Are You Outnumbered? Time to Consider Resource Capacity Planning

Game of Thrones Team of Six.jpg

In the previous season of Game of Thrones, seven motley heroes ventured into the cold wilderness against an army of thousands of frozen zombies, just so they could bring one of the creatures back alive (or at least undead). 

Why, you ask? 

Well, they needed one as proof to win the allegiance of a skeptical rival queen so humans could join forces in the inevitable fight against the forthcoming "army of the dead."

While you may not be facing an army of the dead, it sure may seem like it sometimes. After all, the incoming projects and current workloads nearly always outnumber the resources you have to get them done. By a lot.

It's human (and organizational) nature. Everyone wants more than can be delivered. Demand nearly always exceeds supply. You also may have goals and pet projects you want to undertake, lofty ideas that will wow everyone, if you could ever see the light of day to get to them.

What you need to do is level the playing field so you're not so grossly outnumbered like our heroes from Game of Thrones, but you can still get the important things done. Ah yes, you may be wondering how our heroes fared. 

Well, (SPOILER ALERT)... they were rescued at the last minute by their own Queen Daenerys and her dragons. 

Game of Thrones Dragon Rescue.gif

Anyway, unless you have dragons, that's not an option. Instead, what you need are three things:

  • An inventory of demand by time period (The projects that need to be done, now and in the foreseeable future)
     
  • An inventory of supply by time period (Your people/teams and the hours they have available to work on projects)
     
  • An understanding of priorities (The relative importance of each project, since you won't be able to do everything)

With that triple threat of core data, you can then develop an "effort forecast" by assigning people or teams to projects, in priority sequence. It's as simple as that. 

Well, maybe not THAT simple because there are bound to be arguments over priority and who gets the resources, but that's why you have portfolio review meetings, to discuss constraints and make value-based decisions. See my interview with Ken Dobie for more on that.

Keep in mind, the priority doesn't have to be a sequential 1-n rank, especially if you have hundreds of projects; it can be in priority "groups" or bands (1000 are the "must dos", 2000s are next, etc.). You can always rank certain competing blocks of projects sequentially. But you must know the relative priority of the work you're being asked to take on.

The central principle here is: The most valuable bird gets the worm.  

In essence, by employing resource planning on a regular basis and always balancing prioritized demand with supply, you'll find that you can attack a much more realistic work portfolio and have a far greater chance of delivering it successfully. No dragons required.


For those interested, I'm co-hosting the PDWare Explorer free monthly webinar series with Paul Samarel, CTO at PDWare, where we'll be offering more valuable tips and techniques on resource and portfolio management. A partial product demo is also included, but in the context of the topics discussed. It's not a sales pitch. The next session is on Portfolio Delivery, Thursday, April 26th at 11am US EST. Click HERE for more information or to register for that or other monthly sessions. 


JB Manas - website photo.jpg

Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn 

Muddy Water in Your Resource Pool: When Bad Data Leads to Poor Resource Planning

Bad data meme.png

You’ve defined a good enough resource planning process, acquired some tools, trained all the participants, and launched the process, so you're home free, right?

Well, not quite. Even if all participants have good intentions and try to do the right thing, mistakes and misunderstandings can undermine data quality and integrity in significant ways, no matter how good your tools are.

Bad Data.gif

Don't let bad data pollute your planning process, and don't just let it "even out in the wash" like Dilbert's boss might suggest. Instead, incorporate regular diagnostics into your PMO routine prior to each portfolio review meeting, so you can address any issues beforehand.

Let's take a look at just a few simple diagnostics that can help avoid making ill-fated decisions based on bad data.

  • Forecasts Outside the Normal Threshold - Anyone can make a typo when entering effort forecasts, such as entering 2 FTEs instead of .2 FTEs for one or more periods. Most systems have thresholds where warning indicators can be set for upper and lower ranges, but often these are soft thresholds. Besides, a typo can be within the threshold but still wrong. A bad effort forecast leads to faulty utilization reports and incorrect resource plans. Having a diagnostic that shows any forecast outside the usual threshold is a good way to double check if the anomaly is correct.
     
