How to Improve Resource Management

Jan 24, 2019

How to Improve Resource Management

Resource management is easy.

Most companies have solved this problem a long, long time ago and the answer, it turned out, is very, very simple.

Common Problems Caused by Spreadsheet Resource Management

Am I surprising you with this statement? Are you confused since your organisation’s resourcing is a constant nightmare and creates the most conflict between departments and resource owners, not to mention stress on the individual resources themselves?

My honest experience is that many companies solve the difficult issue of resource management by simply not really bothering to solve it. By this I mean that they operate what I refer to as “an infinite capacity model.”

Each time there is a new project, linked ideally to some new strategic directive from executive leadership, it is added to the existing portfolio and the “finite capacity resources” are somehow expected to make it happen – as if they weren’t already operating at capacity.

This clearly doesn’t work and is an example of organisations hiding their head in the sand and ignoring the problem. External resources can certainly help, but how do service organisations plan for the variable demand for time and the variable nature of the skill sets required by their clients?

It has to be said that, despite the earlier statement I made (tongue in cheek of course), resource management is tricky. Really tricky. It’s also misunderstood.

Improving Your Resource Management Lifecycle

Mavenlink’s Definitive Guide to Resource Management suggests that, historically, “most services organisations have been able to get by managing and scheduling resources to projects in informal and isolated ways— conversations across the office, whiteboards, home-grown solutions, and most commonly, spreadsheets. Even firms with more mature processes for resource management have been typically relying on a sophisticated web of spreadsheets to tackle the process.”

But that is all in the past as the complexity of service delivery continues to accelerate through the shift to project-based engagements, the increased demand for specialisation, as well as the overall pressures on project margins.

The use of the common “collaborative” tools, such as Excel and Google Sheets, as well as SharePoint sites and Confluence pages, is all very helpful, but only up to a point. Their limitations are evident if you consider the full Resource Management Lifecycle, in which there are five phases that mirror the project delivery lifecycle from inception to analysis: Estimate, Plan, Execute, Analyse, and Optimise.

This is covered in detail in “The Definitive Guide to Resource Management,” which describes the nature of the Resource Management Lifecycle:

  • It’s Constant. The phases are not meant to be linear, they bleed between each other. It’s designed so you can always be looking forward and backward.
  • It’s Iterative. At each phase of the project lifecycle there is an opportunity to make changes that will enhance success and profitability.
  • It’s Ongoing. It’s a full-time commitment.
  • It’s Dynamic. Current processes are too rigid. Great resource management practices have flexibility. It’s almost like a dance; you take two steps forward, one step back.

If you really consider all of the above, then it must be clear that there is much more required to deal with this dynamic, constantly changing, ultra-flexible iterative process than just a smart Excel workbook and a general collective will to make it happen.

As just one example, consider the point in time when the work is won and the project commences. This is the Execute Phase, which begins the moment that the project is won, the resources are scheduled, and a project plan is set into motion. All project managers face two challenges at this time. The first is securing the resources they need for their project. This is, in itself, no mean feat since they are typically competing with many other projects and business as usual demands on the same resources (the impact of that “infinite capacity” model I mentioned earlier).

But let’s assume that battle is won and all resources are allocated to the project. The second challenge is then keeping those resources as new projects come to life, older projects falter, and business priorities arise, all of which create conflict.

Throw in last minute changes in project scope, resources working on multiple projects, complications with time tracking, lack of visibility into resources, and so on and you rapidly get to a point where simple Excel tracking just isn’t going to suffice, no matter how much of an Excel guru you are, or have available to you.

The real solution to successful and efficient resource management has to be an open, collaborative, and connected tool that can handle constant, iterative, changing, and dynamic projects.

Take Resource Management to the Next Level

“The Definitive Guide to Resource Management” provides a step-by-step guide to identify issues and tips to make real progress toward a productive resource management process.

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