This blog is to help companies understand how a holistic approach of resource planning, time tracking and measuring/reporting of key reporting indicators can help in gaining greater insights into their project portfolio, project resourcing needs and ultimately increasing project productivity.
Resource Forecasting/Planning Need:
Project resource forecasting and planning is a critical activity generally overlooked or not well managed in many companies especially with bigger teams and departments. Smaller companies generally do a better job in this area due to small team sizes, a limited number of projects and the necessity to get maximum out of the team by micro managing. For bigger teams, system is required to overcome one or more of the following challenges:
- As the team size increases, project managers plan for their own project resourcing structure. Most of the project manager may have less than perfect insight on the resources current allocations especially when the resources are working on multiple projects. Merging the project schedules mostly leads to overutilization of sought after valuable resources and underutilization of others.
- Globally distributed teams with numerous managers requiring visibility of their own subordinates who get loaned on projects within or across the departments only add to the complexity. Ultimately, it is difficult to build a business case to management for additional staffing, contractor hiring and more if you don’t have accurate and credible facts and numbers across entire teams.
- Even when project staffing is determined to a certain extent, with an ever-changing dynamic business environment, management needs readiness for ‘what-if’ simulation capabilities for emergency projects.
- Excel is still the most commonly used incomplete project planning tool in the market. Needless to say, forecasting and planning resources in Excel can be a tedious task and it is difficult to get meaningful reports in a collaborative planning environment.
- A number of companies rely on time tracking as a solution and look to past year’s tracked time. Resourcing needs based historical time tracked by the companies may not be extrapolated to the future projects for most businesses. Looking at a resource’s past year’s time may not be most appropriate particularly in dynamic environments where new project initiatives are launched by the companies. With historical teams/departments resource time estimates, it is very difficult to ensure on-time, on-budget and on-quality delivery.
- If management decides to deploy the resource based on location where certain percentages of the projects need to be executed from offshore and onshore/onsite. This adds to the complexity in project forecasting and system should be support.
- Project forecasting needs to be improved. If organizations don’t track time, it is hard to compare forecasted vs actual time tracked and may not help the organization achieve the overarching goal of improving the results.
In essence, the project resource forecasting function is much needed to provide companies the collaborative planning of resources with real-time capacity to avoid over-allocating the resources that are already allocated to other projects and maximize utilization of the under-utilized resources.
Companies need project resource forecasting to:
- Plan project phases
- View available resources based on skill sets, departments and geographical locations etc.
- Allocate resources with visibility to availability of resources during a specific time period
- Collaborate with teams or managers or critical resources
- Consolidate overall project resourcing needs and present to management
- Do ‘what-if’ simulations to understand changes required to accommodate the needs of new critical projects
- Understand project costs
- Analyze under-utilized and over-utilized resources and redistribute the load to avoid critical and highly-skilled resources burn out.
- Projects portfolio analysis based on project type (Agile, Waterfall or other SDLC)
- Project resource distribution based on the departments or managers portfolio
- Project resources allocation based on geographical location to balance out participation or control budget
While professional services companies require time tracking as it is mandatory for billing purposes, time tracking is generally ignored in most other companies running internal projects with employee or contractors. Companies feel that knowledge based skilled resources don’t need to be managed and should be given freedom to manage their time most effectively. A general myth is that time tracking may be burdensome for highly qualified resources and may make them feel that they are being monitored or measured constantly.
While the resistance to time tracking or any new change is natural, the benefits outweigh the small effort required. It is important for employees to understand the goal of time tracking to make the business case for implementing such a policy. Smart employees can use time tracking to their benefit to improve their own efficiency.
It is important to set policies to capture time as well as define the system in a manner consistent with the goal/policy. It goes without saying, don’t complicate the actual system implementation part. Using easy to use and well implemented systems will go a long way in helping the employees stay on track with time-tracking.
Companies use time tracking to:
- Understand the actual picture of how overloaded or underutilized the resources are
- See how effectively and efficiently they are able to manage their time
- Compare how much time they are spending in administrative work and meetings rather than focusing on the value-added projects
- Evaluate if critical projects are getting sufficient attention and resource time
- See how teams are performing in terms of time and budget
- See which projects will most likely be completed on time based on the resource time commitment
Dashboards and Reports:
While resource forecasting and time tracking are important standalone functions, teams can gain much better results if they combine the two and also measure the effectiveness. Measuring by means of dashboards and reports can provide much desired input for improving the projects.
Some of the meaningful reports can:
- Project portfolio analysis
- Project planned allocations by project, person, department, role and geography
- Time tracking allocation by project, person, department, role and geography
- Measure actual time vs. the planned/forecasted time
- Forecast allocations (under and over utilizations)
- View actual allocations (under and over utilizations)
- Compare time spent in value added vs. non-value added administrative tasks for resources
Conclusion – A Holistic View
if you can plan it, you can track it. If you can track it, you can measure it. If you can measure it, you can improve it.
Forecasting/planning is highly dependent on the experience of the Project Managers and their understanding of the company culture, history and team dynamics. Time tracking augments the forecasting and planning function and can provide matrices to validate whether the planning was realistic or not. It is important to have a complete solution from resource forecasting to time tracking to measuring/reporting for receiving the maximum benefits from the project planning function.
While resource forecasting/planning is an important first step, measuring the planned activity against time tracked will help in completing the cycle as a first step. Being able to track and measure the actual project time versus planned time is a critical step towards accomplishing the overarching goal of managing and improving project efficiency.
Learn how AccountSight can help you with your resource forecasting/planning to time tracking needs to provide holistic solutions to achieve your Project ROI goals.