“Our people make the difference,” is now a somewhat cliché statement that’s been used by thousands of companies over the years to convey the importance of their employees in delivering stellar products or services. Cliché though it may be, the statement is perhaps even more accurate when applied to portfolio management and the delivery of strategic initiatives. All the planning in the world will not result in success unless the right people are applied to a project at the right time. Where businesses put their people, their resources, and how they measure them is the most accurate indicator of what a company will become. Unfortunately, for many project management offices (PMOs) and the executives they support, capacity and resource planning are essentially corporate black holes that useful data can rarely escape. Questions like, “What are our people working on?” and “How many resources are available for this initiative?” require loads of manual reporting to even arrive at a rough estimate. But there is a better way. Companies and PMOs that effectively leverage project portfolio management (PPM) software – not simple project or task management, but a system that supports top-down planning – can use it to deliver flexible capacity and resource planning. Here are three ways PPM software enables PMOs to be more flexible and responsive with their resources:
According to the analyst firm Gartner, without effective capacity planning, “organizations tend to overestimate the amount of capacity available in their resource pool and overcommit resources for pending initiatives.” In turn, “insisting that initiatives start on time when the right resources aren’t available can actually extend the end date of a four-month initiative to as long as a year” (Gartner, Resource Capacity Planning for PPM Leaders: Crawl Before You Walk, Nov. 1, 2019). PPM software with integrated capacity planning mitigates this risk, but providing a simple, comprehensive view of resource capacity vs. demand. Done right, capacity planning will not just look at the raw number of resources available, but also the need for specialized roles or skillsets, to ensure the PMO doesn’t fall into the trap of overcommitment.
What-if scenario modeling is a key capability that tends to separate real PPM solutions from simple work and task management. With it, the PMO can deliver flexible capacity and resource planning by creating various scenarios based on changes in the market or strategic shifts within the company. This approach allows them to create any number of portfolio permutations to take into account the impact on resources if a sudden shift in portfolio priorities is required. For resource planning, scenario modeling is akin to taking a test drive of several vehicles before purchasing one. In both situations, “buyers” can have a much higher level of confidence their decisions will lead to success, because they’ve compared a variety of viable options before proceeding.
Though some PMOs leave the assignment of specific resources, according to their resource plan, to each individual team, others handle both the top-down planning and bottom-up assignments. For the latter, the right PPM software makes the allocation of resources quick and simple. Resources can easily be directly scheduled for short-term engagements, as well as allocated to project tasks based on their skills, job role and availability. What’s more, effective PPM software lets you make role-based assignments to project tasks in order to submit a request for resources. With a PPM solution in place, the PMO will have complete visibility into the status of resourcing across all of their projects, including chargeable and productive utilization, conflicts, and shortfalls, as well as time-on-the-bench.
Flexible Capacity and Resource Planning
The pace of change in business is accelerating. What is a healthy, thriving business one week can suddenly be thrust into a fight for survival based on unforeseen political, global health, economic or environmental changes. In order to meet these changes and succeed, mid-sized and large companies must be able to flexibly and accurately alter resource plans at a moment’s notice – ensuring the right people are assigned to the most pressing projects. The right PPM software provides the flexibility by empowering the PMO to effectively plan capacity, model different scenarios, and quickly and correctly allocate resources.
Back to Mastering Resource Capacity Planning.
Rachel Hentges is challenging PMO leaders to think differently about their role. Rachel is the author of key industry related surveys, reports, blogs and more that challenge the status quo of today’s PMOs.