Whether you’re new to project management or an old hand, resource management can be a time consuming and frustrating exercise. It’s important to remember that resource management is about more than people management. It also covers the equipment needed to do the work and any materials.
One of the most common problems for project managers when it comes to resource management is that often they are not to be the line manager of the people involved in their projects. This can make things difficult when it comes to things like leave and time allocation.
If you’re lucky, you might work in an organisation with a resource manager who would then would be responsible for sorting all the resourcing.
However, if like me, there is no resource manager, then it falls to the project manager to do the job. Below are the steps I follow to manage the resources on my projects.
The first thing I do is to create my resource plan. It comes out of the work breakdown structure meetings as this is where I get the information about the people, equipment and materials I’ll need to deliver the project.
I make sure my resource plan is as detailed as possible so that I can give the people I need to approach as much information as I can. I do the following:
- I work out how many people I’m going to need to complete the project on time and within budget. I break this down into role type and whether I need the people full-time, part-time or on a contract basis.
- Calculate how long I will need each role for based on the work breakdown structure (WBS).
- Using the WBS as a guide, I decide when I will need the people to be available.
- I follow the same three steps for the equipment and materials I will need.
It ends up in a table a bit like the one below, which is a snapshot from one of my resource plans for a recent IT project:
|Build the API to work with the internal application and the source data
|Project 10 & project 12
|Design the UI
|Using the high level designs develop detailed mockups of the UI
|Adobe creative suite, laptop, design tablet
Figure 1: Snapshot of a project resource plan
You really shouldn’t do the resource plan in isolation, so using the information people provided in the work breakdown structure meetings, kills two birds with one stone.
Once my plan is developed to a reasonable level, I share it with the various people who need to make the resource decisions. Whether it is people, equipment or materials, you are unlikely to get all the resources you need the first time around. So prepare to negotiate. At this point the resource plan is still fluid because, like everything in a project, things can change. To be honest, I always over estimate what I need at this point so that I have a better chance of getting everything I actually need to get the job done.
I try to give the various decision makers as much time as possible and I usually end up having to revise things at least twice.
You can start putting your resources into the project schedule at any time. I usually do it before I start negotiating for my resources. That way I get a chance to play around and see what works best to deliver my project.
The journey doesn’t end once the resource schedule and plan are completed. This is where the management part comes in. You need to make sure you have some form of timesheeting system and resource monitoring in place. As the project progresses, you’ll need to make sure that people aren’t doing more or less work than they should be and that the resources they need to do the job are available.
Keep a tight rein on any scope creep as this will quickly result in overruns in time and budget. Even worse your key resources may already be allocated to another project and you may have to wait for them to become available again causing even more delays.
If the change is really needed then put it through formal change control and get the changes to your budget, schedule and resource plans signed off properly.
As always, things are not always plain sailing so here are a couple of pitfalls to keep in mind:
Put simply, overallocation is where someone has too much work to complete in the time available. Overallocation can also happen with other resources. It’s your job as the project manager to make sure any overallocation is resolved.
Remember the saying “don’t have all your eggs in the one basket”? This is a great example of what that means. Make sure you’re not overly reliant on one person or even a small group of people to complete work on the critical path. Now, this isn’t always possible, so if you are in this position then I suggest you have some back up in place. For example, having a contractor on standby.
The last piece in the resource management puzzle are the resource reports. Whether you use an online PPM tool and review resource information in real time or not, you will need to regularly run reports to ensure everything is tracking as it should be. These reports go to the people who manage the people involved or are responsible for the resources concerned. They should also go to your PMO and parts should be included in your regular project status reports.
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