PMOs, Project Managers or Resource Managers can face a lot of challenges; ranging from poor capacity planning, to conflicting resource priorities, to inadequate information on what resources are available. This can significantly impact your organizations' effectiveness.
In 2009, The Center for Business Practices (CBP) published a document titled A benchmark of current business practices, which addressed some of these resource levelling challenges. Let's take a look at these challenges in the context of the Project Manager:
1. Resource capacity planning is poor
First of all, what is 'capacity'? Capacity is the resources available to get the specific task done, or deliver a project on time and within budget. Often organizations don't have any idea how to measure their capacity and as a result, they are unable to plan resource allocation. One way to tackle this is to adopt a purpose-built resource management tool or management software.
2. Resource risks are not assessed
Many organizations only assess risks in relation to processes, technology and/or unforeseen events. But they don't always think about the risks associated with resources. A project or resources manager should sit down and create a list of every possible risk and opportunity they can think of while allocating resources.
3. Not enough appropriately skilled resources
It is not enough to just have resources, they should also possess the skill sets required to successfully complete the project requirement, and have skill sets useful to the organization in general. Allocating resources without taking account of their skills can end up being a waste of time.
4. Resource use is not optimized
Sometimes, already allocated resources are not optimized. Either they are working on low priority projects, rather than the type of projects which meet organizational goals - or else they are doing ‘busy work'; in other words, they are not assigned challenging tasks according to their skill sets and responsibilities. A project manager needs to be aware of the project development and be able spot this.
5. Schedules/deadlines are unrealistic
Of course, unrealistic or tight deadlines are the “bête noir” of project management! They should be avoided at all costs. Planning, not only by taking into account project constraints, but also resource constraints (whether personal or professional) is essential for project teams.
6. Resources are assigned inconsistently
Allocating resources on a whim without analyzing incoming demands, understanding the priorities, or considering the organization's goals can be dangerous. Before assigning resources, it is important to have a holistic view of incoming demand and available resource capacity according to matching skillsets and roles.
7. Too many unplanned requests for resources
In many organizations, new projects do pop up every now and again. Some of these projects which are aligned to the organizations goals and strategy are important, and others are not. So, the first step towards resource management and planning is to get a handle on demand as well as prioritizing these projects, and then allocate resources accordingly.
8. Shifting resources in response to unexpected problems
Again, in any organization that operates complex projects, unexpected problems and issues do crop up, which is quite natural. Even under the most efficient planning, unforeseen challenges will always be an issue. That doesn't mean one should react by shifting resources here and there sporadically. It is still essential to get a good grasp on demand and requests, and create a planned response, ideally under a robust project management methodology.
9. Resource utilization is poorly documented
While managing projects, it is important to regularly and accurately document all resource utilization and allocation. In many organizations, this is done manually on lengthy spreadsheets, often containing human errors. This is why an organization at the higher end of the project management maturity scale should be relying on purpose built software, rather than spreadsheets, to document resource allocation and utilization. Errors are much less likely to grow and cause problems with allocation down the line at portfolio management level, if the data is recorded in a dedicated tool.
10. The transition process for shared resources is inadequate
Shared resources, working for different departments and different projects, are common in project management. Often shared resources are hopping from project to project without any adequate transition process or project plan.
Any company, large or small, will experience these issues on some level during their resource management journey. They will often form a business case for the organization to build upon and bring about some real changes. The key is to spot them and react appropriately, with the right planning, project management tools, and people for the job.