The Optimal Approach to Resource Management

In an earlier post, we covered how to gauge the value of using a more rigorous Resource Management approach for your organization. This post is aimed at providing a process-based framework for employing optimal Resource Management.

The famed Project Management expert Dr. Harold Kerzner often talks about how assessing project failures should go from the top-down, whereas most organizations have a bad habit of pointing the finger at the lowest man on the totem pole and moving on (see: How the Seven Deadly Sins Can Lead to Project Failure). Ultimately, when things don’t get done on time, it’s because people didn’t show up or they didn’t show up enough. It is, of course, the resources’ job to show up when they are told to, so it is easy to place blame on them when a project goes beyond scope and not give it another thought; however, it is the manager’s job to optimize a team’s position to fulfill the requirements of the project. To use a sports analogy, a good coach puts their players’ in the best possible circumstances to succeed, and so it is with managing projects.

A fundamental Resource Manager accomplishes this role by creating a reliable schedule. As we covered in our post on moving from the Gantt Chart, a reliable schedule goes well beyond simply assigning resources to tasks to complete by the deadline outlined in the Work Breakdown Structure. The most central difference is that Resource Managers gauge the effort of a project—that is, how much labor will need to be applied in order to complete it. This is a resource- and team-dependent consideration that can’t be determined with a mere schedule.

This is accomplished using the followed process:

  1. Layout the tasks that need to be done to complete the project.
  2. Consider what skills are needed to fulfill all of the necessary roles within each of those tasks.
  3. Conduct an inventory of available resources that possess those skills. This is the most important step, since it is where you determine the effort. There is a hierarchy of skills, meaning that it will take different project teams varying amounts of labor to fulfill a task. If your inventory reveals that there is nothing but interns available for one the roles, for example, then that task will take longer than if there were a department full of veterans at your disposal.
  4. Schedule the labor. Once the effort is established, it’s just a matter of scheduling. Now that you have an inventory of skills to work with, you can match roles to the resources with optimal skill-sets and then simply task them the labor for when they’re available to do it within the scope of the project.

With this more rigorous and more optimal approach to Resource Management, your organization will have a better top-down perspective on projects. There will be a reduction in the percentage of projects that fail because, for example, there was an equal expectation of labor placed on a department full of entry-level resources as would be placed on a department full of experienced professionals.