In today’s global economic setting, with more projects and dwindling budgets, Project Managers are required to do more with the few resources they have on hand. First, with the commencement of any project, the primary task is to have a realistic plan. When that is ready, you move on to creating a comprehensive list of activities and include them in your project plan. Afterwards, you figure out the kind and the number of resources to allocate to the said activities.
The way you allocate these resources will usually have a direct impact on your productivity. In project management world, resources usually include funds, people, time, materials, and equipment which are all needed to execute the tasks in a project. During the course of your project, adjustments to the resources and activities can take place on a regular basis. Sometime, some activities may need allocation of extra resources and time compared to others; hence, tracking of time spent on every activity is critical in very many ways.
With that said, when it comes to resource allocation, most organizations usually shuttle between two states – “underutilized” and “overworked” – neither of which is ideal. Its apparent resources are always limited; however, good resource planning and forecasting are vital for effective utilization and management of these ever scarce resources.
Resource forecasting and planning
As the name implies, resource forecasting entails predicting your future resource requirements. To evaluate how your organization rates in regards to resource forecasting and planning, there are a number of issues you should consider. These issues act as a guideline for appraising your current project resource allocation set up, which ultimately helps you identify areas that need more focus and improvement.
1. An adaptable resource set up that can be modified based on your constantly changing project needs is very necessary. The demand and supply of key resources hardly ever remain static. If market conditions change, for instance, projects that were once of high precedence can suddenly be paused as new projects take the front seat. So, as a project manager, are you in a position to easily alter your plan in case your project time-line shifts? Can you easily amend your project plans when one of your staff resigns or goes into a vocation?
2. Identifying the right resources for your project is also very important. Picking the appropriate person for a particular task is one of the most vital elements of forecasting and planning; however, when you are dealing with a large number of people, this task significantly swells. Are you able to pick the best person based on experience, skills, and training? This is especially pertinent for those who wish to plan for multiple resources at a time or wish to forecast for workforce required for a specific upcoming project.
3. Resource estimation – Estimating the requirements of external and internal resources is one of the key steps in project resource allocation. Frequent estimation is necessary for each assignment within the project so that utilization of resources can occur in the most effective manner possible. One of the widely used techniques in project resource planning is expert judgment. This type of estimation which is achieved based on the experience derived from earlier projects. Additionally, hard data which was gathered from work done for earlier projects can also be used in forecasting and planning.
4. Do you have the necessary business intelligence to produce the exact resource forecasting info you need? Possession of real-time data is important to keep your project flexible and can help you to ascertain whether you have the right work placed on your staff.
5. Are there any systems or software you can use to simplify your planning and forecasting processes? As your team expands and organization dynamics shift, the effectiveness of an Excel spreadsheet starts to wane. The more the number of staff, the harder it gets to organize your spreadsheet and the trickier it gets to make sound resource management decisions. Alternatively, doing it manually wastes a lot of time and effort. A modern and well-suited resource planning system can be the trick here.
6. Compare Actual Performance against estimates -It’s advisable to plan your resources against a specific timeframe. Resources usually spend more or less time than is anticipated; creating a gap between real hours spent and the projected time. Regularly comparing the two can enhance accuracy in future resource allocations and free up idle resources for other projects and activities.
In short, there is no doubt that lack of resource forecasting or planning can disadvantage your organization a lot.
Benefits of resource planning and forecasting
- Maximized resource utilization.
- Project managers can appraise their schedules and easily estimate resource availability in real-time.
- Resource forecasting leads to improved staffing. This helps managers to bring together more productive and effective project teams and workgroups.
- Better project resource availability management.
- Precise resource capacity planning and efficient allocation of resources.
Project management and time tracking
Time is one of the most vital resources to consider when managing a project. It is imperative for every project manager to assess if the project is going on as intended. Additionally, time management is vital in regards to resource maximization. Normally, employees are paid for two key things: their skills and time. For that reason, it is their responsibility to be present at their place of work for a specific number of hours every day, executing tasks within the prescribed time.
More often than not, projects go over budget. Before project managers realize that the project is taking that unfortunate route, it is usually too late. What if time tracking is utilized as the tool to allocate and manage project resources? When you know which task consume the most time, not necessarily the ones who bring the most gain or need the most effort, you can easily determine whether that time is spent well.
Benefits of time tracking
Here are some significant benefits of time tracking for efficient allocation of resources. Time tracking allows project managers to:
- Releases insights into how long the project will approximately take the team to complete
- Assign the right kind of task to the right person
- Take immediate action on areas which evidently require improvements and more resource allocation in project management.
- Offer better visibility into resource utilization
- Track overall workers productivity and levels of performance or output over a period of time.
- Establish realistic expectations, deliverables, and deadlines
- Effectively handle remote teams
In short, time spent is a significant measure of resources needed. It clearly shows whether a certain project needs additional resources, in terms of personnel or other inputs, and it provides project managers with insights on who presents the most value for the team. This is priceless information both for the project team and organization as a whole. Team members use time tracking to work towards their shared and personal goals. On the other hand, executives or project managers use time-tracking insights to give them a correct overview of the team’s performance, overall well being and productivity.
After resources have been deployed, and time spent has been tracked, it is imperative to close the loop and evaluate the actual hours spent against the initially forecasted estimates. Most time-tracking systems have dashboards which point to inconsistencies between resource capacity and resource forecasts and actual work performed. By spotting discrepancies and understanding the primary causes, project managers can better estimate – and thus, more successfully utilize resources in the future.
Therefore, implementation of time tracking, in which employees and managers enter time spent on different projects and tasks, allows for the measurement of actual resource effort across projects, departments, and portfolios. It is easy to improve the project management when you can plan, track and measure the project portfolio activities.
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