Resource management is among the most critical – but also the most challenging – aspects of project and program management. Failing to allocate the right resources, to the right tasks, at the right time, and at the right cost invariably leads to budget and schedule overruns. It also creates frustrated team members, stakeholders and customers. Fortunately, there are some proven innovative resource management tools and tips to help organizations avoid setbacks and achieve success.
Resource Management Processes
Before looking at project resource management tools and innovative ideas for resource management, it is helpful to highlight the integrated resource management processes endorsed by the Project Management Institute in its Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide – Sixth Edition, 2017). These include:
Plan Resource Management:
This is the process of determining how to estimate, procure, manage and implement physical (e.g. equipment, technologies, materials, supplies, facilities, infrastructure, etc.) and team resources (e.g. full-time members, part-time members, specialists, contractors, etc).
Estimate Activity Resources:
This is the process of analyzing and estimating the type and amount of physical and team resources, which were identified per the Plan Resource Management process.
This is the process of procuring the physical and team resources that are necessary to carry out project or program work.
This is the process of enhancing team performance by (for example) improving communication workflows, addressing and resolving interpersonal conflict, etc.
This is the process of monitoring team performance (both overall and on an individual team member basis), and making adjustments to enhance performance and effectively manage change.
This is the process of verifying that the physical resources allocated to a project or program are available, and are being utilized as expected. It also includes taking corrective action if there is a gap between planned and actual utilization in either direction (i.e. under-utilization or over-utilization).
It is important to reiterate that for simplicity these processes are described above in an isolated and distinct manner. However, in practice the process areas are heavily integrated. For example, during her efforts to develop the team, a project manager may identify the need to acquire one or more additional resources (physical, team, or both). Or, during his effort to control resources, a project manager may be obligated to change how team performance is monitored and managed.
Resource Management Software
In many organizations, the difference between innovative resource management that drives positive results, and outdated resource management that blocks positive results, is not a question of effort: it is a matter of software. We will quickly look at the later, before exploring the former.
Outdated resource management software is typically a mixture of spreadsheets and emails. The root problem is not in these tools. That is, spreadsheets and emails have their function on the project and program management landscape. However, neither spreadsheets nor emails were designed to drive complex resource management. Using them in this capacity does not just make resource management problems likely, but it virtually guarantees them.
On the other end of the spectrum are legitimate, enterprise-grade, and cloud-based resource management software solutions that feature tools that enable project managers and program managers to:
- Easily “drag and drop” resources to reassign tasks and projects.
- Simulate resource loads by quickly filtering work items in/out.
- View resource loads by individual resources or groups.
- Review the full plan for projects in which resources are assigned, in order to proactively evaluate the impact of any potential or planned schedule changes.
- Balance resources and workloads by clearly identifying scenarios in which resources are under-utilized or over-utilized.
- Use customized rules to automate virtually any resource planning, allocation, management and optimization process.
It should also be added that the best resource management software offers both out-of-the-box and customized templates. These allow a specific project’s task dependencies, placeholder resource assignments and associated files to be used when creating new projects – which can dramatically shorten and simplify the entire project planning process, including resource management.
Innovative Ideas for Resource Management
Choosing the right software is one piece of the innovative resource management puzzle. The other is implementing best practices that drive efficiency, simplicity and cost-effectiveness in this critically important area. Here are some proven and practical resource management tips:
- Create a generic pool of resources, so that project managers or program managers understand which roles will be most in-demand. This will also help executives plan for initiatives that are coming down the pipeline.
- Review the resource pool, analyze overall capacity, and compare current load to future demand.
- Once resources are assigned to specific work items, use real-time balancing to ensure that individuals are not overloaded. A survey of human resource leaders found that burnout is currently the biggest workplace challenge.
- Establish total 360-degree project, program and portfolio-wide visibility – especially since things can (and often do) change on a daily, if not hourly basis. This requires a simplified system of task recognition and assignment, along with a real-time updating process.
- Establish a common approach to how the work of shared resources will be prioritized. Going to battle over physical or human resources with colleagues leads to frustration, conflict and a “win at all costs” mentality that is harmful for the organization.
- Use time tracking tools – which should be built into the resource management software, and not separate apps – to make it fast and easy for team members to track their time on specific work items, and submit their timesheets.
A Final Word
Innovative resource management is both an art and a science, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. However, organizations that use enterprise-grade resource management software, and which embrace the innovative ideas for resource management highlighted above, can look forward to much more success – and far fewer struggles.