Project management is often a company’s saving grace or its source of endless frustration.
Depending on how well your team works together, the expertise of the project manager, and the complexity of the projects, you may love or hate your current project management system. And yet, without some form of project management, many businesses spin their wheels endlessly without ever getting anything done. There are lots of reasons why projects fail, but time and resource management don’t have to be contributing factors.
With improved resource management, teams can understand how much time contributors are spending on individual tasks, what realistic completion goals should look like, and where bottlenecks slow or stop projects completely.
What is Resource Management?
According to Wrike, resource management is “the process of pre-planning, scheduling, and allocating your resources to maximum efficiency.” It requires an understanding of your project goals, identification of resources, and a willingness to be flexible and open minded to make your projects better. Resources might include time, people, skills, software, physical supplies, server space, and more.
The problem: unrealistic project deadlines
Unrealistic project deadlines have far-reaching consequences for project-heavy teams. If deadlines are too short, contributors rush through tasks or work overtime, and turn in work late or unfinished. If deadlines are too loose, projects linger forever unfinished. Either situation is bad for morale, product releases, customer happiness, and your bottom line.
The causes: lack of communication and visibility
Without a project management tool and insight into resources, it’s easy to make a poor estimation of the time and resources needed to complete a project. And as the planning fallacy cautions, we’re not great judges of our own abilities. We overestimate how much we can do in a given time period and underestimate how much others can do. Add bad metrics from project management tools to our natural optimistic or conservative tendencies, and it’s hard to get a clear picture of project processes.
Assuming that your team members are working hard and outside forces like scope creep are kept to a minimum, unrealistic project deadlines are a result of poor planning, which is a relatively easy problem to fix.
Using resource management for better project management deadlines
Map it out
Take the time to plan out your project according to the resources you actually have. It’s rare for employees to be able to devote all of their attention to a single project, so find out how many hours a day your employees can devote to this project. This may vary from day to day and week to week.
Software licenses and physical assets are also resources. Take into account your team’s particular limitations.
- Can several machines run processes concurrently?
- What issues might the team run into if they work on different parts of the project at the same time?
- How will the server load from this project affect current business-critical processes?
Be sure to note task dependencies, as they extend your timeline. Mind Tools suggests that you assume resources will only be available 80 percent of the time, which leaves some wiggle room for errors, illness, or repairs.
Once you understand the physical resources and time you’ll need to set aside for the project, you should set objectives and enumerate tasks. Assign total hours—you may want to adjust these according to how your team generally operates. If your team takes on too much and usually has to rush, give them a few more hours than they think they need.
Document all the tasks and their dependencies in a project management software to provide the team a visual representation of your project. A GANTT chart that includes how long each task will take and lists of subtasks will help your team visualize the project and better understand their respective deadlines.
During the project, add tags and categories to tasks so you can keep track of the types of work you’re doing. Tags can help the team get a big-picture view of progress and provide visibility into how long others spend on each task. Most importantly, tags ease analysis after the project is over. If your project management tool lets you set task statuses, you can also use these to understand the state of each tag and your work in general.
Use time tracking
There are lots of free time tracking apps available on the web for your desktop, browser, or mobile phone. Use these simple stopwatch timers to better understand how much actual time—instead of wishy-washy self-estimated time—your tasks take to complete. Use the same tags you designated in your project management tool for clarity across the tools. Or, if your project management tool includes a time tracking feature, use that for your resource management.
Learn from your data
We all do it: we track a bunch of data that then sits forever-unused in a database. It’s time to start putting your data to work for your project management. Set an appointment to go through your data close to the end of the current project. During that meeting, review all your time, resource, completion, and quality data. Then identify:
- Where your team did well
- 1-2 areas for improvement in your next project cycle
Have these points ready for your project wrap-up meeting and your next project’s planning meeting. Write them on a whiteboard or in your presentation slides and refer back to them as you plan your next project. How can you use your points of strength to improve your next project? How can contributors take responsibility for improving the weak points?
As with any improvement plan, building resource management into your project management system requires a commitment to understanding where you’ve been in order to improve the future. Don’t try to fix everything at once. Focus on a few high-impact items that will help your team improve your project delivery.
Give it time, keep tracking your resources and learning about them.
Need a project management tool with built-in resource management tools? Use our product selection tool for project management software to get a fast, free list of apps that’ll work for your team. Or call us at 877.822.9526 and a Technology Advisor will give you a list of software that meet your needs.