Resource allocation – matching staff with tasks

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

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

Matrix organizations address these competing objectives by having project managers focus on the project based objectives whilst team leaders concentrate on maintaining high levels of staff utilization. It’s 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 team leaders, so that only suitable candidates will be proposed. The resource planning tool must enable this;

Example of a screen for the project manager to define required skills and competency levels

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

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

An naturally, 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 project managers toquickly respond by rescheduling work or allocating additional 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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