How To Avoid Resource Management Pitfalls

Post-industrial project management in the era of knowledge work needs to deal with knowledge work projects that bring subject matter experts together to collaborate on new and unique products and services. This might involve scientists, teachers, doctors, lawyers, software developers, or web designers working with the business to build something new. Each of these groups has specialized knowledge, typically no single person knows everything needed to complete the project. What is being created is new or sufficiently different from what was created in the previous projects.

Projects in different industries such as aerospace and defense, biotech, high tech manufacturing, software and professional service often engage a large number of knowledge workers. As the world is moving to digitalization, the number of knowledge work projects is increasing in almost all industries. But many managers today are still using the same old project management tools designed in the industrial era and ignoring the fact that managing knowledge workers is very different from managing machinery and material as project resources. In knowledge work, each resource is different. Managers really need to know the allocation and utilization of each resource in the project.

Complexity of obtaining resource data by hand

Knowledge work sometimes is unpredictable but one must know the actual efforts that the knowledge worker has spent on the activities in order to reasonably extend the time and effort. But most managers don’t have the right tool in their hands. Using the following as an example, can your tool tell you the start and finish time changes of all affected resources if Activity 1 of Project 1 is delayed?

If no, can you calculate them by hand? After you try to calculate them by hand, you would realize that it is non-trivial and is non-practical if it happens multiple times. The following is the answer:

  • When Activity 1 of Project 1 is delayed, the finish time for R1 and the start and finish times for Activity2 of Project 1 and R 2 would be affected.
  • When Activity 2 of Project 1 is delayed, the finish time for R2 and the start and finish times for Activity 3 of Project 1, Activity 3 of Project 3, R 3, R 4, R10 and R12 would be affected.

Resource allocation and utilization have finer granularity than activity in a project. Moreover, resource allocation and utilization are not only affected by any activity utilizing the same resources but also by the leaves and non-project engagements of the resources. Because they are hard to track, most project management tools don’t track them.

Efforts need to be managed

Knowledge work, in general, is less visible than industrial work and managers must know how the knowledge workers are spending their time. Even for the activity that is as visible as below, the resource allocation and utilization should still be managed properly. If no correct resource data are available, how would they know the activity will be done on time, 1 day late or N days late?

Hazardous pitfalls must be avoided

PPM can provide you with the timely and correct resource data to avoid the following pitfalls:

  • Rigid planning -- Are you locking in resources and schedules at the onset of a project with little possibility to change once allocation has been made? Today’s business needs require faster and more adaptive resource management to keep up with shifting client needs and narrow margins that demand better-optimized teams. Without the ability to react quickly and accurately, the old resource management processes are less effective than ever but you can rely on PPM to provide you with real-time (always up-to-date) data to gain flexibility.
  • Unconnected activities within projects -- Projects are made up of many different activities, each with its own resources to finish necessary work. While not every activity depends on another team member completing his or her work, successful projects depend on cohesive teams. However, resource managers may see the activities they assign to employees as standalone. The result can be a jumble of work that creates bottlenecks and unnecessary complications when individual assignments are left unfinished or become overdue. PPM allows you to create a highly effective flow between activities and the different resources assigned to a project. The result is a better plan for a project, with each team member passing their interdependent work to one another until they hit the finish line like a baton race.
  • Managing without regard to utilization rates -- In the past, resource managers simply filled up their team members’ schedules with as many activities as possible to keep projects moving forward. But this “one size fits all” approach to resource assignments lacks insights that can make the most of each resource’s skills without overwhelming them to the point of burn-out. With data-driven insights, you are able to understand current utilization rates, predict future project needs, and effectively change resource assignments to keep your team members well utilized without burning them out.
  • Manual costing -- The costing process is a crucial part of every project. However, many companies still rely on outdated manual and even paper-based costing processes, which take up unnecessary time and effort. When these processes are widely used throughout an organization, whether in receiving invoices from contractors or providing invoices to clients, the amount of time they carve out of the work week can quickly add up. By PPM that integrates time and expense entries directly with automatic costing or invoice generation, a huge amount of time and energy can be redirected to other high-value work.

Right organization right tool

Whether your organization needs to tune up one or all of these potential resource management pitfalls, embracing modern solutions such as PPM can have a major positive impact on all aspects of your organization. As a result, the teams you already rely on will become stronger elements of your long-term success.

Executives will have the capabilities to effectively sponsor projects
and train managers in modern project management.
Streamline management. Boost productivity. Grow confidently.
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