  • Overdue Status or Timesheets - Projects with late timesheets or status updates can give false impressions of the real situation. A project with late timesheets or status updates may look more behind schedule than it is, and can lead to remediation steps that are unnecessary and sometimes even harmful to other projects.
     
  • Demand Out of Bounds - If you enter a top-down effort forecast and then the project's schedule changes (which often happens), it's easy to have a situation where the effort forecast (resource demand) is out of bounds of the project's current schedule. The ideal situation is for a project manager to work with the resource manager to reconcile any discrepancies between the project schedule and the effort forecast. Still, a report is a good early-warning system. If any forecasted effort is indeed out of bounds, demand is inflated for that excess period and you may mistakenly think you have problems with downstream or competing projects.
     
  • Assignments for Overallocated Resources - Did you really expect Mary to work 18 hours on Tuesday? Granted, this practice isn't always a data error; Some organizations enter resource assignments knowing full well that the resource is already overallocated. I can write a whole essay on why this is a bad idea, though admittedly there are exceptions to any rule. In any case, if you haven't configured your resource management system to proactively warn of (or color code) overallocations--and even if you have--it's a good idea to have a diagnostic report to show how prevalent this is, and to what extent. Otherwise, your resource plan could be quite unrealistic.
     
  • Projects with Unfilled Role/Skill Requests in the Current Period - As part of resource planning, many organizations first request the roles/skills needed for projects, then, as the time of need approaches, the role/skill assignments are replaced with named resources. Knowing how many projects have near-term needs that are still unfilled can be helpful in diagnosing staffing issues. Perhaps the project manager requested a skill that only exists in another part of the organization. Or perhaps the resource manager is being unresponsive. Some reasons are valid, while others aren't. Still, it's good to know where the situation exists.
     
  • Projects with Periods of No Demand - Except in the case of a built-in delay, projects should have resources staffed throughout the project lifecycle. If there's one or more reporting periods where there's no demand forecasted, it means you either have an understaffed project, an intentional delay, or the data isn't being updated. In any case, you'll want to know about it, and this diagnostic can help you keep projects moving along with adequate resource plans.

These are just a handful of diagnostic examples that can be useful. Most systems will have data validation and warnings, but even the best systems can allow mistakes and misunderstandings to creep in and pollute your data.

The right diagnostics, ideally run by the PMO prior to any portfolio review meetings, can help ensure your portfolio and resource planning decisions will be based on sound data.


For those interested, I'm co-hosting the PDWare Explorer free monthly webinar series with Paul Samarel, CTO at PDWare, where we'll be offering more valuable tips and techniques on resource and portfolio management. A partial product demo is also included, but in the context of the topics discussed. It's not a sales pitch. The next session is on Portfolio Delivery, Thursday, April 26th at 11am US EST. Click HERE for more information or to register for that or other monthly sessions. 


JB Manas - website photo.jpg

Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn 

Demystifying Portfolio Management Meetings - A Conversation with Ken Dobie

RPS+Attendees.jpg

At the Resource Planning Summit in Austin, Texas late last year, one of my fellow speakers was Ken Dobie, CEO of Skyemar Consulting, a strategy and project portfolio management consulting firm. 

At the event, Ken spoke eloquently and clearly, offering a practical blueprint for a recommended cadence for strategic and portfolio planning meetings, a topic often elusive to companies trying to mature in portfolio management.

Ken and I had a chance to chat briefly and he was gracious enough to provide an interview on the subject:

JM:  Ken, your presentation at the Resource Planning Summit, sponsored by PDWare, offered a practical blueprint for corporate planning and portfolio management meetings, and I thought our readers could benefit from some of the insights.

First, as we know, companies have traditionally held annual strategic and operating planning meetings, and perhaps quarterly reviews, but the trend seems to be toward a more frequent, cascading set of meetings covering strategy, operations, resource planning, and prioritization. I know you spoke about this at the event. Could you offer a high level view of what collection of meetings you feel is the "sweet spot" and what the cadence should be?

