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

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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). 

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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.

 


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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