A good practice in many large organizations is to insist that project managers plan resource allocation on their projects using roles or skills as opposed to “named” resources. This is part of a consistent resource request & fulfillment process that places the responsibility for supply-side decisions with resource managers.
The same is not true in most small companies that have resource pools of less than fifty staff. In these organizations, project managers usually have a good idea of who possesses what skills, so when the time comes to plan resource allocation for their projects, resources are picked by name. The approach of defining the specific skills or roles and then asking the functional managers to pick the one person that everyone knows has these skills feels onerous and unnecessary and both project and functional managers would complain.
While this might be a valid point, there are benefits of using the more structured approach:
1. As the organization grows it will eventually become inefficient to allocate resources in this fashion and at that time it would likely be harder to change behaviors that are ingrained.
2. Even the smallest company likely has more project requests than resources to deliver all of them at any given time. When deciding what sets of projects to do in a given period of time, the benefit of using generic resource plans is that decision makers can visualize skill-based demand making it easier to come up with an optimal set of projects based on these constraints.
3. A common issue that occurs when name-based planning is done by project managers is that senior resources or those with very specialized skill sets tend to get over-allocated while junior or generalist skilled resources remain under-allocated. It is possible to start to hold resource managers accountable for optimizing the utilization of their staff if they are the gatekeepers on allocation decisions. Of course, an equally common side effect that occurs is that some resource managers purely become dispatchers with the right resource not always getting assigned to the right work. This is where having a good resource evaluation feedback loop from the demand-side of the equation (i.e. the project managers and sponsors) can identify such behaviors early enough to take corrective action.
4. If a company wishes to execute more projects at a given time than they can staff, a role or skills-based resource plan will provide them with a good understanding of the type and quantity of skills that can could be brought in on a part-time basis. After all, it’s a lot easier to procure three intermediate business analysts, than to say “I need three more Bob’s”!