How to improve productivity in a multi-project environment

The need to improve the UK’s productivity post Brexit is back on the Agenda. David Smith, the respected Economics Editor of the Sunday Times has published a piece arguing that Improving productivity is essential to survival in a post-Brexit world. Ben Broadbent, Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, has confirmed that the Monetary Policy Committee, whilst expecting productivity levels to pick up, will be keeping a close eye on them over the coming months and years.

David Smith argues that the ingredients of a rise in productivity are straightforward. Productivity growth depends on the education and skills of the workforce, coupled with investment, infrastructure and innovation projects. But, post Brexit nerves about committing to investment plans just exacerbate this. As David Smith says, with businesses nervous about what the future will bring, this does not look like the climate for strong investment.

In addition, those who are trying to keep their skills capacity in balance with the demand across a multi-project workload regularly face a level of volatility in the demand patterns that can easily wreck staff utilization levels. Utilization levels and workforce productivity are closely entwined, so a failure to hit team utilization targets means that productivity levels will inevitably decline.

Managing the multi-project workload with a fixed pool of resources was an exciting enough ride before Brexit. No sooner did you have the skills demand nicely balanced with your capacity than something changed to cause a resource bottleneck, or a sudden freeing up of resources, with no obvious alternative tasks for them to do. Whilst having resource bottlenecks will not impact productivity levels, they can easily lead to key committed dates not being met. Upsetting clients this way does not help with winning the next opportunities that emerge.

The increased post Brexit volatility ups the ante and crystalizes the need for accurate resource loading information. Whenever a change to a project plan occurs, the project manager must quickly amend the estimate and work with the affected resource managers to ensure that appropriate resources will be available to meet the revised dates. These guys (and gals) need appropriate resource management tools to ensure that they can stay on top of the changes and keep their plans up to date.

Without this, those fancy reports that predict a nicely balanced resource plan will be called into question. If forward loading reports lose credibility, the speed of reaction to changing skills demand will slow. Decisions on retraining and or hiring and firing staff will be put off and productivity levels will inevitably decline.

The best way of countering the post Brexit uncertainties in a multi-project environment, is to give the project and resource managers the software tools that they need to respond rapidly to changes on each and every project. Without effective collaboration, the credibility of management information will suffer and individual projects inevitably be affected.

Barry Muir is a Director of Innate Management Systems Ltd. We have been implementing resource management software in a wide variety of professional services organizations for more than 20 years.
Posted in resource management