KD: Yes, I believe an optimal corporate planning process should include three distinct yet linked objectives. 

The first is an annual strategic planning process involving senior management to develop high-level priorities, all things considered, articulated in a strategic plan document. 

Second, tactical priorities from the strategic plan are translated into corporate goals aligned with the top goals of senior management and cascaded throughout the organization. These goals are prepared on an annual basis and reviewed quarterly at an appropriate high-level business review forum. 

Third, new product development roadmaps should be drafted on an annual basis aligned to overall corporate strategy, while prioritization and allocation of resources should be managed quarterly in a dedicated high-level forum. Depending on the size and complexity of the product development pipeline, monthly portfolio reviews provide the opportunity for more granular management of issues that inevitably arise.

The capabilities outlined above is a lot, but it can be developed and implemented in a modular fashion, assuming first and foremost that senior management is bought into the value and ready to invest the necessary time and resources.

JM:  So we're talking annual strategic and product roadmap planning; tactical operational planning tied to the overall goals; quarterly prioritization and resource allocation; and monthly portfolio reviews. I've even seen companies hold granular reviews bi-weekly to address exceptions. Of course, people sometimes complain that the portfolio review meetings feel like "groundhog day," where they revisit the same list of projects and issues at every meeting, but that's another story we can talk about later. First, do you have any recommendations as to the most efficient way to run the quarterly portfolio review meetings?  

KD: Quarterly portfolio reviews should be limited to presentation of ongoing projects that warrant discussion and new projects awaiting prioritization in the coming quarter. Avoid any general updates on projects that are running fine and don’t warrant discussion – this just wastes time and dilutes the focus. This way everything is fresh and pertinent. 

JM: It takes quite bit just to keep that focus on prioritization and resources. People are tempted to throw everything but the kitchen sink into those meetings.

KD: They need to avoid that. A quarterly portfolio management meeting tasked with prioritization and resource allocation is challenging enough, often involving extensive (and sometimes passionate) debate and requires considerable pre-work to prepare. These quarterly meetings can take 2-plus hours as it is, involving heavy hitters throughout the organization, dependent of course on the company and portfolio size. I always recommend that these quarterly meetings be limited to the topic of prioritization and resource allocation - that in itself is huge. 

JM: Absolutely. What about the flow of the meeting? Do you see any best practices?

KD: The quarterly meetings should ideally begin with an overview of the total portfolio status from a centralized function, with an emphasis on the total resource supply/demand model. This can be followed by each business area presenting:

(1) a summary of their current project priorities based on a set of metrics, and

(2) their subset of the projects [ongoing and new] warranting discussion. 

The last part of the meeting should involve some form of dynamic portfolio modelling based on project priorities and resource allocation to arrive at a balanced resource supply/demand scenario. This will involve some projects being prioritized, with others receiving less resources or deferred until resources become available. A successful outcome of these quarterly reviews is agreement on priorities with sustainable resource allocation.    

JM: This makes good sense, especially limiting discussion to items needing decisions and new projects awaiting prioritization in the context of the overall portfolio. And unless you have the big picture of the whole supply/demand model, it's hard to make on-the-spot decisions. I'm glad you mentioned including all businesses areas, so tradeoffs can be discussed right there as needed. 

KD: Absolutely. That's exactly the purpose of the quarterly reviews, along with resource allocation. Usually, an organization's development pipeline comprises projects from more than one business area. It’s up to each business area to prioritize their own projects which is coordinated via an annual portfolio road-map planning process. And usually an organization has some or mostly shared resources across business areas. Hence, a quarterly portfolio prioritization and resource allocation forum is necessary to prioritize projects within and across business areas and to manage the allocation of resources.   

JM: These meetings can get quite contentious.

