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Author: Greg Bailey

How much do your resources play into time management?

Project managers must actively learn, practice, and share the many techniques in the world of project management.

From financial planning to timekeeping to maintaining employee morale, the list of effective techniques and information on how to succeed with them is always evolving.

Time and resource management are not new concepts. But project managers can learn innovative ways to practice these techniques, and get more from their projects and workers. A combination of time and resource management will help project managers measure:

  • The amount of work required vs. available time
  • The amount of time used vs. quality of work

Time management and resource management are inextricably linked, given that successful management of both ultimately comes down to your most important resource: your people.

This blog explains the differences and similarities between time management and resource management. For both, we detail some of the best practices and processes to help you gain better control over your projects and achieve better results.

It’s about time, people

Let’s clarify the difference between time and resource management:

  • Time management

Time management is the ability to organize the time you spend on activities or tasks in a day. In project management, the practice involves timekeeping and prioritizing work to maximize productivity and efficiency.

  • Resource management

According to the APM Body of Knowledge, resource management is the acquisition and use of internal and external resources to deliver a project on time and to budget.

Time and money are what we need most. But while we can get more money, we can’t get more time. There are only so many hours in a day—and even less hours dedicated to projects. Time management is not about working more, but about working more efficiently – structuring your tasks and workers so that you get more done in the same timeframe. Resource management is the framework for you to do that, concerned with sourcing, organizing, and deploying your project resources in the most efficient possible way.

Time management and resource management are both centered around a business’s most important resource: people. If the right amount of people are working on their designated project areas, and they’re working on the right project for their skillsets, they will naturally work more efficiently and create a more productive workforce.

Time management best practices

  • Digital timesheets

More accurate and easy to use than physical paper timesheets, digital timesheets can help businesses save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, according to this study from Harvard Business Review. So, it’s highly valuable to be able to link timesheets with your project tasks: giving you the data to track who is working on what and for how long.

  • Time tracking and reporting

Once you have timesheet data, you can then analyze it. Time tracking and reporting helps project managers understand the average time a resource takes to complete a particular task. This information is useful for judging performance and estimating time for future projects, especially for tasks that are similar in nature.

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Resource management best practices

  • Resource allocation

Resource allocation involves balancing the resources with the various needs and priorities of a project, reassigning them or altering their workload if necessary. Proper resource allocation should determine the course of action that offer the best return on investment possible.

  • Resource utilization

While resource allocation is responsible for organizing your project, resource utilization determines how effective it is—assessing the quality and performance of resources. This usually comes down to how productive an individual is during their working hours.

  • Resource tracking

Resource tracking involves monitoring the work that individual resources complete over the course of a project. This knowledge can help you gain a more accurate idea of how to allocate resources during the planning stage.

Combining resource utilization with time management

A common formula for measuring and applying resource utilization is full-time equivalent (FTE). This is used to calculate how optimally the available workable hours of a resource are being balanced.

To calculate this, divide the allocated hours a resource will work during a project by the total workable hours available in the project. Multiply the result by 100 to create a percentage, and this score will indicate the effectiveness of the resource.

It’s best to aim for a rate of around 80% – anything above this risks employee burnout, and anything less will not utilize them optimally.

Maximum visibility over time and resources

Many project management tools are designed to facilitate time management, with timesheets, tracking, and reporting software either built in to the tool or available as an extension. The same is true for resource management, but features like resource allocation, utilization, and tracking are often underdeveloped or completely omitted in project management software.

Project managers should look to resource management as a critical component to measuring timeframes of projects and the effectiveness of workers. With a greater understanding, you will be more prepared and better able to deliver projects on time and within budget.

The Key to Delivering Success: Project Assurance

Project assurance is a process that allows project stakeholders and project managers (PMs) to assess the risks and strengths of a project.

By outlining key threats, objective success criteria, and adequate project controls with project stakeholders, PMs can create a stronger infrastructure to increase the chance of success.

For projects with high financial value, project assurance is particularly beneficial, since it prevents overspending – but the concept can work for a project of any size. This blog will explore the key benefits of creating a formalized project assurance strategy.

A definition of project success

When undertaking a project, PMs should establish clear goals, so it’s easy to see what to deliver and when. This will establish how they prioritize work and how they report to stakeholders. Keeping all stakeholders united by common goals requires open communication. If a project doesn’t have goals that match their organization’s wider strategic goals, or that don’t fully meet stakeholders’ expectations, it risks failure.

To create objective criteria for a project, transparency is necessary. As well as objectively deciding whether the outcomes of a project are worth the expenditure, project assurance establishes the metrics by which project success will be judged. A project assurance team, consisting of stakeholders and PMs, can establish criteria for project success based on realistic factors like budget and resources. This helps project managers understand the criteria they’re working with, helping them deliver successful projects.

Risk monitoring

During a project, controls must be put in place to mitigate risks. Risk prevention is a priority for PMs and stakeholders alike. This requires careful examination of every potential threat to a project, including budget, supplier, or regulation. If threats are not identified and planned for, a project can be quickly derailed and doomed to failure.

Project assurance identifies all potential risks within a project.

These can be split into three categories: business, project framework, and execution. Project stakeholders are responsible for managing external factors concerning the business, so project framework and execution are the areas that PMs can have greatest influence over. The framework of a project outlines the structure and resources, and execution outlines the tasks and overall scope of work within the project. Delegating responsibility for risk monitoring in this way ensures greater accountability within projects.

