Who Should Own the Resource Effort Forecast?

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There’s no doubt about it. Someone needs to have a general idea of who’s scheduled to do what in the organization, at least for the near term future. Otherwise, how can you know whether you have the capacity to take on new work? Or even whether already scheduled work will have all the people it needs to be completed on time?

A question I often get asked is: Who should be responsible for owning the resource effort forecast? The short answer is usually the respective resource managers (AKA the functional managers).

After all, the project managers are only concerned with their own project, not the other work the resource has scheduled. The resources themselves know what they're currently scheduled for, but perhaps not what's coming down the pike. Only the resource/functional managers have the full picture and responsibility (ideally with input from ther resourcea AND from the respective project managers) of what their staff will be allocated to.

This seems a simple answer on the surface, but as we dig deeper, there are variables to consider.

If you're looking at the effort forecast for a specific project, the project manager has the best picture of what's needed on the project, though the resource typically has the most accurate assessment of the effort that will be required. So this must be a collaboration between the project manager and the resource.

Then, with project manager and resource in alignment on what's needed for the project, the resource manager must then either approve the resource assignment request or at the least, review it to see if there are any discrepancies with what else may be coming up. Once again, a dialogue may be necessary between the project manager, the resource, and the resource manager. It truly does take a village to do resource planning properly. It is best not done in a vacuum.

People also often ask me what the best tool is for addressing these discrepancies. And my answer is always: the telephone. Or better yet, discussing face-to-face, though a good resource planning tool should help facilitate the effort with good visibility of the resource needs and the impact on other work .

I'll quote none other than Charles Dickens, who, way ahead of his time, said, "Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with their soul encourages another person to be brave and true."

Not that you need to be particularly brave to solve a resource staffing issue, but you get the idea.

Now, some of you who are Agile aficionados may have steam coming out of your ears with the idea of a functional manager setting schedules for the resources. And you would be correct. After all, a self-led team can create their own schedule based on what's in the backlog and what can be delivered within their team’s sprint/release schedule. And in a Scaled Agile Framework environment, Agile Release Trains have a repetitive schedule where continuous value is being delivered on an ongoing basis for a given functional area.

You’re starting to get the picture why I say the answer to who should own the resource forecast can be complex.

Even with all that in mind, in an environment with mixed Agile and traditional methods (or even a pure Agile environment), senior management generally still wants to know where their money and resource budget is going. If people are assigned to teams, and teams are assigned to projects, it still helps to use both of those factors to extrapolate an effort forecast across the project (or product) portfolio. Then it doesn't matter which projects are Agile and which are Waterfall. You have the big picture of your staffing needs (ideally by skill) in your organization, along with where you have shortages.

Even in a mostly Agile environment, if your people report to functional managers and are "lent" to Agile teams, then the answer still holds that the functional managers should be involved in the overall forecast, working in conjunction with the respective product or project managers. If the people are full time on Agile teams, the point is moot, and the resource/functional manager isn't applicable.

I'd love to hear from you. How does your organization address the ownership of resource effort forecast? What if you're an Agile shop? How is the staffing situation addressed?


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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.


PDWare is a pioneer in resource planning software, offering intuitive resource planning tools to drive your work portfolio based on your people's capacity. PDWare believes that good strategy execution, portfolio management, and project delivery begins with a solid foundation of resource planning. PDWare is a proud sponsor of the Resource Planning Summit, the premier resource planning conference.