KD: Yes they can. When it comes to the quarterly meetings where resource constraints usually have to be managed across business areas, each GM can make their case for their respective projects and priorities. But this forum is where corporate priorities are set, so business areas might have their priorities adjusted (though it's not all that common). More likely, they won't get as many projects into the pipeline as they'd wish due to competing forces.

JM: I think organizations have to realize that capacity is always finite, aside from minor staff augmentation, so what they really have to focus on is demand prioritization, which is often a hard pill to swallow. 

Okay, so we talked  about the quarterly meetings. Where do you find the monthly reviews most useful? How would you say they differ from the quarterly meetings, for instance?

KD: Monthly portfolio review meetings are useful for organizations with a large and complex development pipeline. While the purpose of the quarterly reviews is focused on project prioritization [within and across business areas] and resource allocation, monthly reviews provide a forum for more granular management of project-specific issues like: 

  • Is the project getting sufficient resources to meet specifications or timeline?
  • Are there technical challenges warranting discussion?
  • Is the schedule on track?
  • Is the program within budget or has the revenue forecast changed?
  • Is the commercial organization ready for launch? 

The monthly portfolio meetings are also useful for certain housekeeping activities, like making business area leads speak to any new projects that may have been created, identifying projects overdue for a phase exit review, projects that are overdue to exit the development pipeline, and review of action items from the previous monthly meeting. 

While the monthly reviews help manage the portfolio, this process is separate from core project-specific deep dive phase-gate reviews that can occur weekly for projects in the pipeline ready for phase exit review. So, quarterly, monthly and weekly forums have different purposes.

JM: So you're saying they're more tactical and exception-based, zeroing in on project issues for crucial projects, which may also include resource issues. That jives with what I've seen as well, though I do see a trend toward doing interim prioritization and resource allocation adjustments at the monthly meetings as well, or even biweekly as I mentioned, but it depends on the size and complexity of the organization. I think the key here in any case is not to get bogged down in project details. For that, there are the project and program steering meetings and gate reviews, like you mention, which may surface resource issues of their own. 

KD: Yes, and in many cases it can take up to an hour just to run a stage gate or steering meeting well and involves a deep dive into the core team's diligence and many aspects of project (and even product) management. Often resource and other issues do arise, and these can be either handled or represented as needed in the next portfolio review. 

JM: So either way, there's an element of stage gate meeting decisions that may get deferred to the portfolio review meetings, but it's exception-based. A complaint I often hear is that waiting for the next review causes delays.

KD: A counter argument is that it may indeed cause delays, but in reality the people sitting at the table for a project phase exit review are often the same people at the quarterly portfolio review. So, some decisions can be made at the stage gate meeting, but others would need to wait for the portfolio review.

JM: That sounds like a practical approach. Okay, so we've talked about the annual, quarterly, and monthly meetings and how they differ. Now let's talk tactics for a minute regarding the quarterly prioritization reviews, realizing that there may also be mid-cycle priority adjustments as needed. In any case, when it comes to prioritizing projects, do you recommend ranking 1-n every project in the portfolio, or do you feel it's better to have banded priorities and only go to the sequential 1-n level for a targeted group (maybe the top ten or where there are conflicts)? I've seen cases made for both, but the latter has always seemed more efficient in most instances.

KD: It depends on the number of projects. For example, if there were just 5 - 10 projects then I think a group of executives would have a reasonable chance at agreeing on a granular prioritized list. However, if there are more than 10 projects, granular prioritization will become more challenging. Instead, I’ve found it extremely useful to divide the development pipeline into 4 levels of priority. 

The first are the top projects that everyone agrees must get done and warrant allocation of the resources they need to meet project specifications and the development timeline. These are projects with significant forecasted revenue and/or impact on execution of the organization's mission. 

The second group are projects that are considered very important, but, in a crunch, they may experience some resource tradeoffs in favor of projects in the top tier. 

The third tier are lower priority projects in which any delay will not have as much of an effect on the execution of the overall corporate strategy and therefore there is more flexibility in the development timeline. 

The fourth tier are projects that may get deferred or delayed if resources are limited. 

