Resource Management

The #1 Challenge in Resource Management (According to the Experts)

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Resource management is a complex practice that continues to challenge even the most sophisticated of companies and experts. The many moving parts involved in a project from inception to completion makes the practice extremely fluid and hard to predict.


What Is Your #1 Resource Management Challenge?

Even the experts, with years of work surrounding resource management, recognize the pressures on a day-to-day basis. We wanted to identify the #1 challenge shared by experts that have been close to resource management throughout their careers.

One focus of this roundup is to compare responses from six experts to see if resource management challenges are trending across companies and verticals. The second focus of the roundup was to identify if resource management challenges have maintained consistent over the years or if new problems have arisen recently. Here are the results:  

Questions Asked:

  1. From your experience, what is the #1 challenge that professionals experience with resource management? Please use examples! 

  2. In regards to the challenges discussed above, was this the biggest resource management pressure felt by you 2 years ago, what about 5 years ago? If not, please explain the change.

Influencer #1
Donna Fitzgerald

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Donna Fitzgerald is a seasoned PPM and strategy execution expert, specializing in practical advice, designed to produce the results organizations need. She spent 10 years at Gartner helping clients more effectively execute strategy by establishing strategic EPMOs, improving portfolio decision making and by helping IT PMOs weave an agile mindset into everything they do. Prior to Gartner, Donna ran an agile software development organization, was a product manager at two software companies, co-founded a program management consulting company and was a Silicon Valley trained CFO. She also was a co-author in 2005 of the agile project management “Declaration of Interdependence.”

Website |LinkedIn





1.From your experience, what is the #1 challenge that professionals experience with resource management? Please use examples!

I need to break the challenges into two: there are organizational challenges with resource capacity planning and then the project manager’s challenges with resource management.

Organization’s Perspective:

Organizations have a huge challenge because they don’t understand what can be approved safely within their headcount to guarantee success. There are a few reasons behind this:

  1. Part of this is a complete failure of understanding about the cost of task switching, as well as the cost of being late on a project. Every day the project is late the organization loses money.

  2. A huge challenge in resource management is the failure to learn the “Lesson of Murphy.” This is the old rule of thumb that when a project resource was 70% utilized they were considered fully booked. PMs forget that anything that can go wrong in a project will. In today’s world having a few resources with slack sounds crazy but clearly resource overscheduling is a huge part of why only 65% of projects succeed.

  3. You need to realize on a deeply cellular level that you are dealing with real human beings. 

  4. Human beings are different and can’t be treated like plug and play resources. All people have different strengths. Additionally, people work differently in a team. If a PM can’t get the right team for a project – it’s probably best not to even start the project – because everything will take longer and be of poorer quality.

  5. Part of it is a failure to understand that delays in projects are doubly costly so things really need to be batched and sequenced. If you over-run your people they are exhausted, dis-engaged and less likely to complete projects successfully.


Project Manager’s Perspective:

A project manager has a huge problem when they are not allowed to manage their resources. One of the key problems with resource management is when the project manager does not act like the complete support for the people. 

  1. The project manager exists to manage the people on the project. It’s not for compliance or task status, these are ancillary things. The reason a PM exists is to be there as a support resource for the people - obstacles can be removed, everyone can stay on the same page as a team. The PM holds the team together, keeps everyone on track (not by hounding, by removing impediments). 

  2. Projects only get executed on schedule if the team members are available to do the work. If the resources are under the control of someone other than the PM and can be reassigned without consulting the PM then the PM can’t do their job.

  3. If the PM has no control as to which resources are given to them to complete a project and doesn’t have the ability to adjust the schedule around the skills and capabilities the actual team members have, then again they can’t be responsible for delivering on time.

2. In regards to the challenge discussed above, was this the biggest resource management pressure felt by you 2 years ago, what about 5 years ago? If not, please explain the change.

At my time at Gartner, I’ve spoken with hundreds of clients each year and I’ve noticed two things. For the first 6 years, resource management problems seemed to be an increasing problem for organizations but no one wanted to fix them. They just wanted to complain. Then, in the last couple of years, 30% of calls I took came for people actually wanting to fix their resource management problems. Another change was that the CIO or a senior person in IT was on the call-- the people actually in power, which made the commitment that much more real.

I believe much of this change is coming top down from the CEO. Organizations need to put more of their money and their resource toward digital efforts and to do that – the speed and value equation in IT needs to change. And to do that – resource capacity planning has to improve.

