Tens of thousands of organizations rely on the leading desktop scheduling solution – Microsoft Project – to plan, track and manage their projects. And many of those same organizations also use the tool to attempt to track and optimise their enterprise resource management. At first, using Microsoft Project seems like the path of least resistance to building a repeatable and actionable resource planning framework. It’s a tool you already own and allows you to assign resources to tasks in a work breakdown structure. Unfortunately, it’s only a matter of time before practitioners begin to recognize the pitfalls in this approach.
Microsoft Project was designed as a task scheduling solution to allow for hierarchical work breakdown structures. Furthermore, the focus of its primary calculation is the ‘critical path’ method—a task-centric algorithm designed to calculate start and finish dates for a network of activities and identify the immovable chain of activities in that structure. So, if you share resources with others and/or those resources are not managed by you, how does the Microsoft Project approach really relate to your enterprise resource planning framework? Who’s driving who?
In reality, there is a fundamental disconnect between resource forecasting and the task planning done in Microsoft Project. This isn’t a bad thing, and with some minor modifications you can yield significant improvements. In fact, when practitioners recognize this and embrace this reality, planning becomes much more dynamic and pragmatic.
The rigid framework of a critical path schedule just doesn’t couple with (and shouldn’t attempt to drive) the fluidity of enterprise resource management. This problem is compounded in matrixed organizations which typify many project-based organizations. Never forget that enterprise resource planning and forecasting – something we refer to as Resource Portfolio Management – is a resource dominant challenge. You can always plan more projects, but can you always plan more resources? It’s a very different and arguably more complex supply chain.
The second problem—unlike the first—is purely technical. Each Microsoft Project file is a unique object. It’s a unique file containing tasks, resources and assignments. Anything entered in a Microsoft Project file is only available to that Microsoft Project file. So if I have a pool of 250 or 500 resources, I have to replicate those resources in each and every file. Additionally, any attributes created to associate with resources such as skills, locations, departments, titles, and so on, must also be replicated in every single individual Microsoft Project file.
Some of you may be aware of some workarounds, but those that do will be aware that both are pretty bad options:
- The first option is to use a shared pool of resources. In this case, a unique Microsoft Project file becomes the repository for all resources to be used across your Microsoft Project files. To use this approach, the individual Microsoft Project files have to be connected to the pool, which typically means the files all have to remain on a single computer or shared network drive. For customers who have migrated away from shared network drives, or who need to work offline or want to enforce security, this approach falls apart pretty quickly. For any serious enterprise, the shared file approach is a pretty miserable option that even in its best implementation only satisfies facilitation of sharing resources. It still doesn’t address forecasting or planning in any effective manner.
- The second option is to implement Microsoft’s PPM solution – Microsoft Project Server – or cloud-based counterpart Project Online. Similar to the shared file option, Microsoft’s PPM solution resolves facilitation of sharing resources, but does not offer the tools and capabilities required to perform resource forecasting and capacity planning. Along the way, the licensing costs and consulting fees can be extensive. (And unless you have a PhD in data sciences, good luck with reporting on your data!)
Lastly, performing enterprise resource management, planning and forecasting using Microsoft Project requires unrealistic overhead. Why? Well, remember, with each Microsoft Project file being a unique object, each Resource Sheet will be totally unique. So adding new resources, changing attributes and editing existing resources will have to be performed from within all Microsoft Project files. Alternatively, data from your Microsoft Project files will have to be extracted and loaded to another more capable reporting or business intelligence platform. Let’s assume you intend to move the data to Excel. Upon export or upon import, the data will have to be not only audited but also cleansed. Of course, the process for extracting the data will also be challenging. Extracting resource data from Microsoft Project isn’t as simple or foolproof as some may think.
Because Microsoft Project is such a powerful planning solution, it’s natural for practitioners to reach for it when doing resource planning. In isolation, we know this is absolutely the wrong approach as it cannot deliver as an enterprise resource planning and forecasting solution. But when paired with the right solution, Project can deliver an effective enterprise resource planning and forecasting solution.
Tempus Resource, from ProSymmetry, is the preferred solution of organizations worldwide to standardize and manage the resource planning and forecasting process. Specifically designed for matrixed organizations, Tempus Resource naturally includes a centralized resource pool, integrated enterprise resource management reporting and extensive what-if analysis features. Best of all, Tempus Resource allows you to quickly import your Microsoft Project files through a drag-and-drop interface. Tempus Resource does all of the work for you and can enterprise enable your Microsoft Project files in minutes.
Manage your resources, named and generic as well as demand planning resources, in a central location. Incorporate a broad range of resource attributes along with management information all in one place.
Simply drag-and-drop your Microsoft Project files into Tempus Resource. Let Tempus do all of the work for you!
As part of the import, Tempus will identify issues with your import and make recommendations. Tempus will also point out potential collisions with the data.
Tempus Resource is built for Resource Portfolio Management, so all of its reporting interfaces are designed to quickly and easily report – holistically on your resource data.
As the Gold Standard for Resource Portfolio Management, Tempus Resource includes tools to answer the questions your management, your customers and your investors want answered.
No one does what-if analysis like Tempus Resource. Simple to use our what-if tools can make you a superstar in your organization. Return credibility to your PMO with our what-if analysis capabilities!