Many of the major project management solutions available today are highly flexible. However, one drawback is that many of these tools fail to provide capabilities for resource management techniques.
In this post, we will explore some the most common resource management techniques, how they can benefit project managers and how you can start to use them for your projects.
You may practice some of these resource management techniques without realizing, as they all share the same goal of providing maximum visibility and control over your projects and resources. We’re going to look at some of the most important:
1. Resource Allocation
You can think of resource allocation as your ‘by-the-book’ solution to problem solving, helping you get the most from your available resources. It’s the process of tackling projects using the materials, people and budget you have at your disposal in the most efficient manner possible—usually dependent on the skills of workers and their availability.
Project managers will often use resource allocation reports, which give granular and over-arching views of your projects and people, helping you avoid schedule delays and cost-overruns. The better the reporting capabilities at your disposal, the more visibility you can expect over your projects.
2. Resource Scheduling
Resource scheduling aims to calculate the resources required to complete a task or project within a specified timeframe. Resource scheduling identifies two categories of resource—consumable (money, materials, etc.) and re-usable (workers, machinery, etc.)—and involves three steps to the scheduling process:
In the allocation stage, project managers decide what resources are needed to complete the work, whether it’s the overall quantity for consumable resources, or the total time and effort required by re-usable resources.
Aggregation involves splitting these resources over the length of the project—be it days, weeks, or months.
Finally, the scheduling stage takes into account the limited availability of resources (as no resource is truly unlimited) over time. These limitations are usually addressed through resource smoothing or resource leveling.
(More information can be found on this page from the Association for Project Management).
3. Resource Leveling & Resource Smoothing
We have previously spoken about resource allocation—an important facet to resource management that helps with avoiding the over- or under-allocation of resources. Resource leveling and resource smoothing play similar roles, but the two are often confused. The Project Management Body of Knowledge defines the two techniques as follows:
“Resource leveling is a technique in which start and finish dates are adjusted based on resource constraints with the goal of balancing demand for resources against available supply.”
“Resource smoothing is a technique that adjusts the activities of a schedule model such that the requirement for resources on the project do not exceed certain predefined resource limits.”
We can see why some confusion might arise (further clarification can be found in here). In many cases, resource or project managers will use a combination of resource leveling and resource smoothing to identify, with the current resources available, when a project will be completed. Some work may be delayed as the result of resource leveling or smoothing, but the advantage is more efficient and cost-effective use of resources in the long-term.
4. Resource Forecasting
Resource Planning is vital for getting the most out of an organization’s workers, materials and budget for the project at hand, but the best project managers know that you can never do enough planning.
Resource forecasting is the process of predicting your future resource requirements ahead of time. During the initiation and planning stages, resource forecasting can help determine the project’s scope, possible constraints, and potential risks. These factors require a project manager to be as accurate as possible when making their predictions about the project lifecycle, and so requires a holistic understanding of the resources in your business, what they’re doing and where they’re going.
To get that visibility, project and resource managers often invest in technology with planning, modelling and forecasting capabilities.
To keep up with the pace, resource managers need to begin using these advanced resource management techniques, and start doing what they can to enable them in the business. Standard project management software may be able to provide rudimentary resource management capabilities, but techniques like those we’ve mentioned are only accessible in dedicated resource management software.
Whether it’s a single project or whole portfolio, Tempus Resource can help you create resource models to test the predicted effects of changing or modifying resources. What’s more, you can view the results in real time. So, rather than making your decisions and ‘hoping for the best’, you can visualize your hypotheses and their perceived impact on your projects. Seeing your results ahead of time, you can then apply other resource management techniques—from smoothing to scheduling to utilization—to stay one step ahead. And that’s the best technique of all.
In these scenarios, project managers will have to deal with deficiencies, no matter how quickly or effectively a tool like Microsoft Project can resolve the problem. A better solution would facilitate preventing resource availability and allocation problems occurring ahead of time, rather than resolving them when they have already affected your project resources.