The four definitions above are illustrative and can be tailored to an organization’s preference – the main point is that some form of bucketing into project priority groups is very useful for functional managers to prioritize their resources appropriately.

In summary, for a business area with a few projects, granular prioritization is appropriate to justify resources. At the portfolio level, where multiple business areas and shared resources are involved, a tiered approach works well.  

JM: Ken, thanks. That's a pragmatic model to follow and allows focusing on groups of priorities strategically, and more granular prioritization where needed. Any last words of advice?

KD: For those new to this, they should keep in mind that it may seem overwhelming with respect to layers and nuance, but Rome wasn't built in a day, and what I'm describing are processes developed and refined over years that can scale to support a multi-billion dollar organization comprising multiple business areas. For anyone taking this on I recommend a modular approach addressing the low hanging fruit first. 

When done well, these processes add tremendous value to an organization's ability to execute and can be a competitive advantage. Given the investment of time needed to design and implement the above, and the value of getting an effective portfolio management process in place, I also recommend employing some experienced outside council to help catalyze and implement any necessary evolution.

JM: That's sound advice for sure, keeping things simple and maturing from there, and of course having experienced guidance. I think a key takeaway here is that continuous planning, while important, isn't about repeating the same process more frequently. It's about adopting a proper cadence, with each tier having a defined purpose, and having each tier work in an integrated fashion.

KD: Yes, that's exactly the point. 

JM: Ken, this has been extremely enlightening, as I knew it would be. I appreciate your time. I think this will bring great value to our readers, as it's a perennial topic of interest.

KD: You're quite welcome.

For information on how PDWare's ResourceFirst software supports the portfolio planning cycle, click HERE.


JB Manas - website photo.jpg

Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn 

So You've Been Asked to Implement Resource Planning. Now what?

ownership.jpg

One question I hear a lot is:

I've been asked to implement resource planning in my organization, but I'm not quite sure what that means or where to begin. 

A related question I often hear is:

Who should own resource planning in an organization?

I'll start with the second question because it's simple.  SOMEONE! Anyone!

While, there's no set standard or rule, or even a standard practice, the most common practice I see is someone in the PMO (Project Management Office) owning this role. It's best if this can be a permanent role. In fact, in multiple benchmark studies I provided analysis on (run by Appleseed Partners from 2014 to 2016), having someone own the resource management process was one of the top factors in resource planning success.

A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.
— Lao Tzu

So let's say you've been given the keys to the kingdom of resource management or resource planning. Where do you begin? 

Here are six functions generally performed by a resource management process owner:

  1. Define the process, tools, and maturity path - Work with PMO staff to define the process for resource planning that would work best in your organization.

    For example, you may define a process that includes a high level capacity review when a proposed project is assessed for priority and spend within the portfolio, having the project owner(s) create a high level effort forecast at the skill level (ideally in concert with resource managers). Then when the project is scheduled and authorized, a more detailed effort forecast with named resource assignments for the near horizon can be requested by the project manager and approved by the respective resource managers. You may have project managers then enter task assignments for several weeks out, reconciling that with the effort forecast.

    You will also need to determine if time capture is needed, and at what level. You may need to determine how non-project time will be captured as well (usually through "bucket" projects or overhead categories if your system allows for it).

    Of course, doing all this on individual spreadsheets is near impossible, especially considering the need for an integrated process and real-time data. So be sure to have an effective PPM or resource planning system that meets your needs and is easy to implement and use.
     
  2. Gain Management Buy-in - To make the resource planning ecosystem run effectively, it's best if the resource managers own the effort forecasts for their staff, and that project assignment requests are vetted jointly by project and resource managers. After all, the resource managers are often the only ones with the big picture of what their people should be working on, not to mention what's coming down the pike for their staff. The project manager typically only has a view of their project's needs.

