According to research, 70% of organizations have suffered at least one project failure in the prior 12 months. Over the years we’ve talked to many people who managed these projects to better understand their needs and what could have helped them succeed. Most have counted on traditional project management software to align their projects and teams, but they have consistently attributed four common problems to their failure: resources, visibility, alignment of priorities, and scheduling issues. Over the next month, we’ll be double clicking on each of the problems and the ramifications they have on organizations. WARNING: Unless you are already using LiquidPlanner, some of these problems may hit a little too close to home.
One of the most difficult questions asked of project managers is ‘when can your team take on new work?’ It requires a deep knowledge of their team’s time, often across a complex portfolio of projects, to ensure they are being fully utilized but not overbooked. It also requires that project schedules be up-to-date, even in fast-paced environments where priorities and work are constantly changing.
At its core, the question is about resource management: the art and science of aligning your people, projects and priorities to ensure the right people are working on the right things at the right time. It sounds simple, but it’s a constant struggle for most companies. In a study this year, PMOs said that poor resource management was one of their top three challenges. So we asked project managers all over the world what their top resource issues were and here’s what they said.
What are your most common resource problems?
1. We are worried about the workload of our teams, especially in today’s climate.
Resource planning is the best way to maximize your team’s productivity. It requires regular management to make sure tasks are getting delegated to the right people based on project priorities, capacity, skill level, and their area of expertise.
You’ll also need to balance factors like vacations, holidays and hours needed for non-project related tasks. Today, 58% of employees report burnout, up from 45% in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Actively managing your team’s workload is the best way to eliminate capacity issues. And importantly, it decreases stress, reduces turnover, and improves utilization across projects.
2. We don’t know where our real bottlenecks are.
Bottlenecks happen when more work is requested than a team can process at its maximum throughput capacity, causing interruptions in the flow of work and delays in project completion. If your team is permanently stressed, delivery dates are consistently missed, and projects never seem to truly flow, bottlenecks are likely the cause.
Managers tend to think that adding more people to the project will make it better, but that’s usually not the case. With the right software solution deployed, project managers can map their process and visually spot congestion. The best tools will serve up data that can be leveraged for insights to inform team adjustments to resolve bottlenecks and improve performance.
3. We have multiple projects in flight with shared or competing resources.
We’ve all worked in organizations where resource bartering is the norm. Oftentimes, this results in the person with the biggest title trading team members back and forth, diverting people from projects that may be more important to the organizational goals.
Allocating people on a whim without analyzing incoming demands, understanding the priorities, or considering the organization’s goals can be dangerous. According to McKinsey, only 52% of executives say their employees’ time allocation matches company priorities. When you don’t have a priority-based culture, it’s hard to protect resources or have smart conversations about where time should be spent. It’s important to know that you can’t start lower priority projects when you have critical path team members on higher priority projects.
4. We don’t know where people are spending their time.
While managing projects, it is important to regularly and accurately document how people are being allocated and utilized. In some organizations, this is done manually with detailed spreadsheets, often containing human errors.
Having all of your information, such as team availability and individually tracked hours, in one dedicated tool is more accurate. It also allows project managers to not only measure the efficiency of a project, but also create better future estimates for how long work will take based on learning from past logged hours.
5. We don’t know how to allocate resources for unplanned requests or unforeseen challenges.
New projects pop up all the time; some will align to the organization’s goals and others will not. When managing complex projects, unexpected issues will also inevitably arise. Even with the most efficient planning, new requests and unforeseen challenges will always emerge and present challenges.
The more disciplined your process is for identifying and managing risks, the better prepared your team will be to adapt to change. Rather than reacting sporadically to quickly spread or redeploy resources, it is essential to first understand emerging requests and invest to create a planful response using priority-based management. Building best case/worst case estimates into your schedules from the beginning can help you avoid much of this rework as ranged estimation provides the cushion your team needs to navigate through uncertainty.
6. We are wasting a lot of time due to lack of communication.
Effective communication at work not only strengthens relationships among team members but also helps to efficiently complete projects that drive revenue. We all know that projects rarely go as planned, so teams must remain flexible and openly communicate with one another.
If goals and expectations are not clear and progress is not communicated, team members may not be working on the right things. In a study with IT professionals, 80% said they spend half of their workweek on “rework” caused by poor communications. An investment in project management software – especially one that keeps everyone on the same page – will help to eliminate the likelihood of miscommunications throughout your entire project.
7. We don’t know if we are giving tasks to the right people with the right skill set.
Allocating team members without taking into account their areas of expertise can end up being a waste of time. As the to-do list continues to grow for your team, it is important to align projects and skill sets.
When skills are being underutilized, people are not being used to their fullest potential and team members can become bored and feel undervalued because the work is not challenging. If team members are left focusing on busywork rather than tasks that will help meet organizational goals, productivity will suffer and your best employees may begin to look elsewhere. By allocating the right people to the right work based on their expertise, the team will remain productive and be able to do their best work.
8. We are overpromising on projects and underestimating the time it takes to complete them.
Unrealistic or tight project schedules are the bane of our existence, so why are they so common? Oftentimes they are the result of people not understanding the full scope of work, not factoring in potential risks, or just trying to meet arbitrary deadlines to please stakeholders.
Your team deserves a realistic schedule so they don’t feel rushed and can do quality work. Be sure to set attainable deadlines during each stage of the project and check in with your team as the project progresses. By placing realistic time frames right from the start, you will earn credibility with your team members and your stakeholders.
Why is resource management so important?
The short answer is that poor resource management can significantly impact your organization’s effectiveness and competitive advantage. People are often the most precious asset when it comes to effective project management. The challenges that come from not properly utilizing your team members will significantly impact your business’s ability to get projects completed correctly, on time, and within budget.
LiquidPlanner is a transformative project management solution that uses predictive scheduling to dynamically adapt to change and manage uncertainty. It helps teams prioritize, predict and perform with confidence. Rated the best software for complex projects by PC Magazine, smarter planning – and smarter resource management – is a click away. FREE SIGN UP.