Task switching wastes resources. Approving too many projects wastes resources. And over investing in what Gartner calls systems of record wastes resources that in this economy can be better utilized on digital and innovation projects. Bottom line, companies can no longer afford to ignore the need for formal resource capacity planning at the portfolio level and realistic resource management at the project level. 

Influencer #2
Eileen O'Loughlin

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Eileen O’Loughlin is a senior content analyst at Software Advice, a Gartner company, whose research helps small businesses leverage the latest project management technology and trends. In 2017, she was a guest on the podcast, TechLeadersToday, and was a speaker at the Resource Planning Summit.

Blog | Twitter | LinkedIn




1. From your experience, what is the #1 challenge that professionals experience with resource management? Please use examples!

The number one mistake businesses make with resource management—which leads to many challenges—is waiting too long to put a strategy in place. By the time you have 25 to 30 people in your resource pool, you should have standardized processes in place and a tool to support your strategy.

An effective resource management strategy is built around several key areas, including:

  • Understanding the skills, competencies and limitations of your resource pool
  • Tracking their current and future availability
  • Making data-driven decisions regarding staffing and forecasting
  • Developing your workforce to help you sustain growth and achieve longevity 


Once you understand the capacity of your workforce, you can more effectively staff existing projects. This allows you to identify gaps in your resource pool and implement training and development programs and/or develop a hiring plan to fill those gaps. This, in turn, ensures that you’re set up to effectively staff and fulfill the requirements of future initiatives.

Without a strategy in place, professionals will overpromise, but underperform. In order to deliver at all, they end up having to pull extra people and time away from other projects. Acceleration and deceleration on projects disrupts the optimal flow, not just of the team but of the business.

Too many organizations wait until there is a problem during execution and then try to enact policy. But you can’t fix problems at a tactical level (i.e., execution) or even a logistical level (i.e., planning). You must fix issues at the strategic level—and it’s much easier for a small ship to correct its course than it is for an ocean liner.

 2. In regards to the challenge discussed above, was this the biggest resource management pressure felt by you 2 years ago, what about 5 years ago? If not, please explain the change.

Of course, it’s easy to talk about “resource management best practices” as an abstract concept and forget we’re talking about people. It’s much harder to put a policy into action and overcome the competitive tendency that pushes us to overpromise, or—equally as problematic—underpromise so as to overdeliver on our abilities. In either case, it’s difficult to accurately measure resource capacity.

As we’ve grown, it's become more necessary to track certain data, such as the difference between actual time to completion and estimated, so we can understand the optimal utilization of resources. To do so, we’ve had to create an environment of trust where individuals and teams report honest “actuals” and don’t feel pressured to report false data, whether it’s out of fear or because they want to look good to leadership.

Influencer #3
Rick A Morris PMP, CHBC, PMI-ACP

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Rick A. Morris, PMP, is a certified Scrum Agile Master, Human Behavior Consultant, best-selling author, mentor, and evangelist for project management. Rick is an accomplished project manager, author and public speaker. He holds the PMP (Project Management Professional), MPM (Masters of Project Management), Scrum Agile Master, PMI-ACP, Six Sigma Green Belt, MCITP, MCTS, MCSE, TQM, ATM-S, ITIL, ISO certifications, and is an Executive Director for the John Maxwell Team. 

Website | Twitter | LinkedIn

 




1. From your experience, what is the #1 challenge that professionals experience with resource management? Please use examples!

I feel the number one issue in resource management is common in most companies: too many projects! How do they get there? It generally occurs by how companies budget. A company will look at their strategic initiatives and plan efforts. Then they ask all of the departments to submit all of their project requests. From there, they approve or reject projects based on budget and what they can spend. They might have some metric that asks for level of effort, however, it is rudimentary at best. How do they know if they have the resources to realistically achieve the plan? What percentage of resources are available for projects? How many resources are being consumed by carryover from the previous years or keeping the business running? Spreadsheets and gut feelings are not adaptable enough to make very complex decisions, it requires some discipline and software. However, the company then will say, "We are too busy to spend time figuring out where our resources are." or "We do not have enough time to do resource management." That is called failing before you even start. It is a must for organizations who want to react to the speed of business to get a handle on resources.

2. In regards to the challenge discussed above, was this the biggest resource management pressure felt by you 2 years ago, what about 5 years ago? If not, please explain the change.

