Resource management tools justify their investment by helping organisations to optimise the utilisation of their project-based staff. This is no simple matter. A balance needs to be struck between having sufficient skills available so that each project commitment will be met, whilst ensuring that spare resources are not left hanging around ‘just in case’. To achieve these goals, resource management tools provide reports and ‘What If..’ modelling tools that compare resource demand with skills capacity. They draw on resource management data about:
Their staff, such as:
- Role, Discipline or Team – often used when looking at capacity planning.
- Their Skill sets, often with a level of competency, e.g. JAVA (Advanced), C++ (Basic), etc.
- Grade – often used to link to a standard cost rate.
- Qualifications and certifications.
- Hire and termination dates
Their projects, including:
- Time phased work estimates
- Key commitments as milestone dates
- Status, – Proposal, Confirmed, On hold, etc
Cost and billable rates
For the management information to be credible, this underlying resource management data needs to be consistent, current and complete. Unless the resource management tools are part of a comprehensive ERP system, data exchange routines will be needed with other systems, such as:
- Human Resources, the source of the resource data
- Timesheets – for importing details of actual effort expended.
- Finance systems – for cost and revenue rates
Developing automated data exchange routines is quite straightforward, so that the data can be kept in sync with these systems. However, these need to be designed with some care, if the data integrity is to be maintained.
A simple example of what can go wrong. When project managers request resources for particular tasks on their project, they will do so by stipulating a ‘generic’ resource. This is often the required Skill, or discipline, but can, on occasions consist of a number of concatenated fields. Associated requirements, such as location, certifications etc., can generally be specified in additional fields.
A definitive list of approved generics will be maintained in the resource management tool, typically as a PMO function. It is important to check that, as details of individual resources are imported into the resource management tool, the generic that each is associated with is valid. If they are not, then key process steps will fail:
- Resource allocation. When checking for suitable candidates, if an individual’s generic entry is not valid, they will not appear in the search for suitable candidates.
- Revenue calculations. If Billable rates are based on a person’s generic and the entry is not valid, no revenue rate will be associated with that individual, so revenue reporting will be incorrect.
Resource management tools make a major contribution to improving staff utilisation and productivity levels, but only of the resource management data integrity is policed and maintained.