The reality of resource scarcity requires that employees’ time is well-spent carrying out the company’s goals. However, no amount project planning and tracking tools can optimize resource allocation without a single view of all resources across the company. Obtaining that single view is the challenge that resource allocation solves.
Project Success Does Not Equate to Resource Optimization
Managers rightfully applaud successful conclusions of projects, but bringing a particular initiative to a favorable close does not ensure that a company has optimized its project resources.When resource planning is conducted solely on a project-by-project basis, companies fail to look at the big picture in terms of resource allocation and priorities. As a result, the chances of a disconnect between company strategy and how people spend their time multiply.
Resource Allocation Challenges and Myths
Suboptimal resource allocation often is present in siloed organizations with limited communication between departments. Such structure limits visibility into the capacity of the overall pool of resources in the company and how resources are being utilized across departments. As a result, department project priorities are not necessarily reflective of the tactics, which provide the roadmap for executing company strategy. Uneven workflow also becomes commonplace.
“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
Adapted from “To a Mouse” by Robert Burns
Resistance to adopting resource allocation may arise from beliefs that non-discretionary tasks requiring immediate attention stand in the way of the ability to plan very far ahead. In truth, rearranging schedules to accommodate “fire-fighting” becomes easier when managers have visibility into projects across the organization, not just ones in their own departments.
Another common point of resistance stems from the belief that resource allocation is time-consuming to accomplish and maintain when, in fact, it saves time and money in the long run.
A Shared Mindset about Priorities and Plans
The first step in successful execution is having a shared mindset among top-level executives regarding priorities and plans. The next step is gaining buy-in from department managers, which likely requires presenting benefits. The third step is facilitating communications about and visibility into projects throughout the organization.
Transparency into how resources are allocated enables employees who are carrying out day-to-day tasks to become invested in the company’s success and better advocates.
Ten Rules for Successful Resource Allocation
- Use simple planning tools such as a common spreadsheet program.
- Plan on a rolling 18-month basis.
- Ensure proposed projects are aligned with tactics that drive the company’s overall strategic plan.
- Begin by assigning priorities to projects – non-discretionary, ongoing and new projects.
- Include resources for development lifecycle, implementation and ongoing production support.
- Build in non-project time – vacations, holidays, and meetings, for example.
- Ensure the amount of time allocated to a project is in sync with corporate priorities.
- Hold individuals accountable for tracking their time.
- Conduct project risk assessments to determine the impact of changes.
- Conduct a monthly review to uncover significant variances, identify the reasons for the variances – scope creep, loss of a resource, under-allocation, etc. – and analyze their impact.
Compliance and accuracy take time. But over time, the resource allocation model becomes an increasingly useful tool for forecasting, business case justification and determining where gaps or duplications in resources reside.