Among the most important – and indeed, also the most challenging – aspects of project and program management is developing, executing and optimizing a resource management plan.
What is a Resource Management Plan?
A resource management plan is typically composed of multiple documents, and addresses the following core objectives:
- Centralizing and streamlining demand intake.
- Optimizing program and project portfolio resource capacity.
- Ensuring that the right people are working on the right projects, at the right time, and at the right cost.
- Re-allocating resources due to internal and external changes, and as a result of shifting strategies and priorities.
Enterprise Resource Management Process
There is no generic “one-size-fits-all” approach to managing resources. Due to a variety of details, what is feasible and functional in one enterprise may not apply to another. Generally however, as a foundation many organizations adopt the resource management process endorsed by the Project Management Institute in its Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide – Sixth Edition, 2017). There are six processes in this knowledge area: Plan Resource Management, Estimate Activity Resources, Acquire Resources, Develop Team, Manage Team, and Control Resources. Each of these is briefly discussed below.
- Plan Resource Management: Identifying the roles and responsibilities of all resources. Often, this is captured by an organizational breakdown structure or a RACI matrix.
- Estimate Activity Resources: Identifying human and physical (e.g. technology, equipment, etc.) resources that are required to carry out the program or project.
- Acquire Resources: Providing guidance on how to obtain the resources that are required to carry out the program or project.
- Develop Team: Ensuring that team members are properly trained, and work in a cohesive and collaborative way. The importance of this cannot be overstated, especially in complex, customer-focused and deadline-driven IT organizations. For this reason, developing a robust IT resource management plan – instead of a superficial one that becomes ignored or obsolete within weeks, or even days of creation – is smart and strategic.
- Manage Team: Identifying how team members should be categorized, onboarded, managed, and eventually released or re-allocated. This process also includes methods and strategies for recognizing and rewarding employees. As advised by Gallup: “Workplace recognition motivates, provides a sense of accomplishment and makes employees feel valued for their work. Recognition not only boosts individual employee engagement, but it also has been found to increase productivity and loyalty to the company, leading to higher retention.”
- Control Resources: Ensuring that the physical resources assigned to the program or project are available as planned. This process also involves comparing actual resource utilization against projected utilization, and developing a team charter (discussed in the next section).
A team charter highlights the team’s core values and operating guidelines, along with identifying types of behavior that are unacceptable — such as abusive language or bullying, unexplained lateness or absences, failing to follow proper information security rules, and so on. Ideally, the team charter is developed by all team members, who each have an opportunity to contribute and share their views. Some organizations also have team members sign the team charter, which is more of a symbolic gesture (albeit a meaningful one) than an official or legal affirmation.
Resource Management Plan Best Practices
Organizations of all sizes – from large enterprises to smaller firms – are encouraged to adopt the following best practices for managing resources:
- Consult various sources and stakeholders to accurately estimate resource availability and cost. Merely “guessing” can lead to unwelcome surprises, such as key resources being unavailable or at a high cost. Click here for a sample.
- Use a tool like a RACI matrix to identify resources. RACI is an acronym that stands for: responsible (who has ownership of a task), accountable (who has authority to make decisions for tasks), consulted (who should be consulted to carry out the tasks), and informed (who should be informed as tasks are being carried out).
- Analyze and optimize workflows to make team members as efficient as possible. Establish a standard and uniform approach to prioritizing work.
- Ensure that team members are not overloaded and overwhelmed as they race from one task to another. As psychologists have pointed out, there is actually no such thing as multitasking. Understanding where, when and how to best utilize resources can be the difference between an engaged team member, and one who is heading for the exit.
- Make time reporting as simple, fast and standardized by using timesheets, which track actual minutes, hours and/or days of work on individual work items. Once approval is granted, time is reflected in the associated program or project, and the updated completion (expressed as a percentage) is displayed on individual work items.
- Speaking of time: remember to account for non-program or non-project time, such as vacations, paid time off, and so on.
- Use resource management software that allows decision-makers (i.e. resource managers or any other authorized team member) to define the project level resource assignments over the duration of the project or program, as well as adjust the assignment load by period. This helps decision-makers identify where they need to hire or re-train resources, and it also facilitates the approval decision process.
A Final Word
It is important to bear in mind that developing a resource management plan is not a static one-time event that takes places before an initiative launches. It is an ongoing effort, and it is pivotal to helping programs and projects stay on schedule and in budget, keep team members engaged and productive, and achieve all expected business goals.