Managing resources in a matrix organization – How workforce planning tools help

Businesses that manage multiple projects face two conflicting objectives:

  • To keep their clients happy and the business profitable, each and every project must be delivered on time, within budget and to the required specification.
  • Staff working across the project workload must be continuously busy, whilst avoiding unmanageable bottlenecks that could jeopardize 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 utilized for the assignment period, workforce planning just needs to know the start and finish dates of each project’s assignment for their utilization levels to be optimized. However, where individuals are frequently lass than full time on individual projects, balancing these two objectives becomes much more difficult.

Organizing as a matrix is a good way to address this. 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 utilized. Workforce planning tools help with the two-stage resource management process:

Demand management

The starting point is to compare skills demand with capacity for the confirmed projects. Drilling down through the organization structure exposes pockets of skills bottlenecks or underuse in every corner of the organization. As new projects get awarded, resource plans are layered on top of the confirmed project workload to see if unacceptable bottlenecks get introduced. This enables target resource utilization levels to be maintained by recruitment, hiring of contractors, or re-training of staff to suit.

Resource allocation

With the skills demand and capacity in balance, the process for allocating 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 resource. These can be matched by Team leaders with their available staff, so that only suitable candidates are proposed. Review and confirmation by the project manager completes the resource allocation process. Subsequent changes to dates and or resources can be tracked so that managers can easily see who changed what, by how much and when.

Where the multi-project is volatile, with frequent changes to project schedules , the contribution from workforce planning tools is even more crucial if the twin objectives are to be continuously achieved.



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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