In the Resource Management Lifecycle there are five phases that mirror the project delivery lifecycle from inception to analysis: Estimate, Plan, Execute, Analyze and Optimize. This blog will discuss the second phase of the Lifecycle, The Plan Phase.
What is the Plan Phase?
The Plan Phase is when you define how to fill your resource demand by booking your resources to high-level projects. The 5 Phases of the Resource Management Cycle are fully explained in our most recent ebook, The Definitive Guide to Resource Management. At this time in the resource management process, a project is close to being won or for other reasons needs to be taken into account as part of the constraints on your resource pool. In this phase, the project is almost a “go,” but the phases, milestones, and resource demands are still in limbo.
This is the opportunity for your resource manager to take a closer view at the requirements and expectations of the project and assign resources based on skills, roles, and availabilities. At this point in the process, resources can be moved from soft to hard allocation as the confidence level of the project increases. Once hard allocated, resource hours are committed to the project and those hours are no longer available for use on other projects.
A critical aspect of the Plan Phase is the ability to see all potential resources in one place. This is what many people call the resource pool—it represents the current state of affairs. In order to allocate resources properly you need visibility on multiple levels and facets across the business. Your resource pool encompasses the people, their makeup (skills, roles, experience), availability, cost rates, and bill rates.
Requirements for the Plan Phase
This Phase requires you to match this resource supply (your resource pool) to your resource demand (projects, tasks, or clients). The Plan Phase isn’t just about getting a resource onto a project, it’s about managing resources in a way that increases profitability. Having a clear picture of your resource pool is critical. For example, a certain resource may be more expensive in terms of hourly rate, but due to their expertise and efficiency, they could potentially complete a project in half the time of a less expensive resource. So, you potentially get a better output for a lower total cost, helping to expand your margin on the project.
The Plan Phase is also the final stretch of time prior to project kickoff. This is important to note because the cost of making resource changes or requests will dramatically increase as you enter the Execute Phase. The chance that your resource is only assigned to one project or client is often slim. Because of this overlap, shifting people around during the live project can have a serious domino effect on the execution and profitability of other projects.
Information Required in the Plan Phase
The number of resources you need in each role (e.g. 1 engineer, 2 designers). The skill level, expertise, or certification required at different phases of the project (e.g. Java engineer, beginner). The moving parts, if any, that are still in limbo. The project scope is not set in stone until the project is in the Execute phase. Keep note that timelines and expectations can still change, and you must be prepared for last minute ironing of plans. Up-to-date information about a resource’s availability (What other work do they have scheduled? What’s their workweek?).
Step-by-Step Guide to the Plan Phase
1. Begin to breakdown the project scope into tasks and deliverables.
Understand what roles are required at what phases of the project.
2. Resource demand.
Be ready for requests for specific resources (people) or roles.
3. Look towards your resource pool for available and fit resources.
If your project has not yet reached a high enough confidence level, start soft allocating resources to roles based on skill level, expertise, availability and cost.
4. Soft to hard allocation.
Once your project has reached the appropriate confidence level, you’ll want to change that soft allocation to a hard allocation so that availability in your resource pool reflects these commitments.
5. Defined responsibilities.
Your project manager will need to ensure that these assigned resources are aware of their responsibilities by confirming scheduled assignments with each resource and reviewing the project plan and requirements.
Potential Roadblocks & Challenges During the Plan Phase
1. Lack of visibility into skills.
In all but the smallest organizations, lack of available skills information by person prevents resource managers from assigning resources to roles based on expertise.
2. Clarity of resource availability.
You need to know when someone is officially unavailable or conflict will occur sooner or later. Once a resource is moved from soft to hard allocation, there needs to be an indication to others performing resource planning that certain resources are no longer available.
3. Lack of a resource pool.
Many resource managers keep resources organized across platforms or simply by memory, making it impossible to have a holistic view of availability. The complexity of projects today require a resource pool for proper project management.
4. Rules for specific resource requests.
When resource managers allow the organization to request specific people during the plan phase, it has the potential to set a precedent that does not foster scheduling based on skill. So be sure to put skills first.
Tips for the Plan Phase
1. Set up a process for resource approvals and requests.
Once a resource is chosen for a project, they are plucked from the resource pool and then hard allocated to their respective phase or skill.
2. Look to skills.
Availability should not be your only concern in the Plan Phase. Part of successful delivery is finding a resource who is both skilled and available to do the work.
3. Set up for profitability.
Profitability is determined by finding the perfect balance between skill and cost of a resource.
4. Maintain communication.
Ensure the project and resource managers have ample time to sync on the project.
5. Update your skills database.
Maintain an updated database with resource skills. There is no use having a skills database if it’s out of date.