    To make this work and avoid resistance, management buy-in is vital. Thus, whoever owns the resource management process should ideally be a good communicator and influencer, and a champion for the process. Gaining management buy-in often requires articulating the issues with poor visibility and lack of planning, and how having this data will enable better decisions, faster time-to-market, and fewer firefights.
     
  3. Facilitate Data Building - The resource management process requires resource data such as location, cost-center, role, skills and proficiencies, capacity, resource type, and more, depending on your organization and the capabilities you want to be able to achieve. This may mean entering the data from scratch, or more often, importing it from one or more systems. The resource management process owner should lead this effort (which doesn't necessarily mean "performing it") and make sure the organization has the data it needs to make decisions.
     
  4. Monitor Adoption - If resource managers aren't responding to project managers' resource requests; if people aren't entering timesheets; or if effort forecasts are lacking assignments, your organization will be making decisions based on limited or false data. Thus, the resource management process owner should be sure to have diagnostic views and implement notifications as needed to ensure the data is being captured.

    Most important of all is to ensure that the reports and system are being used in portfolio and resource planning meetings. If management is using the data to make decisions, that's the number one factor that'll drive adoption. If they're not, then why should anyone else bother entering data?
     
  5. Report on Capacity and Demand - Through a PPM or resource planning system, the resource management process owner (and generally the PMO) possesses the "big picture" view of capacity vs. demand in the organization. These reports should be made available to management in different views, for instance, showing: Which skills are under or over capacity in the organization? Which business units or platforms are getting the resources they need and which aren't? How does the resource distribution match up to organizational priorities and strategies? And more.
     
  6. Recommend Sourcing and Staffing Strategies - With the full power of the system, widespread adoption, and armed with capacity and demand reports, the resource management process owner is in a position to be able to recommend staffing and sourcing strategies, possibly finding untapped skills within the organization, recommending external resources for certain areas to meet swings in demand, pointing out trouble spots that could benefit from alternate staffing, and so on. In this sense, the role is like a good concierge to the rest of the organization in terms of staffing, and especially to Human Resources.

If that sounds like a lot, it is. But you can start simple, with just the basic process, data loading, and adoption checks, and evolve to the rest. Keep the process simple and make sure it fits the culture of your organization. Avoid over-configuring your tools, start with high level resource forecasting, and be sure to gain management buy-in by articulating the benefits (and the risks of inaction). 

51g4R8gfZNL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

For more on this topic, I included a chapter in my book The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook called: "Who's in Charge Here? Ownership of the Process". To learn more about the book, click HERE.

 


JB Manas - website photo.jpg

Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn 

15 Reasons Your Resources Are Working on the Wrong Stuff

fast-paced-world.jpg

Isn't it funny how there always seems to be resource shortages for your most critical projects? Okay, well maybe not that funny. It's actually a fairly frequent sad story.

Everyone's busy trying to do their planned tasks, and then a million interruptions come their way. A phone call here. An urgent project there. Sometimes they get distracted by their own pet projects. The planned work they do have ends up taking longer than expected, and before you know it, they're trying to juggle more balls than your average clown.

In an organization where strategies and priorities aren't well connected to execution, it's even worse.

Well, it’s full speed, baby... in the wrong direction.
— Alanis Morissette

Here are 15 reasons why your resources may be working on the wrong stuff:

  1. Project Priorities aren't defined - If your projects aren't regularly prioritized within the portfolio, it's hard to know their relative value to the organization. It all must begin here.

  2. Effort Forecasts don't consider project priority - Effort forecasts are a way of assigning weekly skill or named resource needs at a project level over the upcoming three to six months. These should be assigned in project priority order, so that higher priority projects get first dibs.

  3. Organizational Strategies aren't defined - Much like priorities, if organizational strategies aren't defined, it's hard to make the connection between project priorities and organizational goals. It's the next link in the chain to organizational strategy.

  4. Strategies and priorities haven't been communicated - Having a clear set of organizational strategies and underlying project priorities aren't as effective if project and resource managers and their respective staff aren't keenly aware of them. Keep the information flowing for better alignment.

