Implementing resource management tools in multi-project organisations

Managing multiple projects with a limited pool of resources can be a wild ride. As soon as the project demand is in balance with the skills capacity, something changes; a new project arrives, there is a scope change, or the client postpones the next phase. Maintaining the right balance is a necessity, because too many spare resources will rapidly erode profits, whilst not having sufficient skills to meet each project milestone date will disappoint the client. The ongoing challenge is to maintain optimal resource utilisation, and this is what resource management tools are designed for.

Most multi-project businesses have a matrix organisation, where project managers develop the project plan and budget and then strive to deliver it within the agreed cost and time constraints. They rely on various team leaders to supply resources with the skills and experience required. Effective collaboration requires agreement on their respective roles and responsibilities, and a clear understanding of – and compliance with – the resource demand and allocation process steps. This is crucial if optimum resource utilisation levels are to be  maintained.

It would be quite easy for resource management tools to support this if there was a general consensus on the roles, their responsibilities and the process, but these vary considerably. In one case a project manager may have the freedom to grab any unallocated resource and assign them to their projects, but generally they are not granted this freedom. More typically, they have to specify the required skills and experience levels and request suitable resource from team leaders. This kicks off a resource allocation process, where:

For resource management tools to be effective, every player must keep their project and resource data current. Optimal resource utilisation will only be maintained when the big picture of overall demand vs capacity is consistent and credible.

Effective implementation of resource management tools, particularly in large matrix organisations, therefore relies on the roles and responsibilities and process steps being defined, complied with, and driven by senior management. With these essential ingredients in place, good tools such as Innate can be configured to effectively support each role, step by step through the resource management process.. For each organisation:

A carefully configured system will minimise the excuses for each person not complying with the process steps – a major contribution to ensure that optimum resource utilisation levels are maintained.

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.