Three Requirements for Effective Resource Demand Planning in a Digital Age

Author: Ian Needs

In a recent article in the Computer Business Review, survey respondents in the UK said that lack of understanding of agile practices by senior management is the biggest hurdle to overcome when adopting agile PM among IT organizations.

In the same piece, the author cites a Software Advice survey which “found that 48% of project managers surveyed use agile software primarily for projects not related to software development; 90% of respondents say workflow tracking improves efficiency more than any other agile functionality.”

In talking to both IT- and non-IT clients, we have found that workflow tracking might indeed mean improved efficiency—but the main differentiator in successful agile PM is resource demand planning. In addition, communications and change management programs for project sponsors that include complete visibility and a clearly-marked resource allocation paths work extraordinarily well in educating these executives on the need for agile PM and its potential impact to the bottom line.

We might all agree: To navigate digital innovations in IT or in non-digital businesses, you need effective, iterative PM practices to move your investments forward. In an “all businesses are IT businesses” environment, agile PM must rule the day. Yet how do you best manage resource demand in these non-traditional portfolios, let's concentrate on the top three characteristics you need to ensure you are well-equipped to educate and execute on agile PM.

1) Automated change handling

Agile PM is characterized by changing direction and scope on a dime. Once you have the appropriate tool to manage these projects, no unpleasant surprises and more flexibility ensue.

2) Visibility into all aspects of resource deployment

One of our clients, a professional services company, wanted to create more visibility in its portfolio, especially in regard to resource allocation. In agile PM, complete visibility is paramount—otherwise, iterative goals can’t be monitored appropriately. These “mini-milestones” are sometimes the only way IT PMs and PMOs can gauge the current success of their agile projects. When you have ten or twelve such projects constantly moving to pull resources, visibility will become an imperative. 

3) A long-term resource demand planning strategy supported by a centralized system

Suppose that you have a clear picture of the workflow required for each agile project in your portfolio. Further, you might possess the resources to see all of these projects through to completion. However, our experience has shown that if you don’t have a cohesive view of the relationships between the projects and how they support your overall resource demand planning strategy—and by extension, your business goals—you will never have the power to move from strictly waterfall-based behaviors. Our clients are crestfallen when they report: Waterfall-based behaviors won’t work anymore in an increasingly agile environment. A centralized system is the only way they have found to support a holistic view of resource demand; forge a way to manage competing and contrasting workflows; and, finally, obtain a complete picture of the inherent business value and opportunities for innovation in your portfolio. Without these, your agile projects will flounder and your resources will always be stretched thin—or possibly, break down.