An essential part of planning any project is to match the available resources with the jobs to be done, identify gaps in resources, and fill the gaps. While capacity is about figuring out the maximum amount your team can produce, the resource capacity planning process goes deeper.
By analyzing the current portfolio of projects and making sure you have efficient resource utilization, you can balance the workload, make effective resource forecasts, and employ best practices for project portfolio management.
How to Improve Your Resource Capacity Planning Initiatives
The resource capacity planning process must account for any difference between the demand for resources and capacity, and the development of an action plan to balance this equation. Here are eight tips to improve the efficiency of your resource capacity planning.
1. Get a Reality Check on Availability and Task Completion
Resource allocation can get complex without understanding how people work in the real world. Employees may work a 40-hour workweek, for example, but they aren’t available to devote the full 40 hours to your project. They typically have additional responsibilities that will reduce the number of available hours.
Start with a reality check. Find out how team members are investing their time and how much of their workday you can realistically assign as a project’s resource.
It’s also important to find out how long tasks actually take. You may assume a particular job takes two hours, but it may really take four. Such a miscalculation about team skills early in the planning and resource planning phase can dramatically impact your resource requirements.
Overestimating team skill sets, availability, and how long it takes to accomplish tasks are some of the most common — and costly — mistakes a resource manager can make in project management. When you consider that, according to one study, the average worker is only productive less than three hours out of an eight-hour workday, you can see it’s easy to overestimate output.
2. Build in Time for Learning on the Job
According to a Gartner study, seven in ten workers say they haven’t mastered the skills they need for their current job. Just because you have a list of skills workers say they have doesn’t mean they are proficient and able to perform at 100% right from the start.
The better handle you have on your team members and their level of proficiency, the more efficiently you can facilitate both your high-level planning and task assignment.
3. Plan for Capacity Restraints
When you are planning capacity, keep in mind that there may be constraints put on your resources which can create bottlenecks.
For example, there may be a limited number of people within your organization that have the specific skill sets you need for various phases of your project. These critical resources will be in demand across your project portfolio and may not be available when you want them.
While your long-term capacity management plan may involve bringing on additional workers with these skill sets or upskilling your current team, your immediate project planning needs to take into account the potential for limited access.
4. Implement the Work Breakdown Structure
Capacity planning involves breaking the project into smaller, more manageable segments. Resource management software as a planning tool can help you visualize the various projects and tasks for more efficient resource allocation.
By creating a formal work breakdown structure (WBS), it helps you to optimize workflow and maximize the allocation process. A large part of planning is the process of identifying gaps, risks, and conflicts. A WBS structure helps you see conflicts more easily so that it can be used as a management tool to anticipate problems and remediate them before they slow down your project.
5. Identify Critical Paths
Critical paths are the longest string of dependent activities within a project. Tasks involved in critical paths require the most attention because delays at one stage can significantly affect project delivery as a whole.
For example, when you are managing a building project, you can’t begin work on interior finishes until you finish the foundation, put up the walls, and put on the roof. Delays in the critical pathway delay everything down the line.
Most project managers assess their critical paths and make sure resources are allocated first to these areas and then they monitor them closely to keep projects on schedule.
6. Perform Scenario Modeling
People say you should always plan for the unexpected. One way you can do that is by creating scenario models that can project change to capacity and resources based on changes that may occur. For example, you can model:
- Changes to resource supply, such as unavailability of workers or staffing changes
- Changes to project scope
- Shifting organizational priorities which may pull resources away from one project
- Shifts in hourly rates
- Impact of delays at various points in project performance
By running scenarios, you are better prepared if and when changes do occur. It can help you identify shortfalls and create contingency plans.
7. Utilize Real-Time Reporting
As projects are underway, real-time reporting helps keep project managers and stakeholders up to date on what’s happening. When you can quickly assess where everything stands, it’s much easier to answer questions and make better decisions.
This is especially important as priorities or capacity shifts.
8. Use the Right Capacity Planning Tools
One of the most crucial decisions you’ll make when planning projects is which capacity planning tools you choose.
You also want capacity management software that:
- Is easy to use and intuitive
- Scales to any size of project or portfolio of projects
- Provides robust security
- Integrates with other systems
- Traceable to create complete audit trails
When it comes to project portfolio management, Cora PPM combines strategic functionality with execution functionality to help you make the right decisions. Cora PPM helps you optimize capacity, access scenarios, track benefits, and ensure your stakeholders have access to real-time information.
Contact Cora Systems to see how our resource capacity planning and strategic capacity management tools can save you time and money. Request a personalized demo today.