How to Improve PMO Resource Planning

Author: Lindsey Marymont

A step by step guide to prioritizing your people

PMO resource planning is an ever growing concern for any project management office (PMO) leader. You are not alone if you find yourself consistently finding you have more approved projects than resources to complete them, do not have adequate resource skills to fulfill demand, and resource are constantly being pulled onto more “important” work deemed so by executives causing your project to be delayed. Resource planning, the process of coordinating and allocating named resources to projects, is not as simple as it sounds; it requires intricate knowledge of what is being required and who is the ideal person to complete the task to achieve utopia right person, right project, right time.

But allocating resources doesn’t have to seem like such a daunting task, and you can, indeed, get the best person assigned to projects at any given time. It requires a slick combination of tools and support, but can be done. Here are 5 ways to get there.

1. Focus 

If you read nothing else, this is the most important. Focus on projects with the highest priority. We know this is not easy and a topic in itself, so if you don’t know which projects are the highest priority, go do that first and come back to resource planning once you have identified that. Stack rank them, score them, star them, somehow distinguish the must-do’s from the nice-to-have’s so you can get started. 

Once you have your list of prioritized projects, then you can go about assessing your resource pool. What skills are in short supply, who are your utility players, and who do you need to work with to ensure you have buy-in. Establish bottlenecks early - if you know a certain skill is always in high demand, make a note of that and plan for what could be filled in. This isn’t always an option, but sometimes you can get by. Quickly resolve or escalate any staffing delays you uncover.

2. Understanding

One sometimes less-anticipated obstacle of resource planning is the dynamic between PMs and RMs - while project managers care about projects, resource managers will naturally be more concerned with their people. Collaboration between these two roles is key, and working out any procedure here will go a long way. There are also some artificial constraints or legacy processes that may be able to be eliminated, but in the end this relationship will be critical to the success of your resource plan. It is important for the project managers and the resource managers to confirm the latest:

  • Project goals & objectives
  • Project risks
  • State date flexibility
  • Project float/slack
  • Work plan alternatives
  • Staffing plan alternatives
  • Competency vs. role requirements.

3. Know Your Supply
Supply is about more than just availability and skills, but accounts for soft skills, personal preferences, and relationships. If certain people work well together it is good to make a note of that, if resources have a preference for a specific working style (onsite, remote, etc) it is important to know that to maximize output and effort. Gather information to understand true capacity before moving forward with a resource plan.

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4. Look Beyond Hard Skills
It has been mentioned a few times now the importance of soft skills, but it stands as it’s own best practice too. Soft skills are incredibly important in factoring in the value and promise of a resource plan. Most systems and plans account for hard skills - technical areas of expertise - to be able to assign resources. But that isn’t good enough, especially when dealing with people. If you want to get the right person on the right job, soft skills are just as (if not more) important than hard skills. Latest RMI research confirms the lack of soft skills tracking in the 2019 Skills Tracking and Management Survey. Soft skills are not easy to track and are often subjective, but the more data you can capture, the better chance you have at getting a successful resource allocation plan.


5. Soft Allocate & Iterate
A soft booking allows you to “reserve” or ear-mark resources without formal approval or commitment. This allows you to create a working plan and get everything in place and start to bridge the gap between a role-base requirement and a named resource plan. This also opens the door for discussion prior to making a formal plan and having to revise later. Soft booking is helpful even when you don’t have a formal resource management tool and can save time in later resource requests.

Resource planning in an intricate process and has always been a challenge for both project and resource managers alike. But as challenging as it is, it is equally important to create a resource plan. Hopefully these five steps will guide you on your resource planning journey and help you create a resource plan built to last.

For a more in-depth look at these five functions, take a look at the on-demand webinar, Prioritize Your People: Best Practices for Allocating Resources from KeyedIn.