Maximizing Project Performance – Part 2: Capacity Planning

Welcome to the second installment in my three part series on maximizing project profits. In this second segment, let's examine the role of good resource management as part of maximizing the profit potential of the projects we manage as project managers.

Remember, equipment, third party vendors, and data center charges – among other things – get expensed to our project budgets.  But far and away the biggest drain on project dollars are the efforts of project team members being charged against the project budget.  These are highly skilled individuals and they are often being charged against the project at rates of well over $100 per hour.  One can see that inaccurate time charges, wasted or unproductive resource time, and poor task oversight can quickly lead to a project going way out of control and over budget.

In order to keep the project budget on track, the resource time well-mapped out and their efforts reined in, the project manager must follow three key processes as described below:

  • Keep team members hours dedicated to the project only as needed, if possible.  One key aspect of managing your project resources for the goal of maximum project profitability is the concept of only bringing the appropriate resource on to the project as they are needed.  Most resources in professional services organizations are required to charge their time somewhere.  If you have an idle resource assigned to your project, you can be assured that some of their ”down” time is directly hitting your precious project budget.

When the project manager and business analyst are working closely with the customer team to finalize project requirements during the planning phase, there’s no need to have the technical lead already assigned to the project with little, if any, need for work.  Plan out what resources are actually required based upon the project need, when those resources are available to come on to the project, and look for ‘down’ times when those resources can be allocated to other work.  That way you can both maximize their productivity on your project tasks and minimize needless charges to your project budget.   It’s not enough however to simply remove or temporarily re-allocate idle resources.  It’s equally important to ensure the appropriate (i.e. qualified) resources are identified and utilized.  Having an inappropriate resource allocated to a project is one of the main areas of budget “leakage” that project managers need to be aware of.

  • Use a good Project Management scheduling and task/resource management tool to keep track of the resource efforts.  It probably goes without saying that mapping out your project and resource assignments with a proven and reliable project management solution is critical.  But that information needs to serve multiple audiences up and down the organization.  While the customer will want visibility as well, it’s critical for the project team to have constant insight into the overall project view and tasks as well as how and where their efforts fit in, so they’ll have more ownership of those tasks and thus be more accountable for their deliverables. 

Team members who see where they fit into the overall plan and are consistently aware of your expectations of them will be more focused and more productive.  And your project will be more profitable for it.

  • Hold internal team meetings weekly.  Weekly internal project team meetings are a good idea for two key reasons:  (1) it’s a chance for the project manager to get the latest project status information in preparation for a formal status meeting with the customer; and (2) it’s an opportunity for status checks on tasks that have been assigned to the project team. 

Accountability is critical as most project team members are usually assigned to multiple projects throughout the organization.  These consistent updates keep the team focused on your project’s priorities and help keep everyone on-task.  Productive team members who are being held to a high level of accountability for their efforts are essential to keeping any project budget stay on track.

Viewpath’s capacity planning and resource management functionality helps project managers keep the right resources actively engaged in the project, while mitigating any previously assigned resources from remaining idle and therefor jeopardizing the budget.  Knowing what resources to assign and when is the hallmark of a successful project management solution.

In part 3, we will cover the critical – and often painful – area of change management.  Change management can be a four-letter word when done poorly or with budget conscious customers.  So be wise in how you handle it.  We will examine that one next...

For more information on how Viewpath can help you with your project management and capacity planning needs, please visit www.viewpath.com

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