Effective project portfolio resource management is a key way for organizations to streamline operations and improve business outcomes. A company’s human resources — and their valuable skills and contributions — are tangible assets that are critical for optimal functionality. As with any other asset, it is only natural that proper management of these resources, a task typically managed by the organization’s PMO, would translate into greater returns over time. Today, one of the most powerful strategies businesses and their PMOs are deploying to improve their resource and capacity planning is the implementation of Agile principles.

The Benefits of Resource and Capacity Planning

How is resource and capacity management helpful in advancing business goals? In a recent KeyedIn “Ask the Experts” video titled The Keys to Effective Capacity Planning, KeyedIn principal product expert Colin Gibbins likened it to building a road in front of your team that allows them to continue traveling forward even as they work on current initiatives.

“Capacity planning is about building enough road to drive down so that you have the right number of people available and you are not constantly fighting exceptions,”. He adds that such planning requires that PMOs examine all timeframes, budgets and resource options to understand just how much “road” they’ll need to lay out. We’ll examine this concept more in a moment, but first, let’s examine the “exceptions” to which Gibbins is referring.

Resource conflicts — the “exceptions” Gibbins mentions briefly in the video — can cost an organization in several ways. For example, a delayed project due to a resource shortage could cost a company a valuable client. Alternatively, resources that have been stretched thin due to mismanagement of their capacity might quit, taking their mindshare and skills with them. The latter is particularly costly when you consider how much time it takes to onboard an employee, train them, advance their skillsets and continue their education. Your human resources truly are assets and when one of them leaves, it can be as impactful as the shutdown of critical machinery — and just as expensive.

These are just two examples of how costly poor resource management can be. Compounded over time, it could be disastrous for a company. For these reasons, and many others, many PMOs have become laser-focused on improving their resourcing methodologies through the implementation of Agile principles.

Why Agile?

How do Agile principles facilitate improved resourcing? Let’s travel back (pun intended) to Gibbins’ road analogy from earlier. He referred to building a road in sprints, giving everyone just enough distance to do their jobs and complete their tasks, but not so much that there are empty stretches of unused highway languishing in the distance. That iterative way of thinking is a hallmark of Agile — completing work in short sprints so that projects and processes can flex and change with new information or influences. In the sphere of resources, this type of flexible, sprint-like planning ensures that resources are never over- or under-committed to the prioritized list of projects in the portfolio.

Think about your portfolio past and present for a moment. Do you have a lot of highways to nowhere (dead or dying projects) you have built or are still building simply because you had to forecast too far into the future to accommodate traditional budget and project planning methods? Of so, it’s time to reassess your strategy.

While the iterative nature of Agile supports effective resource and capacity planning, there are other benefits, as well. For example, a tenet of Agile is to simplify and centralize data while adding broad visibility to all activities, resources, budgets, projects and portfolios. In an Agile project management strategy, PMOs have access to every asset in the resource pool, their skillset, their strengths and their capacity in the present and future via an Agile, digital PPM tool. They also have access to every portfolio and every project within those portfolios to be able to prioritize and forecast what needs to be done, when, and by whom.

That visibility, backed by the flexibility of iterative planning also aids PMOs in project selection and prioritization. While traditional methods of project planning often focus on the big wins/big returns of the portfolio and overall business goals, there are plenty of opportunities to score quick and easy wins that stack up over time. Effective resource planning is imperative to the success of placing these smaller bets. With big-picture visibility, PMOs can see small gaps in the timeline and the available resource pool and fill in those spaces with the aforementioned quick and easy wins.

Getting Started with Agile in Your Organization

Once an organization recognizes the benefit of improved resource and capacity planning and the positive impact of Agile, the next logical step is to find out where to get started in phasing in Agile practices.

In another “Ask the Experts” video titled Tips for Aligning Portfolio Outcomes to Agile Delivery, KeyedIn’s panel all agreed the approach is similar to Agile in that it is best done in steps that can showcase the benefits of Agile across the organization — i.e., how Agile resource management translates into the achievement of the broader goals of the organization.

“The key is to understand that this is a journey,” says Chief Product Officer Matthew Muldoon. “The best way to do this is to start with a small group, have them bring on the new principles, have them prove the value of those principles at the top level and at the team level and then deploy them to help you evangelize that out to the rest of the business.”

“We often call this ‘the top down meeting the bottom up,” says Tim Short, SVP, Global CX. “We’re managing from the bottom at the capacity/resource level and we are managing the portfolio and the desired outcomes from the top. We’ve had some tremendous experiences in seeing many organizations across the globe go through the process and experience what it’s like to have that meet in the middle.”

Back to Mastering Resource Capacity Planning.

Rachel Hentges
PMO Influencer
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Rachel Hentges

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.