Implementing a framework for managing project resources

Implementing a framework for managing project resources

Effective resource management forms the cornerstone of everything done in a project-driven business. For this very reason, implementing a solid framework for managing project resources is vital. 

Ideas, strategies, goals, objectives – the things that drive organizations thirst for projects – they are all widely available. We can dream up new projects with very little effort. Money and/or project financing, while less available than ideas, etc., is still achievable. Money can be shifted across business areas; organizations can borrow from banks or raise money from investors.

Resources, however, are a totally different animal. Not only is it difficult to find, recruit and hire the talent needed, people aren’t fungible. In the case of money, a dollar is a dollar. If I need $10 million for a portfolio of projects, the $10 million is the same regardless of whether I get it from a bank, from investors, from different budgets or from the ATM at the convenience store. With people, it’s a whole different story. No engineer is the same. No scientist is the same. No developer is the same.

So why do resources form the true constraint around project delivery?

  1. The lead-time required to attract, hire, train and make usable resources is substantial, and because resources vary in quality, managing project resources are far more variable in nature. Its supply chain is far from efficient.
  2. Regardless of available capital and an organization’s ability to generate new ideas, strategies, etc., the project work must be completed by the available resources. If you don’t have the resources, you can’t get the work done. It’s that simple.

Regardless of how an organization prioritizes, evaluates and selects projects, ultimately, it’s the resource pool that determines what can get done and when it can get done. The image below is one we use to illuminate this fundamental principle.

managing project resources

Now because resources form the true “carrying capacity” for projects in your organization, we can understand why implementing a framework for managing project resources is so critical. Creating a framework doesn’t have to be perfectly crafted from the outset to be valuable. Just getting started and putting some thoughts together around a loosely formed business process can yield benefits.

Think Organic, not turnkey

Sounds pretty basic, right? Well, as complex as we can make it, these questions really do form the basis for any resource management framework. Basically, we measure our resources and projects, determine our strategy, and – realistically – assess the situation using quantitative measures. As the process is concerned, the only additional step to integrate is iteration – you should plan to repeat questions 1 through 4 as often as possible.

The framework we see as the most successful is not intended to be a turnkey, fire-and-forget process. It’s very much an evolutionary process. It’s organic, which in some circles is a nice way to say that the process can be a bit messy (that’s not a bad thing).

managing project resources

Step 1: Identify and Document the Strategy

Start by listing the core elements of your organization’s strategy. Throughout this process, it is critical to consistently align resources, projects, and strategy. This is the “big picture” question. Asking and answering “what are we trying to accomplish?” should help identify the key goals of your organization. Without understanding what you are trying to accomplish, how you can possibly select the right projects and – more importantly – how can you determine the skills, capabilities, and knowledge (i.e. the resources) required to execute those projects.

Step 2: Assess Organizational Carrying Capacity

What can you deliver? Who works for us and what can they do? Simply stated – what’s my resource inventory?  Understanding how many and what types of resources you have is absolutely critical. This step quantifies our carrying capacity for projects. Beyond a simple count, you should also attempt to identify how your resources align with the skills, capabilities and knowledge areas required based on work conducted in Step 1.

Step 3: Assess What Are We Doing Now?

Next, list all projects currently underway along with high-level resource forecasts. At this point, detailed project schedules and tasks are useless. What’s important is understanding the FTE-level quantification of resource allocation. Perhaps the easiest of the questions to address, this question is used to identify the existing load on the resource pool and the impact on your carrying capacity.

Step 4: Evaluate

With data assembled, you can now assess the reality of your delivery capabilities. Are you hopelessly over-allocated? Or swimming in excess resource capacity? It’s more likely that you fall into the over-allocated camp. How does your demand stack up against your supply?

Sub-Step 1: Review the Pipeline

Depending on the state of your resource portfolio at Step 4, you may be constrained. Talk of introducing new projects from the pipeline may be moot. You may have such resource constraints, that at this step you have to consider which projects to kill or cancel, in which case, you would continue to sub-step 2: Develop Options. If on the other hand, you do have the capacity, you should analyze the effect of introducing new projects. With the right tools, you should be able to ask questions like “what if we do proposal A or proposal B” and so on.

Sub-step 2: Develop Options

An option is a security that grants you the right to do something. By deploying the right tools, you should be able to develop options for management, which may include changing project timing, canceling or putting projects on hold, adding new proposals to the mix, or changing how projects are resource loaded. This step is where true differentiation can take place and where the intersection of managing project resources and building your strategy can be most heavily exploited.

Step 5: Constantly Re-Evaluate

Constantly re-evaluating and assessing the resource portfolio is a requirement – not an option. Organizations must constantly reevaluate and develop options and ask questions. The stochastic data of projects in isolation is enough to require this step1, and when we factor in the growing demands of modern business, no organization can afford to formulate a model at the beginning of the year and just stick with it. The model must be re-evaluated with frequency and scenarios must be crafted to maximize utilization of your resource pool.

Managing project resources: Next steps

How are you managing project resources? Interested in learning more about implementing a Resource Management Framework and the associated best practices? Contact ProSymmetry today ( to learn about Tempus Resource – the resource management solution named as the 2016 Gartner Cool Vendor. Let us show you how our customers are attaining resource management success.

managing project resources
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