Managing multiple projects with a limited pool of resources is challenging for many industry sectors. Workforce planning tools have a large role to play as organisations strive to optimise the utilisation of their staff, whilst ensuring that individual project commitments will be met.
Within engineering services, most projects are for external clients and some can be quite large. Their workforce planning issues differ significantly from internal departments, such as IT, where projects are generally for other departments and priority is based on their strategic importance. For new internal projects, there may be little chance of hiring additional staff, so lower priority ones may need to be delayed to free up resource.
So how cam workforce planning tools best be used in engineering services? Managing client expectations is paramount and there must be sufficient resource available, with the required skills and experience, so that each project’s commitments will be met. As new projects get awarded, their workforce demand must be accommodated without affecting other commitments. This can lead to the routine hiring of contract staff for specific projects.
In this environment, workforce planning tools make a significant contribution:
Most client proposals require a detailed project estimate. Project templates based on estimating metrics help to improve estimating accuracy. Use of standard profiles to distribute work totals over time, speeds up the estimate preparation.
Project demand management
Forward loading reports locate workforce bottlenecks and areas of under-use, in every corner of the organisation. As individual proposals get close to being awarded, the workforce implications are highlighted so that recruitment or contractor requirements become clearly visible.. ‘What If…’ scenarios can be used to minimise their impact, whilst respecting each project’s committed dates.
Project managers want to specify skills and certification requirements when requesting resources. Team leaders will need to maintain details of each member’s skills and commitments if they are to match each workforce request, whilst maintaining high levels of utilisation for their team. There must be effective collaboration between project and resource managers, if individual projects are not to suffer.
Project performance measurement
Regular measurement of each project’s performance gives early warning id corrective action is needed. As each project progresses, details of the actual effort spent (from timesheets) and the value of work achieved (the earned value) must be compared. Any variance with the agreed project plan (the baseline) should trigger a re-estimate. Changes in scope of the project should also trigger a review of the project baseline; it is the yardstick for measuring project performance, so its accuracy must be maintained.
Improvements in these four areas will significantly improve staff utilisation levels, whilst meeting individual project commitments. Workforce planning tools enable engineering services firms to achieve this strategic goal.