Implementing resource management tools in multi-project organizations

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 utilization, 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 utilization levels are to beĀ  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:

  • Project managers request suitable resource by specifying the skills and experience work profiles required.
  • Team leaders check who us available and propose suitable candidates.
  • The project manager accepts or rejects the proposed candidate.
  • Once confirmed, date and work profile changes must be tracked and agreed, without delaying the affected project.
  • Project owners/directors set priorities and step in to resolve conflicts.

For resource management tools to be effective, every player must keep their project and resource data current. Optimal resource utilization 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 organizations, 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:

  • Work, organisation and skills breakdown structures can be defined.
  • Corporate reports produced which drill down through these structures to shine a light on resource utilisation in all corners of the business.
  • Resource planning views for new projects, updating existing ones and cross project views for skills capacity planning and ‘What If…’ analysis, can be created and deployed.
  • A Home page with access to each user’s required reports and a series of big buttons for direct access to the screens required for each of their steps in the resource demand and allocation process.

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 utilization 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.
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