Project Resource Constraints
Projects need resources – and mostly, when we talk about resources, we mean people. Your projects may need equipment, materials and other physical items, but the place where project teams become most stuck is with making sure the right people are available to work on the project at the right time.
Effective resource management helps the team deliver project activities throughout the life cycle, making sure you achieve a successful, on time, on budget result. If you are struggling with resource constraints on your project, here are some ways to deal with it.
Revisit the schedule
Is your project schedule achievable? You may find resource clashes happening because the schedule is too ambitious. Often, we see that schedules are under pressure because vacation time and office closures (for you and your client) have not been adequately factored in.
There might be things you can do to spread out the tasks or order the work more effectively to make better use of the people you have within their working hours. Critical path method and earned value management techniques can help structure your plan effectively and give you reliable data on constrained resources.
We offer scheduling services that provide everything from a complete overhaul of your plan to the support of expert schedulers to help you get back on track.
Sometimes schedules come under pressure because people are allocated to work on more than one project at once. The individual project schedules look OK, but tasks aren’t getting done because the resource only has half the planned time available due to their other work.
If your team is working on several projects, make sure the project plans are aligned. Capacity planning needs to happen across your portfolio, not just on one project. Choose the priority projects and make sure they are adequately resourced. Everything else will have to wait until the team has time to get to it.
Review project risk
Project risk management is essential because risks often have a habit of causing delays. Review the risk management process and check risks are being adequately managed and mitigated against. Create contingency plans that allow you to plan and prepare for when things might go wrong or when project management roles can’t be filled for whatever reason.
This technique will help save time in the future, but if your project is running behind right now, then there is something else you can do.
Identify scarce resources
Look for bottlenecks in the process. This is the basis of what Dr Eliyahu Goldratt called The Theory of Constraints. When you identify scope constraints or a time constraint, go back to basics. What is the root cause of people not being available? If you can identify and fix that, you can keep work flowing more easily and keep people occupied on tasks that matter.
Train your team
If project resource constraints are an issue, the cause could be that team members don’t have the right skills to contribute effectively in their roles. Having limited resources can be address with training. Upskilling your existing workforce would give people the ability to work confidently in an extended capacity, changing your resource pool and giving you more options for scheduling. For example, a junior electrician could attend training that would enable them to carry out more advanced work unaided. A software developer could learn a new programming language so they could assist on other projects.
Training also supports the project management process. For example, if your team is finding it difficult to meet compliance requirements such as earned value management reporting, that work can either be outsourced or they can attend training to build their confidence and abilities. It can also address performance issues.
Simply knowing what to do and having the support of a training environment in which to learn can speed up project delivery and give your clients a better outcome.
Add more people
Finally, you have the choice to add more people to the team. Brooks’ law applies here: adding more people to a software project makes the project later. There is an overhead that comes with adding more people. You have to onboard them and let them find their place on the team. If the project has a lot of history or is a special subject matter area that they do not have previous experience of then they have a lot of learning to do.
However, Brooks’ law doesn’t apply on all kinds of projects. If you are building a house, bringing in more bricklayers will get the walls up more quickly. If you’ve ever seen a home makeover show, you’ll know how many hands make light work and the power of additional resources!
Many projects benefit from extra staff, as long as the people you get are experienced professionals who can make a positive contribution straight away. Project management roles can be hard to fill because you are looking for that particular blend of someone who will fit right into your organization and the technical skills to add value to your work.
We can provide project management staff to fill a variety of roles so that you can keep your projects moving forward.
Learning to work within constraints in project management is just part of the job, and expert schedulers know how to use capacity planning and resource management techniques to get the best from the people and time available. These tips should help you address any resource challenges on your projects, and if you want more information, give us a call!