Resource allocation – matching staff with tasks

For project and services firms, effective resource management starts with matching their skills capacity with demand. But it then quickly moves into deciding who should be working on what tasks. Having a suitable resource allocation process is the key to consistently achieving project commitments, to time, quality and budget.

These firms are generally a matrix organisation. It’s the logical way of balancing their two key objectives; individual project commitments must consistently be met whilst maintaining high levels of staff utilisation.¬†Neither objective can be neglected as failure to meet project commitments will disappoint clients and jeopardise project profitability, whilst having staff ‘just in case’ can quickly erode operational profits.

Matrix organisations address these competing objectives by having project managers focus on the project based objectives whilst team leaders concentrate on maintaining high levels of staff utilisation. Its the best way of striking the right balance, but their effective collaboration is crucial, in what can be a rapidly changing environment. This is where resource planning tools earn their keep.

The resource allocation process

When preparing the project plan, project managers will be keen to ensure that any required skills, competency levels and accreditations, etc, will be understood by the team leaders, so that only suitable candidates will be proposed. The resource planning tool must enable this.

Screen enables skills and minimum competency levels to be defined by the project manager

As project plans get approved and capacity checks confirm that suitably qualified staff should be available, the resource allocation process can commence. Typically:

  1. Project managers request resource
  2. Team leaders propose suitable candidates
  3. The project manager can accept or reject the proposed candidate
  4. Eventually, a resource is confirmed.

And, of course, as soon as the process is completed, the balance can easily be disrupted as unexpected change orders arrive, delays occur, or the estimate is found to be over optimistic. In volatile multi-project environments, the resource planning tool must enable team leaders and / or the project manager to quickly respond by rescheduling work or allocating more staff. The resource planning tool can help again by showing who changed what, by how much and when.

 

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.
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