The challenge has not changed much in the past several years. What is changing is the adaptability of the software to catch up to the speed of business and support multiple methodologies. Resource Management should be flexible enough to operate as a spreadsheet where it takes Resource Managers no more than 5-10 minutes per week to inventory effort and projections. This should easily roll up into Portfolios so that Executives can make key decisions. Each project should be met against the resource WAR. An acronym for: Wait for the resources to become available, Acquire necessary resources, or Redirect resources off of existing efforts. While many companies know that they must do this, it requires discipline and cadence. They feel that the undertaking is too time consuming. As my friend and mentor John Maxwell says, "Everything worthwhile is uphill." While the initial change may take some time to adapt, soon it will become the way it has always been done at that organization and the end result is a balanced and happy staff that can generate predictable results.

Influencer #4
Ken Dobie

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Ken is the founder & principal of Skyemar Consulting specializing in Strategic Planning & Project Portfolio Management. We facilitate the development of strategic priorities & translation into near term goals in conjunction with senior management. Prior to Skyemar, Ken was the Director of Corporate Planning & Portfolio Management at Illumina from 2007 to 2016 where he led the development of the annual strategic, operating, and portfolio plans, as well as resource management across 200 projects & 1,500 resources.

Website LinkedIn




1. From your experience, what is the #1 challenge that professionals experience with resource management? Please use examples!

The number one challenge in my experience that professionals experience with resource management is optimal project prioritization. Prioritization of projects is required because resources are almost always constrained. In order to make the most effective project prioritization decisions several capabilities needs to be in place - those being 1) the capability to track and report projects and the resources allocated to them, 2) visibility into the pipeline of new project opportunities with appropriate metrics (revenue, cost, risk, etc.) and assumptions needed to establish priorities, and 3) a high level management forum comprised of appropriate key decision makers to determine what projects get started when, whether any established projects should be delayed or stopped, and the overall allocation of resources across the project portfolio.

2. In regards to the challenge discussed above, was this the biggest resource management pressure felt by you 2 years ago, what about 5 years ago? If not, please explain the change.

The above challenge of optimal project prioritization and resource allocation is omnipresent. Things that change are more related to the organization over time. For example, an organization may evolve from a shared resource model where R&D resources are shared among different business areas, to a dedicated model where business areas have there own R&D resources. Regardless, there is almost always a tension between what projects get properly resourced and those that don't. The key is having transparency into credible data including resource forecasts and project prioritization metrics, and having the appropriate governance body needed to make project portfolio prioritization decisions.

Influencer #5
Andrew Tarvin  

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Andrew Tarvin is the world’s leading Humor Engineer and founder of Humor That Works, a global consultancy on human effectiveness. He is a best-selling author, has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and TEDx, and has delivered programs in 50 states, 18 countries, and 3 continents. Learn more at Humor That Works.
 


1. From your experience, what is the #1 challenge that professionals experience with resource management? Please use examples!

The biggest challenge with resource management is getting the most out of employees both in terms of engagement and in skillset. The reason for this is because we often fill roles based on the talent we have rather than leverage the talent we have to create the roles. For example, when I worked at Procter & Gamble, every year one of the questions on the annual survey was along the lines of, "Do you feel like you are best able to utilize your strengths in your role?" It's such an important question that doesn't get asked enough. Because if you're in a role and you don't feel you are using your best skills, you're not going to be as engaged and will start to get demotivated. Start working with your employees to find out their strengths and craft their roles around them so that they feel they are contributing the best way they can and you get a fully engaged employee.

2. In regards to the challenge discussed above, was this the biggest resource management pressure felt by you 2 years ago, what about 5 years ago? If not, please explain the change.

I think it's the same and has been one of the biggest challenges since we left the industrial revolution and moved into a knowledge economy.

Influencer #6
Jordan Warren

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Jordan Warren has been working on the Resource Management space for over 4 years, first as Traffic Manager for a Digital Agency and later as a Consultant as part of the Mavenlink team, working with clients from all industries while they integrate Mavenlink into their internal business processes.

 

 



1. From your experience, what is the #1 challenge that professionals experience with resource management? Please use examples!

In my experience in Resource Management, I would say the #1 challenge is the constant change associated with project staffing. Projects don't often start and end exactly as you predicted and you have to pivot each time a change in timeline or scope is defined.

2. In regards to the challenge discussed above, was this the biggest resource management pressure felt by you 2 years ago, what about 5 years ago? If not, please explain the change.

While I think that this challenge has been consistent (and will continue to be), the tools we use today have made it a lot easier to quickly assess and manage the changes and risks associated. When I first started in Resource Management I was using a single local document on a shared drive. Only one person could edit it at a time and I had to copy and distribute the details into email each week. With today's tools, like Mavenlink, I can see and communicate about changes in real time and in one shared location.

 

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