Resource planning should be a basic building block of all engineering and other professional services organizations; however, many firms accomplish this critical planning in a silo with spreadsheets or other disparate systems. With profit and growth top of mind, accurate resource planning can result in a large operational improvement that will show immediate results in the bottom line.
Below are 8 suggestions to start making the most of your resources today.
- Decide to make the resource management discipline a priority!
Many engineering companies just don’t manage their resources, which is just incredible considering that resources are the main generator of revenue. So, it only makes sense to create, staff, and support a robust resource management practice.
- Concentrate on the availability of key skills and resources
Key skills drive the execution of projects. Make sure a core group of skilled resources is in place and engaged. This group will likely be the most expensive. You will need to plan around their schedules and coordinate with other project managers to make sure the right skills are in the right place at the right time.
- Allow resources to FOCUS as much as possible
Today we have so many forms of communication. While I am sitting at my desk there are emails, IM’s, text messages, and other notifications. It is hard to concentrate on the task at hand. Same goes for resources that are spread thin across many tasks. We are human and juggling multiple tasks on many different projects is hard. Every effort should be made to minimize concurrent tasks for resources.
- Establish and enforce policies and procedures for the organization
Make sure that all resource consumers understand the rules of engagement. A documented process and an established recurring business cadence will make it easier on all project stakeholders.
- Plan all work: direct (projects) and indirect (leave, training, etc.)
Resource planning should start in the proposal phase and continue throughout the lifecycle of the project. Critical skills should be noted and communicated to all stakeholders ASAP, so schedules can be adjusted and/or recruitment notified of the skill need. Planning for indirect is equally as important. Having a system that lets the engineering or professional services organization know who is taking leave is critical for accurate resource planning. You don’t want to plan a critical activity when your best research analyst is hiking in the Congo.
- Walk the tight rope of managing capacity and demand
Keeping people off the bench and still making sure you have the skills needed to execute is an art. Planning tasks with start and stop dates will help identify and manage resource demand. Make sure that your organization has a methodology for settling resource disputes.
- Manage Resource Assignments
In the near-term, detailed planning by task and by person is critical (hard bookings). In the out years, summary planning with a TBD resource for a certain skill/qualification will give the enterprise a heads up on what will be needed and when (soft bookings). The concept of soft and hard bookings should also be a part of your overall process and tool automation is helpful in support of that capability.
- Utilize a resourcing tool that is integrated with your time sheet application
Use an integrated system that allows time tracking to feed the resource plans and vice versa. An integrated comparison of actuals with budgets, plans, plans and variances gives project managers unparalleled insight into their projects.
Understanding that resource management is a true discipline that should be practiced and matured can be the difference between successful or failed projects. We all know what happens with failed projects and none of us want that. But we would all enjoy the benefits of resource planning:
- Resources are treated as people and they will be happy!
- Demand is understood, and managers can be proactive vs. reactive.
- Recruiting has the heads up they need to search for the right skill sets.
- Projects are successful – on time and on budget.
- Utilization rates are meeting the planned percentage.
- Revenue and profit are maximized.
- Your organization is competitive and winning lots more business.
To learn more about how to prepare your engineering firm or professional services organization for a strong 2019, download our white paper, “Best Practices for Preparing Your Budgets and Forecasts.”