The Art of Managing Project Resources Effectively

Managing resources… Piece of cake, right? Well, actually no. Resource management has been, is and undoubtedly will be the bug bear of many a Project or Programme Manager. That’s because it’s an art and not a science. It involves predicting the future – and let’s face it, not many of us can do that very well.

Yes Managing Resources is tricky, but there are some simple guiding principles that can make the whole process a heck of a lot less stressful. We’ve listed some handy tips and, but the overall message here is to keep it simple. As soon as managing resources becomes an industry in itself, you’re doomed.

Tip #1: Be flexible

We guarantee that things will change. Even the most well-thought-through plans, run past every stakeholder you can get time with, will change. That’s the nature of business. The key thing is to be ready to adapt. In practice, this means really understanding the detail and dependencies in the plan, so that when things do change, you can understand pretty quickly the impact of this, change your plan and communicate the impact to key stakeholders.

Tip #2: Build in contingency

It’s important not to be overly optimistic or pessimistic when estimating tasks, and so generally speaking, it’s good to factor in around 5-10% contingency for all tasks. This means not taking every resource estimate you get at face value; be sure to challenge it and to understand an appropriate level of contingency for that task.

Tip #3: Don’t treat your resources like resources

OK, we’ll clarify that. Your resource plan may have a lot of names on it, people you may not know very well or even at all. But be careful not to treat people like a name on a spreadsheet or a slide: they are human beings! Remember that they’re the people you’re relying on to get this project over the line. Make sure you communicate with them, help them understand what you’re trying to achieve and have open and honest conversations about their confidence in the estimates put forward. The same goes for the people who manage your resources and the PMO (if you have one); there may come a time when you need to negotiate or twist a few arms to secure resources, and that’s when those relationships come in especially handy.

Tip #4: A plan is a living document

It’s easy to produce a wonderful resource plan at the beginning of the project, colour coded and neatly presented with graphics and fonts. You produce this and you feel great. And then the first challenge hits – it might even be a matter of hours later, and that plan is already out-of-date. So it’s not just important that you are flexible in your attitude towards resource management (see tip #1), but that you have a plan you can easily review, update and reshare with key stakeholders in light of change.

Tip #5: Pick the right tool for the job (and avoid getting seduced by things you really don’t need!)

There are so many tools out there, it can be hard to make head or tail of it. At one end of the spectrum, you could be scribbling something down in your notepad, at the other you may have advanced PPM tools that can pretty much do anything. In between, you’ve got spreadsheets, web tools like Trello and native apps like Microsoft Project. All of these have their places, but it’s very important that before you pick one, you think about what you need the tool to do first; then you go and find one that fits it. Avoid getting wooed by fancy demos and consider what’s important to you.

Tip #6: It’s as much about people and process as it is about tools and technology

Having the right tool for the job can save a lot of stress and effort, but don’t be fooled into thinking this is the job done. Resource management is as much about the process and people as it is about the tools and technology. As we mentioned any good Project or Programme Manager should be continuously cultivating relationships with relevant stakeholders and resources themselves. Be sure to implement a process that actually works too; don’t default to standard templates or weekly meeting cycles if this doesn’t work for the project or programme, you’re working on. Much like the tool you use, it’s important that it works for you and your project.

There we have our top tips, but there’s so much more we can offer. For further information contact: EstherM@NineFeetTall.com

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