Businesses that manage multiple projects face two conflicting objectives:
- To keep their clients happy, they must ensure that each and every project gets delivered on time, within budget and to the required specification.
- For the operation to be profitable, staff working across the project workload must be continuously busy, whilst avoiding unmanageable bottlenecks that could jeopardise individual project dates.
Workforce planning tools play a key role in balancing these often-competing objectives.
The problem is simpler if the business has a relatively small number of large projects, where most people are part of a dedicated project team. Provided that the plans require them to be fully utilised for the assignment period, workforce planning just needs to know the start and finish dates of each project’s assignments for their utilisation levels to be optimised. However, where individuals are frequently less then full time on individual projects, balancing these two objectives becomes much more difficult.
Organising as a matrix is a logical way to address this conflict. Project managers are responsible for meeting the targets on individual projects whilst team leaders respond to their requests for resource and strive to keep their team members fully utilised. Workforce planning tools help with the two stage resource management process:
The starting point is to compare skills demand with capacity for the confirmed projects. Drilling down through the organisation structure highlights pockets of skills bottlenecks or underuse in every corner of the organisation. As new projects get awarded, their resource plans are layered on top of the confirmed projects to see if unacceptable bottlenecks get introduced. This enables target resource utilisation levels to be maintained by recruitment, hiring of contractors or retraining staff to suit.
With the skills demand and capacity in balance, the process for allocation resources to individual projects can commence. Good workforce planning tools, such as Innate, enable the project manager to specify required competencies and certifications, etc. when requesting resources. These can be matched by team leaders with those of their available staff, so that only suitable candidates are proposed. Review and confirmation by the project manager complete the resource allocation process. Subsequent changes to dates and/or resource can be tracked so that managers can see who changed what by how much and when.
Where the multi-project environment is particularly volatile, the contribution from Workforce planning tools is even more crucial if the twin objectives are to be continuously achieved.