Key Steps to Achieve Accurate Resource Utilization Reporting in Your Project Management Software Tool: Part 3
In part 1, we discussed the key of capturing all of the work to be performed by your resources (people for the purposes of this series).
In part 2, we discussed the key of accurately capturing when the work will be performed.
In this post, I want to discuss what may seem like a nuance, but is actually very important. That is the importance of estimating the effort that will be expended on a task / project. Many organizations simply collect the duration. The duration is the amount of calendar time that is required to complete a particular task or project. The effort is the amount of actual, dedicated work that is needed to complete the task or project within the duration period. For example, "Creating a Design Document" may take 5 days (the duration) to complete, but John has other things he will be doing during those 5 days. Over the course of those 5 days, John will be working for 12 hours (the effort) on "Creating a Design Document".
Why is this important? Because when it comes to resource utilization, the effort is all important. That is a fundamental building block. How much time will a resource need to expend on the task? The duration will not cut it. You have to know the effort. And there is no magic shortcut. It is not as simple as saying "ok, let's start tracking effort." It takes time and discipline to produce good estimates.
- Create the initial estimate for each activity (task) in the project (this implies that you need to break down your project into these activities / tasks.
- Add specialist hours (hours from experts, specialists, indispensable folks that will inevitably be needed).
- Consider adding rework hours (most likely the task will not be 100% correct the first time).
- Add project management time (time to do the project management).
- Add contingency hours (to factor in the uncertainty of your estimate).
I would also add that you need to start tracking historical records of how long things actually take. That allows you over time to gradually improve your effort estimates and assumptions.
It may be a big step to perform these steps right away. In that case, start small and gradually add more maturity to your estimating process as people become more comfortable.
Of course, it can be difficult to follow the steps above all the time. We are bombarded by imposed deadlines from stakeholders, management, clients, and others. But as I said, there is no magic shortcut. If you indeed want accurate resource utilization, you will have to go through the "effort".