Project resourcing is one of the most common challenges project managers have to be dealing with in pretty much all their projects.
I have worked in matrix and functional organizations where the common ground was “resource overallocation across many different tasks”.
On top of that most of the organizations I have worked for struggled to prioritize their portfolio and thus it was difficult to manage resource allocation conflicts between projects.
On top of the project work, project team members are often “diverted” to Business As Usual tasks which are considered more important than projects work by most of the line managers, as they bring immediate and more visible benefits to the functions they are responsible for.
Another common challenge that PMs have to manage when to be dealing with resource management and planning is “Priority 1” incidents.
Project resources are immediately and with almost no notice pulled out of the project work and re-assigned to the P1 issues, regardless their assignments and deadlines within the projects.
Project resources involved in incident managements may be forces to stay out of the project for a considerable time with high impact on the project timeline.
What can project managers do to mitigate the above scenarios?
- Negotiation – “the ability to find a mutually acceptable position” – is an important skill for project managers:
When resource allocation conflicts arise between projects it is important that PM’s negotiate a solution which can satisfy both project timelines.
- In functional or weak matrix organizations PMs have to agree with the functional managers the % of allocation they can commit for their team members to work on projects.
Project planning will have to take into consideration the resource availability provided by the functional managers and document in the RAID log what impact this may have in the overall project plan.
- When project resources are reassigned to BAU work by their line managers, PM’s have to log the issue in the RAID log and provide an assessment of the impact of the reduced resource availability on the project including timeline, cost and quality.
New risks have to be identified and existing risks updated and the impact assessment has to be shared and discussed with the project sponsor, aiming to find feasible mitigations or contingencies to bring back the project on track.
In case P1 incidents hit the project as described above, PMs have to document the issue and its impact in the RAID log and in their status reports, PMs may consider schedule compression techniques when re-planning the project if it is subject to a sever time constraint – the most common schedule compression techniques are:
- Fast tracking is a technique where activities are performed in parallel. These are activities that would have been performed sequentially using the original schedule. In fast tracking, the activities are worked on simultaneously instead of waiting for each piece to be completed separately.
It is usually important to start with this technique first. The main reason for this is that fast tracking does not involve any costs. It is simply a rearrangement of the activities in the original schedule.
Although fast tracking may not result in an increase in the cost, it leads to an increase in the risk, because activities that were originally intended to be performed sequentially are now performed in parallel. It may lead to a rework or rearrangement of the project. This reworking of the project can cause loss of even more time.
- Crashing is the technique to use when fast tracking has not saved enough time on the schedule. It is a technique in which resources are added to the project for the least cost possible. Cost and schedule trade-offs are analysed to determine how to obtain the greatest amount of compression for the least incremental cost.
Crashing is expensive because we are adding more resources to the project. Undoubtedly, if you add more resources to an activity or project, it is going to cost you more. It only works for critical path activities where it is possible to shorten schedules.