Staying on Top of Resource Planning Trends

Posted by Brian Sullivan on April 15, 2019

Developers working in the office

Successful and profitable projects, happy clients, and happy employees. That’s what you want from your organization, right? You want successful and profitable projects that are managed with a seamless process, you need visibility into problems before they become real issues, and you’ve got to have it all on time and on budget.

In this picture of perfection, those on-time and on-budget projects create happy clients. These projects are completed by employees who are happy because they’ve been assigned projects that fit their specific skills, experience, and aspirations, employees who aren’t overbooked or under-scheduled, who have visibility into their upcoming work and enjoy smooth transitions on and off projects. It’s a wonderful equation: happy employees + happy customers = successful projects. Successful projects lead to winning more work, and that in turn creates a successful organization.

Changes and advances in the world of project and resource management are sure to have a significant impact on today’s project-based business. If you don’t keep up with the trends, your competitors may pass you by, and the best talent might pick up and go work somewhere else.

Getting a Handle on Resources

As a discipline, project management has been around a long time, and while resource management and planning is a much younger methodology, it’s an incredibly important part of project management. Resource management is the practice of making sure you have the right resources on the right projects and they are effectively utilized. When you run a professional services organization, people are your product, which means resource management is of the utmost importance.

Resource management is the process of identifying initiatives for resources based on priority, planning resource allocation, tracking resource usage and productivity, improving allocation, and measuring the effectiveness of resources.

Analysts are emphasizing the importance of strategically reacting to change in today’s challenging market, and that includes change that affects your resources. If you can’t visualize where your resources are — their availability, skills, and capacity — it’s difficult to allocate them efficiently and effectively. And if you can’t optimally allocate resources, there’s a greater chance your projects will fail.

These days the organizations that manage projects well are those that have project and resource managers working closely together, making sure as needs change, the resources in their organizations are optimally utilized.

 

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Data and Visibility

Today’s project managers must pay a lot more attention to financial matters. With better access to data, they’re expected to have a better grasp of where their project stands. They’re expected to meet pre-determined financial performance metrics. Leaders in project‐based organizations are increasingly enforcing these expectations and arming their managers with project financial data to help them achieve these goals. That said, many organizations still do things the “old‐fashioned” way.

The most successful firms are able to quickly access the data they need to see project status, allowing them to be more proactive in mitigating issues and risk. That sure beats the old days, when project financial management was only realized during the invoice review cycle once a month. 

Three Keys to Successful Resource Planning:

  • Recognizing opportunities - Today’s resource managers are seeking a much earlier understanding of the demand coming from sales opportunities. They need to be able to plan not just for current projects, but also for those in the pipeline. No more scrambling to plan and resource a project at the last minute or without notice. Resource managers need visibility into the pipeline and collaboration with sales and services to make sure they can adequately service the client and the client’s expectations.
  • Project automation is a must - Project managers are requiring a dedicated solution for project management to do their job effectively. There’s no more room for amateurs, and no more managing projects on spreadsheets or disparate systems. Project managers need visibility into resources, costs, and financial impacts of projects in a central place so they can make informed decisions.
  • Looking forward, not back - Today’s most effective project managers are implementing a much more proactive approach to managing projects. They aren’t simply looking back, but looking forward. Where they’re going to be at the end of the project is the question. Running reports to see the status of a project is too after‐the‐fact for their tastes. PMs want to know where a project is going, so they can be sure it isn’t off track; and if for some reason it veers off track, they want to be proactive rather than reactive.

Understanding the Value of Resource Management

Resource management is the key to optimizing utilization for all employees. Most firms still do this in Excel, but doing so typically limits visibility to a current week. It doesn’t provide historical performance against scheduled work, nor does it give any visibility into current financial project status.

In fact, simply managing the spreadsheet is challenging. You can wind up having some resources double‐booked while others are barely used, and you don’t have sufficient visibility from manager to manager. And long‐term planning? Forget about it. With a spreadsheet, once you get everyone’s input, you need to further manage the document, and then call an additional meeting to clean it up and optimize the week’s work. Despite all that trouble, employees still lack visibility into their assigned workloads.

  • Talent retention is important - Like everyone else who manages people, resource managers and organizations have a strong desire to retain talent. That means they need to understand employee skills as well as the skills needed for each project so that the two can be matched effectively. They also must have a handle on bandwidth and utilization, because employees want work/life balance.

It’s also important to ensure that each employee’s identity remains aligned to the goals of the company, not only the goals of a particular project. If the identity is tied only to the project, once the project ends that employee may not be content or may not feel he or she has a home in the organization. You need to create career development paths that look beyond the current project.

  • Technology can help - It’s tricky to adopt resource management tools because there are so many options, and as a result, managers often fall back to using Excel for its simplicity. But simple isn’t always better.

To find and successfully adopt a better tool for streamlining processes, adoption must begin at the top and be consistently enforced through weekly project status meetings. One firm I recently worked with gave first dibs on resource selection to managers who adopted the company’s new resource management tool. Everybody has favorite team members with whom they want to work, so you can imagine that adoption was quick.

As the new generation of employees starts to take on more of a leadership role, the need for resource management becomes more prevalent. Millennials rely more on technology and understand the benefit of a central, integrated resource planning tool — and will expect it in any organization they work for. The right tool encourages higher utilization, and most importantly, more projects delivered on time and on budget.

Next Steps

To learn more about what Deltek has to offer, visit the Vision Resource Planning page, or join our upcoming Vision Solution Speed Session Maximize Your Most Important Resources with Vision Resource Planning.

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About the Author

Brian is a Senior Principal Solutions Engineer with Deltek and has over 20 years of experience helping Deltek Vision clients. His focus is Project Management, Resource Management, Information Management and Project Manager training and enablement.