against availability. Using the forecasted resources like time, budget, and skills from the planning phase you will now be able to determine where there is overlap with your team’s current projects and workload.
Using the resource forecasts and team availability in your resource management software, you can now assign tasks based on the individual skills and abilities of your team. When your team is working on something they are good at, they are happier and more engaged in their work, which improves project turnaround.
Benefits of project resource management
The benefits of resource management can’t be overstated. Without a resource management plan, you may be dealing with missed deadlines, overworked team members, and frustrated stakeholders. Resource management ensures your team is efficient, your stakeholders have the proper visibility, and your costs are managed. The benefits of project resource management include:
- Increased visibility into team member utilization
- Ability to make adjustments on the fly
- Increased project risk awareness
- Improved engagement morale
Tips to improve your resource management
1. Develop a strategic breakdown structure
No matter what stage your business is in, take the time to create a Strategic Breakdown Structure where you align each of your goals with measurements. Following are a few questions you could ask yourself to get started:
- What are you trying to accomplish?
- How will you measure success?
- Are you working on the right things?
- What’s not going to help you succeed?
Measure your results as you go and adjust your resource management plan along the way. You should keep your company’s and team’s strategic initiatives as your North Star, guiding all of your efforts, because you can’t manage what you don’t measure.
2. Take the time to gather project requirements
Getting the information about a project before it kicks off will enable you and your team to plan and manage resources effectively for the full scope of any project. Depending on the type of work you’re doing, your project input form will likely be different, but should focus on the end goal you’re working to accomplish, including:
- Strategic alignment
- Relevant deadlines and milestones
- Project goals and success metrics
- Actionable learnings from prior projects
- Key competitors and approach
- Approvers required throughout the project
Don’t be afraid to invest time upfront into your requirements gathering, because everything you document before you launch into the project will be time (and sanity) saved along the way.
3. Plan for the unplanned
We all hate ad hoc requests, but in some industries and companies, they come with the territory. A last-minute opportunity might arise that requires support, or a market shift may make your planned activities obsolete (such as warm weather when you’re planning a marketing blitz advertising coats).
Whatever the reason, ad hoc requests happen. The typical response, though, is that they completely derail your work—making you and your team miserable. Instead, plan for ad hoc work to come your way as a part of your resource management plan. If you are tracking your team’s work, you can come up with a good idea of how much time typically goes to last-minute requests. If that number is 20%, then account for it in your resource plans. Yes, that means you’ll likely only be able to schedule team members at 60% utilization (80% utilization is typically given to a full-time employee), but you’ll have a more realistic view of what your team can actually accomplish.
4. Know how long things take
This one is really simple—track how long it takes you to complete repeatable work projects. Track time over both hands-on time (hours worked) and duration (over what period of time). You’ll likely be surprised at how you were under-allocating time for projects, assuming they have fewer steps and take less time than they actually do. Once you know how long things take, it’s much easier to accurately forecast resources to get them done.
5. Create your prioritization methodology
There are a lot of ways to prioritize—around departmental and company goals, against opportunities that arise, or to the requests of the boss. At the end of the day, it’s best to take all of these into consideration. Consider the following as you create your team’s prioritization methods:
Balance strategic alignment: how do the requests align to the strategic mission of your team or department?
Urgent vs. important: there are those requests that are absolutely urgent; and those that are important—how do you identify the fine line between both?
Relative effort: it’s common for people to bring requests that “will only take 5 minutes” in order to get things slipped through the system (and they rarely really take 5 minutes). Have an idea of the relative effort needed to accomplish your commonly requested tasks so that you can schedule the requests properly.
6. Change is hard
Any change you make to the way you manage a project’s resources requires a mindshift from your team. And change is really hard. Don’t skimp on giving your team members leeway to process and react to the change in their own way. Most should quickly embrace a system that will let them work fewer weekends, but you could have push-back. Following are the tips that Erica shared to navigate the change process:
Communicate: Define what you want people to do differently. Visibly and transparently change your intake, prioritization and resource management behaviors. Let everyone see how you’re doing things differently.
Model: Live the change – leadership models the new behavior. Get executive/leadership buy-in for more structured intake process, prioritization, and resource management
Reinforce: Rewards and consequences are the most powerful levers you have. Reward those who follow suit (call-out in company meetings, spot awards, “good job”, etc.) and ensure there are consequences for the “old behaviors” (chaotic/randomized work isn’t funded/supported, for example).
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