Skills capacity planning as new projects arrive

Managing a portfolio of projects with a limited pool of resources is a rollercoaster ride. No sooner do you have the skills capacity nicely balanced with demand when a new project arrives, seeking resources that are already  fully-committed. Where the projects are for external clients, this can jeopardise key dates, risking client disappointment.

Resource management software provides the demand management tools that are needed to get a handle on this. The starting point is a forward loading view that shows the bottlenecks across the Confirmed projects workload.

The heat map shows bottlenecks in red for each department. Clicking on a department link drills down so that un-manageable bottlenecks can be seen at the team or location level.

The Pipeline department  has a significant overload on Engineer 1 – Pipeline, with the demand from projects J-142 and J-143 in particular overwhelming the team of 5 engineers.

Managing just the confirmed projects can be challenging enough, but there is a list of potential projects out there as well. As new project bids are submitted, the list grows and the skills capacity impact of various bids being successful must be assessed.

This screenshot from the Innate resource management software shows the list of potential projects, each of  which has a resource plan. Beneath a summary of the confirmed projects workload (the Base Load row), columns of check boxes enable different combinations of likely projects to be added. In this example, the impact of project 195 and 195 and 195-2 as a second combination have been specified.

The charts at the top show how the resource demand will increase, for each specified combination. Whilst this view shows the overall picture, you can drill down the organisation structure to locate new bottlenecks for each combination at team level, similar to the forward loading report shown previously.

Without this information, the impact on skills capacity of new projects arriving cannot be easily predicted. Here, resource management software provides crucial management support, buying time for contract or permanent staff with the right skills to be hired.

Fortunately, most organisations also have some internal as well as client projects, so there maybe scope for plugging  gaps by delaying an internal project. This is where ‘What If… analysis using scenarios comes to the fore. You can select candidate projects for delay and drag them in time to reduce bottlenecks, without affecting the live data. Ineffective scenarios can just be abandoned as the live data is not overwritten until a scenario is accepted.

This is how  you can manage skills capacity planning as new project arrive, but you will need to have effective resource management tools in place.


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