Having an objective understanding of resource commitments is critical to making good project portfolio management decisions. Without this, senior staff are likely to be vastly over-allocated and more junior resources will be underutilized. Worse, resource requestors will assume infinite capacity and project prioritization or staff augmentation proposals are unlikely to progress well.
Simply rolling out resource management procedures supported by a resource allocation database is insufficient to ensure that the information captured is accurate and complete.
A common issue is incomplete allocations of named resources to future project and non-project activities. Equally common are shifts in project allocation which have not been communicated or confirmed between project and functional managers. Finally, if staff can be committed using default allocation percentages you are likely to find the default values are being over utilized as the norm.
Some of these issues are easy to identify. Gross over-allocations or under utilization of specific resources can be detected and managed through regular exception reporting. What’s more challenging is determining whether seemingly reasonable staff allocations are, in fact, accurate and up-to-date.
What makes this problem even more difficult is that the source knowledge resides in the heads of three (or more people): the individual team member themselves, their direct reporting manager, and one or more project managers. It’s easy to put the burden of accountability on the functional managers, but they don’t manage their staff in isolation.
If information is being tracked within the resource pool of a project portfolio management system and if project managers are keeping their schedules current, resource allocations to project work should be reasonably up-to-date, but there is no guarantee that the functional managers to whom team members report will have approved changes in committed allocation or that the schedules are at a sufficient level of detail to support good resource management practices.
Like time reporting, it is possible to employ punitive measures to force functional and project managers to update allocation information on a regular basis. Unfortunately, as there is no foolproof, right-sized method of validating the quality of the data they enter, it is advisable to take a balanced approach which focuses on ensuring the managers see the benefits in having accurate resource data while simultaneously reducing the manual effort of maintaining it.
Speaking softly and carrying a big stick is not the best way to achieve accurate resource forecasts, but another one of Teddy Roosevelt’s quotations is appropriate: “It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.“