Understanding the Stages of Resource Management Maturity

The APM Body of Knowledge defines resource management as ‘the acquisition and deployment of the internal and external resources required to deliver the project, programme or portfolio’.  

Microsoft Project Online provides enhanced project management capabilities to enable better planning, objective portfolio prioritisation, as well as streamlined reporting capabilities through both native capabilities and Power BI. However, one of Project Online’s greatest assets is enterprise resource management capabilities.

Benefits of enterprise resource management capabilities

  • Centralised resource visibility across all projects via the Enterprise Resource Pool; a central repository storing, accessing and reporting on your organisational resources
  • Benefit from shared resource pool when assigning resources
  • Identify assignment conflicts
  • Assess resource utilisation – see where resources are overallocated and if there is the remaining capacity for new initiatives

However, when considering using Project Online to tackle resource management, it’s important to realise that “Not all organisations are created equally”. The organisational maturity, culture and readiness, i.e. the ability to adopt change, will determine the pace at which resource management is implemented.  

To help define a Resource Management Roadmap, we’re going to discuss how Enterprise Resource Management can be implemented through a number of stages. In this article, we’re going to be focusing on the initial stage – Capacity Planning.

What is Capacity Planning?

This is definitely the easiest stage to implement for an organisation and should be seen as the foundation to maturing the resource management capability. Capacity planning is the process of capturing demand against the project portfolio and calculating how many resources are required to then meet that demand.

The first step is to agree on the planning granularity; will resources be assigned at a high level or at the task detail level? Whilst the purist view may be that resources should be assigned at the task detail level, this may not always be appropriate, not only for the level of maturity but also for the stage of project planning.

During the earlier stages of planning, the detailed WBS may not be known, along with the resource profile, both of which will develop over time. It’s therefore good practice to define a Planning Horizon which can be used to allocate resources using a logical approach. We’ll touch on this a bit later.

Typically, Generic Resources are assigned at the early stage of planning to gather high-level resource requirements. Generic resources are utilised to assign a specific role, e.g. Project Manager, Business Analyst etc, to a project task as opposed to having to assign named resources too early in the project life.

Whilst these generic roles could be assigned against detailed tasks in the schedule, equally, they could be assigned against high level “resource bucket” tasks. Considering how the data is going to be used at this stage, i.e. to show demand forecast of the resource by month or quarter, capacity planning is not about identifying what Bob is doing next Tuesday afternoon at 2pm… rather, how many “Bobs” do we need over the next quarter?

So, whilst in perhaps more mature organisations resources could be assigned at a detailed task level, for those just beginning to introduce the concept of resource management, organisations should consider assigning resources against high level “resource bucket” tasks as a minimum standard. With this approach, organisations can still take advantage of the scheduling capability with Project Online but reduce the onus on project managers to maintain a detailed resource-loaded plan.

For more information on Wellingtone’s recommended approach to assigning resources to “bucket” tasks, download our How-to Guide.

What is a Planning Horizon?

Depending on the length of the project (and the pace of change), not all the resources will be identified long term. Therefore, it is good practice to define a Planning Horizon which can be used to allocate people using a logical approach:

Planning Horizon in Project Online

In order to utilise this combined approach, we first need to understand the relationship between Generic and Named Resources. As mentioned, generic resources are roles, they are not real people. They’re used to capture demand during the early stages of planning and then replaced with named resources later in the project lifecycle.

This feature is enabled by defining the Role resource field, used for matching generic with named resources.

Generic and named resources in Project Online

It’s important to realise that, when combining generic and named resources, that generic resources do not represent capacity, only real people can satisfy demand.

Generic and named resources

We’d always suggest setting the Generic Resource “Maximum Units” to be 0% which avoids a misrepresentation of capacity being encountered. Where “Maximum Units” for Generic Resources are left at the default 100%, your reports may significantly overstate capacity, as the calculation will include both real people and Generic Resources. For example, using the illustration above, if we leave the Maximum Units for Project Manager at 100% and combine this with the 300% from our 3 named project managers (Bob, Tim and Sue), this will show the total capacity for Project Management as 400% / 4 FTE. Capacity is now overstated by 1 FTE.

Whilst we recommended setting the “Maximum Units” for a Generic Resource to be 0%, beware this will result in “ROG” indicators (the Red Overallocated Guy) appearing in the schedule.

Maximum units for a generic resource

This is not a bad thing during the early stages of assembling a schedule, however, it should be addressed if/when real people are assigned to the work.

As referenced above, the Role resource field is used to match generic with named resources. One of the benefits of this feature is the ability to match and replace generic resource assignments with named resources within the schedule.

Using the Match function in the Build the Team from Enterprise window will filter the resource pool on the left and show only those resources with a matching skill set.

Build the Team from Enterprise

This enables project managers/planners to select the desired resource and select Replace to swap the Generic Resource with the Named Individual.

As well as combing Generic and Named Resources to capture demand, as illustrated in our example above, there are alternative ways of doing so.

Alternative Methods to capture demand in Project Online

1) Use Generic Resources Only

If your organisation is only interested in the allocation of roles or functions, it may be appropriate to just populate the Enterprise Resource Pool with generic resources. Note: If working with generic resources ONLY, ensure that Maximum Units represent the number of resources available to projects. For example, if there are 3 full-time project managers available for project work, ensure max units is set to 300% to reflect actual capacity.  

2) Use Actual Resources Only

Whilst this approach will not be feasible in all organisations, the upside of using actual resources is that you get a better understanding of the over/under‑utilisation of specific individuals. For example, ‘Bill’ may be the favourite Business Analyst, but if the tooling didn’t show Bill as an actual resource in the schedules, you would not see he is overallocated. Note: If working with actual resources ONLY, it will be hard to capture demand and capacity for the longer term; you may not know who will be available that far ahead in the future.

Now we have discussed capacity planning and how to use the schedules in Project Online to capture demand, we can explore the next stage of Implementing Resource Management; Resource Allocation in the next instalment.

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By: Rachel Goodwin

Rachel Goodwin
Senior PPM Consultant, Wellingtone | An experienced PMO professional; P30 and PRINCE 2 certified, skilled at developing and implementing Project & Programme management methodologies, tools and best practices, with the ability to balance formal processes with pragmatism to drive delivery.

Published: 21 April 2021

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