  5. Projects and programs aren't mapped to strategies - Mapping programs and projects to strategies gives visibility into how they're performing against strategy. It's the central foundation of good strategy execution and connects the top-down and bottom-up views.

  6. Resource assignments are disconnected from effort forecasts - As projects begin execution, project managers assign resources to tasks. If these task assignments aren't reconciled with the high level effort forecast (see point #2), it opens up a plethora of blind spots in the forecast, leaving resource managers and senior management scratching their heads as to what went wrong.

    Note: A resource histogram should show any discrepancies between the top-down forecasts and bottom-up assignments, and exceptions can be discussed between the project and resource manager.

  7. Priorities are ignored when change happens - Let's face it. Change is a constant. While emergencies do come up and managers constantly generate new ideas and needs (some market-driven), there still needs to be a way to assess each new request within the overall portfolio, evaluating its impact to the effort forecast. If other projects need to shift to make room, so be it, but at least it should be a conscious decision, even if it's a fast-tracked thinking exercise.

  8. Projects run late, robbing downstream projects of valuable resources - Late projects tie up valuable resources. Better estimates can help, but projects are late for a variety of other reasons as well, not the least of which is resource availability (which, itself, is often impacted by---you guessed it---other late projects). 

  9. Capacity isn't considered during portfolio intake and planning - If new projects are approved and scheduled without evaluating available capacity, those projects run a risk of overbooking already maxed-out resources, causing a domino effect of late projects.

  10. Multitasking is Excessive - Lack of capacity planning leads to overloaded resources, and multitasking adds insult to injury. There's been much written about the negative effects of multi-tasking, yet many organizations still view it as a badge of honor ("Johnny can manage twenty large projects with his eyes closed!").

    The truth is, each project you add to a project manager's workload reduces his/her productivity by 25%. It's not hard to do the math. If people are multitasking, they're not focused on high value work, period.

  11. There's a lack of visibility into all types of demand - Projects are only one type of demand. When all is said and done, after people spend time on emails, firefighting, staff meetings, support calls, "keep the lights on" work, and short breaks, there's very little time left for project work. Planning for all types of demand allows more control and predictability over priorities and project portfolio forecasts.

  12. There's no process for resolving competing priorities - Constrained resources often get pulled between competing projects by different business units. It helps to have a cross-business forum for addressing constraints and clarifying priorities, as well as an escalation process if needed. Otherwise, the higher value project may inadvertently suffer.

  13. People aren't aligned with their strengths - If a resource isn't working to their best strengths, then he or she is working inefficiently, which is as bad as working on the wrong stuff. As Robert Heinlein said, "Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig." By tracking resource proficiencies and skills, you can not only make sure people are working to their strengths, you may even find untapped available skills in unexpected parts of your organization. 

  14. Resource managers are out of the loop - Resource managers are in the best position to know what their people should be working on, and should own the effort forecast. Some companies try to keep resource managers out of the loop, citing that they're "too busy" to check effort forecasts or approve assignment requests. This is a fundamental mistake, as tight management of effort forecasts are the best way to avoid chaos and overload. 

  15. Project and resource managers don't communicate - Project managers tend to schedule their project phases, tasks, and milestones and think in terms of duration and its impact on the schedule. Resource managers and their staff tend to think in terms of overall effort distribution.  It's important for all parties to communicate regularly so as to balance project priorities with resource workloads. Every organization is an ecosystem. To treat each area in a disjointed fashion creates gaps in strategy execution.

In summary, to help increase the odds that your resources are working on the right stuff, be sure to connect strategy, project priorities, top-down effort forecasts, and bottom up project task assignments on an ongoing basis.

Be aware of non-project work that can consume your people's time, try to minimize multi-tasking, and align people with their strengths.

Last, but not least, always consider capacity when taking on new work, even for fast-tracked emergency projects.

Collectively, the results will be fewer firefights, faster time-to-market, more engaged people, greater focus, and higher productivity. And who can argue with that?


JB Manas - website photo.jpg

Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn