6 Resource-Centric Challenges in Project Management and (How To) Fix Them


6 Resource-Centric Challenges in Project Management

A good project plan marks a project’s success, and resource planning is an essential element of a project plan. Once the project manager estimates the demand for the project, he approaches the resource manager to fulfill this resource demand. 

Managing resource is a crucial aspect of project management methodologies. Therefore, a project’s success depends on how resources are identified, allocated, and utilized within the budgeted time and costs.

PMI conducted a study on 4,455 global project practitioners. In the same survey, 26% blamed resource dependency, 21% resource limitations, and 18% believed inadequate resource forecasting caused project failures. 

Lack of the right skills or technology for a particular task when needed results in budget overruns and project delays. It is especially true in large organizations having a multi-project environment.

Resource planning challenges are one of the biggest obstacles that resource managers face. But, before we delve into the challenges and how to course-correct them, let’s get the basics right.

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What is Resource Planning in Project Management?

It encompasses planning, forecasting, allocating, and utilizing different enterprise resources to projects effectively and efficiently. These resources can be human or non-human, like facilities, assets, equipment, among others. 

Let us find which are the significant resource planning challenges that plague project management how to overcome them:

1.   Fail To Identify Skill Gaps: 

Experts predict that by 2022, new jobs will replace existing jobs wholly or partially. Additionally, a recent study by Gartner shows that 80% of employees lacked the skills needed for their current and contemporary roles. 

Many businesses are still relying on outdated legacy tools that fail to manage their resources. As a result, they fail to identify skill gaps in advance. So, organizations resort to last-minute drills like going overboard with expensive hiring drives. 

Using a proper capacity planning tool, organizations can forecast the resource capacity vs. the demand for future and pipeline projects. Besides, it also helps predict skill shortages and take remedial measures to bridge the gap in advance. 

These measures include reskilling existing employees, smoothening project workload, or hiring new employees and contingent workforce. Contingent employees comprise casual workers, freelancers, part-timers, and contractors. These resource treatments ensure that your resource pool is skilled and updated to take on future work. 

2.   No Visibility Into Future And Pipeline Projects: 

In the absence of appropriate forecasting solutions, businesses cannot plan for pipeline projects in advance. It leads to last-minute fire fighting for competent resources, compromised quality, unnecessary hiring/firing costs, or lost market opportunities. Subsequently, the projects cannot kick off as planned, causing delays and budget overruns. 

An intuitive resource forecasting and capacity planning solution can help overcome these challenges by making the right resources available for the right project at the right time. Then, once the project reaches the opportunity or approval stage in the sales pipeline process, managers can start planning.  

Resource capacity planning enables managers to evaluate the project demand against the existing capacity to identify the excesses and shortages ahead of time. Accordingly, appropriate resourcing treatments such as adjusting timelines, training, hiring, etc., can be applied. 

Not only does it minimize last-minute hiring activities, but it also ensures a skilled resource pool ready to take future projects and futureproofs them against market volatilities. 

3.   Complexities Of Matrix Structure Organizations:

Finding the right resource with the required skill set is vital to project delivery within estimates. Resource allocation involves identifying and deploying resources for a specific period on tasks based on competencies and timelines. 

However, the lack of complete visibility of resources often results in hasty and wrongful resource allocation. Usually, resources allocated lack the skills and availability required to align with the project plan. Poor resource allocation also creates a large pool of mismatched skill sets that can jeopardize project plans.

A resource management solution helps eliminate silos within an organization to provide complete visibility of all resources. It automates the resource requesting process by enabling users to specify skills, competency, experience, and project timelines. So that resource managers can allocate competent and available resources to the right projects. 

Moreover, resource planning tools provide booked vs. actuals analysis that helps improve overall resource allocation strategy. The data collated from bookings compared to the data derived from timesheets helps plan future requirements. 

4.   Lack Of Resource Visibility: 

From a project’s standpoint, resource visibility is a prelude to their availability for informed decision-making. In the absence of clear resource visibility, schedule conflicts, over/underutilization, or mismatch allocations are bound to happen. 

In matrix organizations, mainly, silos within departments and locations restrict resource visibility. Consequently, matching an available resource with the required skill set to respective tasks is hard to achieve. 

Also, there is a demand for cross-project resource allocation in a matrixed environment. Besides, most of the time, a lack of sufficient resources to fully staff your projects is quite common. So, if there are ten concurrent active projects, it’s likely that many vital resources are working on various projects simultaneously.

As mentioned earlier, the lack of enterprise visibility leads to improper resource allocation. Without much detail on the utilization and availability, overbooking resources can cause employee burnout and wasteful hiring/firing costs.

Switching to an enterprise resource management tool provides visibility of all resources in a unified view. It offers multidimensional resource visibility drilled down to roles, skills, experience, department, location, experience, availability, and cost rate. So that all the elusive queries to resource availability are at your fingertips. 

5.   Outdated Competency Matrix Resulting In Improper Allocation: 

Once you have gained complete visibility, the next pressing challenge includes not updating competencies. Today, the significance of agile culture is high, and value-centric project delivery is essential. 

So, to get the best out of your existing workforce, access to updated employee skills in real-time is essential. Besides, the skill sets should match the project specifications so that once allocated, involving training initiatives is not required.

Outdated tools like spreadsheets record employee skills updated months ago. As the updated skill sets are invisible, organizations hire resources with the same skill set at a higher cost.  

Businesses can avoid this wasteful hiring with the help of a modern solution. Using a self-serving model, individuals can update and verify their competency information. So, the right skills can match the project requirements and allocation. 

6.   Not Able To Leverage Resource Skills Across Matrix Boundaries: 

A typical matrix organization spans multiple locations and offices. Resources can be local, i.e., specific to the site, or global, accessible across boundaries. If there is a demand for a particular skill set offshore, local resources can fill in as a global resource. 

Hiring global resources has two advantages. First, having the right skill sets needed for the task and appointing resources at a lower cost rate.

Besides, leveraging them across matrix organization boundaries turns out to be a cost-effective option. So, even if the global resource turns out to be expensive, still deploying the right skill set will not compromise quality. So, it is a lucrative option to explore in the long run.

However, when organizations refrain from using global resources with the right skill sets, it causes project delays and budget overruns. Hence, the ability to leverage resource skills across matrix boundaries helps to achieve more with fewer resources.

7.   Discrepancies In Resource Availability:  

Concluding from previous points, it is evident that the resource plan must align with resource availability. Only then will the project continue as planned without any hiccups along the way. Let’s take an example to understand the implications of resource availability discrepancies impacting project timelines and budget.

Bob is in charge of a crucial phase of an ongoing project starting from the second week of October. On October 7th, the project manager realizes that Bob will be on leave for two weeks between 10th and 24th October.

Whenever employees’ leaves and project deliveries clash, it creates an environment of chaos and pressure. But with an intelligent resource scheduling software, recording Bob’s holiday would have otherwise alerted the concerned manager during scheduling and planning. Accordingly, proactive resource planning can help avoid bottlenecks.

So, it is also essential to keep an account of resources that are not available. Resource scheduling tools can help track time off for employees on leave and show the availability of resources. Thus, your project plan doesn’t deviate from its due course, and everything goes as planned.

The Takeaway:

Summing up from the points mentioned above, glitches in resource planning jeopardizes project budget and timeline. Managers must ensure that resource costs are within permissible limits, failing which these costs begin to eat through the revenue.

An intuitive system displaying accurate resource insights in real-time can help steer competent and agile decision-making. Scientific methods like considering the skills, costs, location, and resource availability help in the diligent deployment. An enterprise-level resource management solution enables you to achieve that and more with your limited resources. 

Mahendra Gupta

Mahendra Gupta is PMP certified with over 15 years of expertise in workforce planning and resource management space. As a Project Consultant for Saviom Software, his experience has enabled many multinational companies across the globe to diversify their project portfolio and achieve strategic goals. In his leisure time, Mahendra likes to indulge in gardening, yoga, and cook for his family. Follow his work here.

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