Resource Management

5 Common Mistakes

We have seen many organizations mistakenly undertake a failed attempt at performing what they routinely call "Resource Management" in the name of organizational effectiveness and accountability.

Unfortunately, what we have found is that too many of the organizations espousing the virtues of resource management are really attempting to address internal problems that they are not tackling head-on -- namely, what are all these people in my organization doing?

The first step in an effort to do real resource management is to ask the hard question "What problem are we trying to solve with resource management"?

Let me borrow from the popular game "Two Truths and a Lie"

  • Our organization does very poor project planning so by focusing on resource management we will buy some time to hide this obvious management problem (hint: truth)
  • We don't manage our staff well so we rarely know if they are working on the right things -- or anything. (hint: truth)
  • Projects are typically delayed because critical resources are unavailable when they are needed (hint: lie)

Yes, these are real-life realities of organizations that hope that some fancy resource management tool is going to provide them with incredible insight into how they should be deploying their resources.

But the first problem lies in the fact that they haven't done any real planning work upfront -- such as the WBS -- before identifying the resources:

Here are our observations of the top 5 Mistakes:

  1. Not understanding how to assign resources correctly. This is a very, very broad definition of the problem, but we have seen people assigned to projects simply because (a) they have excess capacity -- note, this is not a skill set! (b) they always wanted to work on this type of project. Without a clear understanding of the project tasks and the skills that are required to complete them how can you properly assign a resource?
  2. Planning for 100% capacity. Really? We view an aggressive percentage of a resource's allocation to any project to be 70% --- at best.
  3. The wrong people are making resource allocation projections. We have seen projects, with no project plan developed, requesting resources for 6 months starting on specific dates !
  4. The 'resource' is not even consulted or aware that they are on the assignment.
  5. There really is no inventory of skills -- we just have a list of employees and contractors that we have to show are busy doing something.

So, what is a better approach?

  1. Understand and define the problem clearly. In many projects you're not dependent on all the resources -- but there may be a few key ones that you need a commitment from. Obtain commitment from the key resources and their managers and make sure everyone knows what is really being requested. That is, 'what do you need and when do you need it'.
  2. Projects should move forward primarily based on their value -- not just which resources are available. Many resources are interchangeable. If your project is going to produce 3x revenue you can justify going to the market to bring in outside help.
  3. Make sure resource availability is realistic -- it should exclude time allocated for operational duties, time off, etc.
  4. Build out a high-level WBS and engage potential resources to help with it. Many times we see a deliverable flagged as requiring specific resources for long periods of time only to find out that the actual SMEs believe the deliverable to a simple bit of work requiring only a few days.
  5. Gain a realistic baseline of data in your organization that describes what the current resources are assigned to. If it's not realistic to obtain that information you shouldn't have a high degree of confidence in future estimates.

In short, project planning will identify the resources required to achieve the full scope of the project. Attempts to build a resource management plan that informs the organization of how many projects they can achieve is a fool's errand. Plan the project and work the plan!

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