- Resource allocation, assignment, and overall management are critical facets of project management.
- The first step of the allocation process is the identification of the resources required to complete your project: what, who, how much/how many/how long, and when;
- Once this is done, you need to come up with practical responses to these requirements by selecting the specific resources that will be assigned to your project activities. This demands a solid understanding of both the attributes and the availability of your various resources.
- Maximizing the utilization rate of your resources is a key competitive requirement for your business.
- Managing human resources requires more than just making calculations on paper: subjective and interpersonal dynamics, which require a broader approach, are at work.
The deployment and management of a resource base is a key part of a successful Project Portfolio Management strategy. In fact, optimizing the utilization and allocation of limited resources (talent, funding, productive resources, and equipment) is a challenge for many project-oriented companies, because it is a delicate balancing act that requires coordinating multiple variables.
This four-step article provides information and advice to help you improve the process for allocating and assigning resources across projects, with a focus on human resources (as the integration of the human factor adds a layer of complexity to the resource management discipline).
The resource allocation process starts by identifying the various types of resources needed for the different project activities. This requires determining and mobilizing the necessary roles and skills for the project. For example, a website construction project would typically involve a programmer, a designer, a copywriter, an SEO expert, and possibly a photographer.
In addition to that role-based assessment, you need to take a quantitative approach to the collection of resource requirements. In other words, you have to determine the quantities, amount, and skill level of the resources to ensure the successful completion of the initiative.
To this end, you need to estimate the expected duration of activities (e.g. 40 man-hours for programming, 3 days for design). This assessment should allow for the various risk factors that might come and derail the original plans. After phasing and sequencing the various activities, all you have to do is schedule the required resources in your project calendar — and voilà! You’ve completed phase 1.
While it is common practice to perform “soft” resource assignments (i.e. earmarking a generic role based on a set of attributes instead of assigning a specific, named resource) at the outset of the project planning process, there eventually comes a time where you do need to identify the specific workers or the specific equipment needed to complete your project activities. The challenge here is to make sure that the right resources with the right skills are available at the right time to complete the tasks in your project schedule.
This requires detailed visibility into your resource pool: ideally, you should maintain a data repository consolidating all the information associated with your resources and providing the ability to sort and filter by multiple attributes (for example, role, level of experience, skills, organization/function, location etc.) This will enable you to make sure that the resource specifications are met for each and every activity.
The other essential piece of information you’ll need in order to match your requirements with specific resources is their availability. You need to know who is working on what and when. It is key for you to be able to know instantly what other activities a resource might be working on to prevent utilization conflicts (that is, the issues that arise when several Projects Managers are vying to get the same resources at the same time).
Armed with this knowledge of resource qualifications and availability, you can select and book named resources to work on your project.
Productive resources — whether human, technical or financial — don’t come for free which means that unutilized or under-utilized resources are tantamount to a waste of money. On the one hand, in order to maximize value from labor expenses and technology investments, it is critical to ensure that your resources don’t stay idle. This is all the more important for rare, critical or strategic resources, which can be quite costly.
On the other hand, it is equally essential not to overburden your human resources: overworking your people is hardly the way to go to retain top talent and boost morale. So you need to fine-tune allocations and assignments in such a way that resources work at the optimal utilization rate — and not more. To strike that balance, a PPM software platform with dedicated resource management capabilities and support for scenario simulations will come very in handy. Optimizing resource utilization will boost productivity and enable you to complete more projects for a given level of investment.
When it comes to successful allocation and assignment of human resources, solving mathematical equations doesn’t quite cut it. First of all, workers who have the same attributes on paper might actually not be of equal worth and use to you. Different talents will prove to be more or less reliable, more or less creative, more or less people-oriented. Soft skills are among the resource attributes that are often overlooked by traditional resource management systems and processes. However, they are of key importance to the successful completion of project work.
Which brings us to a second key criterion: team dynamics. When building your project team, you need to consider your workers’ ability to collaborate well as a group, based both on skill complementarity and natural or cultural affinities. A positive team spirit can also be nurtured and fostered through team-building programs and initiatives, and more generally through effort to establish a collaboration-conducive work environment where diversity is valued and where constructive feedback is listened to and rewarded.
This will definitely help you build and manage teams of highly efficient resources and boost the efficiency and outcomes of your project activity.
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