Do you have difficulties managing resource allocation for your projects? You’re not alone. Resource planning and allocation is often identified as one of the biggest challenges for PMO teams and project managers, and we hear the same from our clients.
While ‘resource’ could mean anything from equipment to meeting rooms, it’s generally used to mean people. They are our most valuable – and hardest to schedule – resource.
Let’s look at some ways to make that easier.
1. Resource calendars
Tools like Primavera P6 and Microsoft Project allow you to create resource calendars specific to each individual team member, as well as generic project-wide resources. Set up resource calendars for your colleagues so you know what hours they have available to the project.
Calendars should stop you from accidentally allocating tasks to someone when they are only working part-time or they are celebrating a national holiday in their country and are not scheduled to be at work. You can also enter their vacation time so they won’t be automatically allocated to project tasks during scheduled absence. Simply make the day a non-work day and they won’t be assigned activity on that day.
You can always override the calendars and create an exception to the available working hours if that is necessary. Starting from a good base and getting your project software set up to support resource allocation is the first step to making sure people are able to commit to their project tasks at the correct time.
Check out the different calendars available in Oracle P6 Primavera.
2. Resource usage spreadsheet
Another great feature of Primavera P6 is the resource usage spreadsheet. It can be used to review cost and quantity information for a specific project which is helpful for both looking at past data and manually planning future resource needs.
This gives you a big picture view of what people are assigned to, and you can group, sort and filter to bring up the most relevant results for whatever it is you are reviewing at the time.
3. Track time
Time-tracking isn’t the most popular admin tasks that we do in a week, but it’s a necessary part of being able to accurately record what has been worked on and the progress made. How does that affect resource allocation? Well, it provides information about what has not yet been completed, and that rolls forward into the next reporting period. Time management systems can integrated with Primavera P6 to make it easier to link timesheets to project progress.
Timesheet data gives you valuable information about how well the team has estimated and how that might affect capacity planning going forward. For example, if a task wasn’t able to be completed in the required time, more time needs to be allocated to it and someone should be made available to do that (potentially unforeseen) work.
Equally, if work was completed more quickly, future-scheduled tasks can be brought forward. Time-tracking data is essential for making real-time, smart decisions about resource allocation and making sure people’s workload is managed effectively in relation to the outstanding tasks.
4. Make it routine
As a project leader, you’re regularly reviewing all kinds of performance data from earned value management reports to open risks and current issues. Make reviewing resource allocations another part of your routine reviews.
Use role usage profiles and resource analysis reports to check workload and assignments. Take the time to level resources across the project when work is replanned (if your software set up does not do that automatically for you).
Talk to your colleagues about their assignments and their upcoming vacation time so you can make real-time adjustments and plan for future tasks. Talk to suppliers, customers and team leaders from across the project to ensure the support is there when it’s needed and that the right people can come together to work on activities where it requires a joint or coordinated effort. This is also good for building relationships – when someone suddenly goes off sick or there’s an emergency, you already have a network of people to reach out to so that tasks can be rescheduled or reallocated.
5. Know the team
Finally, it’s important to know the team, so they can be correctly assigned to the right work. You don’t have to know them all personally, but you should have a way of ensuring the right team members get allocated to work that is within their skillset and at the right level for them. Assigning a complex task to the newest member of the department could end up slowing down the project or creating quality issues.
Resource profiles and resource codes are ways to add in extra information about resources. In a PMO role, or in a scheduling role on a large project, you may have to rely on those and information from team leaders. Make sure these are kept up-to-date as people learn new skills and gain experience in different areas.
The risk with taking a purely code-led view of who should do what is that you aren’t supporting team development. Talk to managers to see if there are non-standard resource assignments that would actually be a better use of the team’s skills and availability. Perhaps your project could assign work to someone less experienced and then add an additional role as their mentor during the task so they learn new skills. That might be an option on some projects but not others, depending on how resources are charged, but it’s always worth keeping in mind.
There is a lot that goes into resource allocation, and it is part art, part science, supported by the right tech and little bit of luck that no one is struck down with a stomach bug at a critical milestone. However, it is worth investing the thought and time into coming up with practical ways to assign the right people to the right work. Companies that get it right have an operational advantage.
Resource management should be something that is an active part of project management, and the right tools make it much easier. When your software is working as it should, it supports you and the project team. It provides data to help you make decisions about who to assign to what, and when, without needing to rely on goodwill or complicated spreadsheets. In today’s environment, where projects are busy and changes are common, you really do need tools to support capacity planning and staff management – and once they are set up, you won’t look back!