Resource management is important. It can and will make or break your project. If we have the right people, managed correctly, the opportunities for our project to succeed go way up. If we have the wrong people, or manage our resources poorly, it will be a rough day. For that matter, it will be a rough month.
What are some things to watch out for? Here are four “gotchas” to watch out for to be sure that you don’t fall into the poor resource management trap as you maintain your project management software tool. In this post, we are primarily focused on human resource management – people.
1. Not factoring in non-project work.
It is extremely rare these days where a resource is working exclusively on your project. People are more often working on multiple-projects at the same time, multi-tasking, and being pulled in a lot of different directions. They may be working hard on your project, but also have to take care of operational duties. They also must spend time answering emails, phone calls, and going to meetings. You must factor in this non-project time. If you need a resource to give you a solid 20 hours of work, you cannot expect that to be accomplished in 20 hours because they will be working on other things. I have heard, but cannot immediately find validation, that 6 to 6.5 hours per day is a benchmark. That sounds high to me. You know your organization and its culture better than I do. In a typical project management software tool, this will be referred to as their capacity.
2. Not accurately estimating the amount of time you need the resources.
You need to accurately know how long you will need your resources. This means that you need to follow good project management techniques, including building a solid work breakdown structure, and setting up a good schedule. How long have these activities taken in the past? How long do the resources themselves estimate that it will take this time? Have they done these activities before so that we know their estimate is probably accurate. These are questions you must ask so that you can accurately estimate the resource quantity (aka time) needed. I would rather estimate more than I need and actually take less, then estimate less and take more.
3. Not considering the difference between effort and duration.
Effort (sometimes referred to as "work") is how much time or how many hours a resource needs to work on a task uninterrupted in order to complete. Duration is how much calendar time it will take to complete that much effort (and thus complete the task). For example, the effort required for a task may be 20 hours, but it will take 5 calendar days (40 hours) before the task is actually completed due to other work and priorities. Be sure that you are estimating both of these. Do not confuse effort for duration. Otherwise, in 20 hours you will wondering why your task is only 50% complete.
4. Not understanding the impact of other projects.
You need to constantly be on the lookout for other projects that will become a higher priority and siphon off your resources. This may be perfectly legitimate because another project may be more important to the organization as a whole. However, you can and should still plan for this. For example, if you are delivering something to a client and you need a high-value resource that “everyone” needs, plan for that. Build some margin into your schedules to allow for this. Set the expectations up front. But don’t bury your head in the sand, pretend that it will not happen, and then get upset when it does.
This is obviously not an all-inclusive list. Leave a comment if you have made some mistakes that will help someone else with their resource management.