You may have heard the expression “herding cats”, the phrase comes from the common saying that something involving coordination of many different groups of people is as difficult as herding cats. This is how many organisations would describe their resource management approach!
In order to gain resource visibility, organisations will typically do one, or a combination of the following:
- Create a spreadsheet masterpiece (most common)
- Rely on Outlook calendars
- Use a specialist resource management solution
- Keep track of resources on a whiteboard
If you can relate to any of the above, don’t worry, we assure you that you are definitely not alone! Findings from a survey titled “Project Management: the State of the Industry” also highlighted that “resource management” was one of the biggest pain points experienced by organisations running projects, just behind “inconsistent approaches to managing projects”.
The biggest issue with the options outlined above is that the resource information is disconnected to the project schedule itself and if that changes, have fun updating the resource views you’ve cobbled together! As well as being disconnected, keeping manual track of your resources is very labour intensive and any ‘real-time’ view that you’ve just painstakingly created will very quickly become out-of-date.
So let’s take the following ‘real world’ example to appreciate the impact of poor resource visibility. The project I’ll be referring to is the construction of the “Death Star”, I love Star Wars. You may recall Darth Vader’s arrival on the Death Star, pleasantries aside, he states “I’m here to put you back on schedule” to which the commander (Project Manager) responds, “My men are working as fast as they can”, before finally conceding that the emperor (Sponsor) is asking for the impossible and requests from Darth Vader more resources (request declined). With that in mind and the realisation that the Emperor is heading to the Death Star he has no choice but to say “we’ll double our efforts”.
So this raises a number of questions, how does the commander know that the existing resources are fully utilised? I assume he “heard it through the grapevine” Gaye (1968). He states confidently, “we’ll double our efforts”, won’t that result in over utilisation? That’s not an exhaustive list of questions, but it does overwhelm the mind.
I’m sure that the commander would agree that in hindsight he should have greeted Darth Vader armed with a number of resource management reports highlighting facts such as resource utilisation, potential bottlenecks and upcoming holiday requests. If he had then maybe, just maybe Darth Vader would have been more accommodating. What he really needed was Microsoft Project Online, we always end up here.
So, in this the second in a 4 part series looking at how Microsoft PPM can help you overcome the biggest PM pains organisations face. We are going to explore the features available to help your organisation achieve a better approach to resource management. This is quite a detailed topic and the articles intention is to provide an introduction to the general benefits not an exhaustive overview.
Within Project Web App we delve in to the Resource Centre, where you hold your enterprise resource pool (Stormtroopers, Droids etc…) and access a wide range of resource related information and reports.
It’s within the resource centre that you see a centralised list of all of your resources and you can group and filter them in a number of ways. At a high level you have three types of resources:
1. Work Resources; people and equipment
2. Material resources; consumables
3. Cost resources; budgets and expenses
In the resource centre you’ll see that we’ve got a number of resources selected, so that we can view resource assignments and resource availability.
Within Resource Assignments we see a row highlighting firstly the resource name, beneath which we see a list of all of the projects they’ve been assigned too and respectively the assigned tasks. On the right hand side of the screen we see a Timephased Data view showing us the number of planned and actual hours per day, you can also view this at a higher level using a Gantt Chart view.
In the Resource Availability area we have access to a number of other complementary visual views that show us Assignment Work by Resource, by Project, Remaining Availability and assigned Work. All of these views are backed up by data tables which can be exported to Excel for further slicing and dicing.
Delving in to Project Professional, you can assign resources directly from the Enterprise Resource Pool, so any assignments reflect in real-time in the resource centre, consequently providing everyone with up to date resource visibility – effectively giving them the Force.
Within the Build Team feature you have access to a wide range of options that make the task of determining availability and assigning resources more streamlined.
Project Professional also provides a Team Planner view which lets you see all of the task assignments within your project against the respective resources, here you can clearly see clashes with other projects and you also have the ability to re-assign or re-schedule tasks simply by clicking and dragging.
Lastly, there are also a number of pre-build resource specific dashboards and reports that you can access via Project Professional, they can highlight project as well as portfolio level information.
Improve your Project Management
In this introductory article I wanted to provide a high level overview of resource management capabilities within Project Server 2013 and Project Online to demonstrate how you can improve your resource management. I also wanted an excuse to refer to Star Wars, the Death Star and of course Darth Vader.
Next month I’ll be continuing with the series and the topic of discussion will be Project Reporting, obviously Microsoft PPM will feature and Darth Vader might also make an appearance!