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Improved stakeholder expectations

Stakeholders have many concerns outside of an individual project – they’re responsible for wider business concerns and larger decisions. They don’t have time to micromanage every detail of a project’s progress. For this reason, it’s essential that a PM understands exactly what the specific deliverables and expectations of a project are. If these aren’t properly communicated, stakeholders will miss key project milestones and may not be happy with the finished project.

Increasing stakeholders’ visibility of a project helps establish communication about what’s expected and when. It’s easier to track success with solid, data-based metrics in place. To simplify reporting to stakeholders, a powerful tool that helps you collect resource and wider project data should be implemented. Project assurance includes setting regular checkpoints at which the project should be reviewed – these will identify any potential risks to the project, and check it stays on time and on budget.

Avoiding scope creep

Projects fall prey to scope creep when their goals are ill-defined, or their plans aren’t solid enough. Scope creep is when the deliverables of a project are increased midway through a project. A project gets more complex by adding extra work and resources, and it’s unwise to try and deliver more than was agreed in the initial plan.

Using project assurance can help a PM deliver project success, because the scope of the project is established in a much more structured way. Getting upfront approval of the project’s goals and success criteria from stakeholders greatly increases the chances of project success.

Supporting projects with the right technology

A project assurance strategy requires a lot of organization for all those involved. In order to minimize unnecessary work, the most simple and effective tools need to be selected to support a project. For stakeholders and PMs, the easiest way to track a project’s progress is through resource management software – users are able to:

Create a central pool of resources, creating greater visibility of not only one project’s resources, but all of an organization’s resources
Simplify data entry by synchronizing the software directly with data depositories, reducing administrative work whilst improving data quality
Model and forecast data to make better informed project decisions
Run alternate project scenarios to test potential outcomes
Create flexible project plans to safeguard against project failure

To keep a project running smoothly, you need to arm yourself with the best quality tools. With the right resource management software and a good project assurance strategy, you’re destined for project success.

Bridging the Gap Between Resource Management and Project Management

The concept of managing people is straightforward—it’s a practice that many managers do well. The same can be said for project managers managing projects.

So, what goes wrong when it comes to project managers managing their project resources?

For matrixed organizations, resource management can be an overlooked and underutilized element of project management, leading to projects being delayed, going over-budget, and even failing altogether.

What is a matrixed organization?

Matrixed organizations support the horizontal flow of skills and information, where workers from different areas of the business are assigned to a team without removing them from their respective positions. This is used mainly during the management of large projects where a myriad of different skills are needed and at different times in the project.

For matrixed organizations, the multitude of teams, workers, and skill sets is both a blessing and a curse. The variety of skills allow the business to take on more work, and generally perform it to a higher degree of quality. But it is exceedingly difficult to integrate the combination of resources, and this can make managing them more difficult than it needs to be.

The main cause of this difficulty is that matrixed organizations (and many other businesses) are using project portfolio management (PPM) practices and tools to solve resource management-dominant challenges, and PPM software is unequipped to solve these problems.

This post will explore how organizations can bridge the gap between resource management and project management.

Different practices, similar problems

Effective resource management in a matrixed organization can be fraught with challenges. Project and program managers struggle to find the answers to pertinent questions:

  • How do I know if I have enough resources?
  • How can I request more resources?
  • What if I have too many people for the job?
  • How can I proactively search for projects or teams where more resources may be needed?
  • Can I react in time if changes to the project occur unexpectedly?
  • How do I keep communication flowing between dispersed teams or projects?
  • How does this factor into headcount planning?

It is often the resource request process that’s at the center of these questions; resource management is designed to provide the answers. Many PPM solutions have been updated or built from the ground up to address resource management capabilities, to varying degrees of success.

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Breaking down the resource request process

Project managers are constantly trying to attain the right resource request process, and it is proving a difficult process to implement, let alone perfect.

The request process, at least in theory, is straightforward enough:

  • The project manager identifies the demand for resources
  • The demand is set, and a request is sent for more or less resources
  • At varying times during the project, there will most likely be changes to the originally agreed upon resources—extended timeframes, budget cuts, worker time off, etc.
  • As requirements change or estimates get revised, the project manager needs to be made aware so they can react accordingly.

In the resource request process, the project manager needs to express the demand for the skills, talents and knowledge required, and swiftly recognize when these resources need to be changed. They must then supply the available quantities of skills, talents and knowledge. As project estimates or requirements change, those changes must be communicated so action can be taken.

So, what is holding project managers (and the larger business) back from applying an integrated resource request process effectively?

  • Resource management isn’t given proper consideration.

The first problem is that many organizations simply do not consider resource management to be as important a practice as project management. This leaves project managers to not only deal with identifying resource demand but use workarounds or sub-standard tools to supply resources.

  • A reliance on spreadsheets

Many organizations do not use dedicated solutions for resource management, instead relying on spreadsheets to manage resource planning and forecasting. Other organizations may try to use PPM solutions but end up falling back into spreadsheets due to fault of the tool or lack of user training and adoption.

  • PPM systems are not equipped with resource management functionality

Too many systems in the PPM space, which promise resource management capabilities, are task-driven. They do not address the variables and changes that so many projects undergo; they do not tackle the complexity of the resource planning and request process.

Give resource management its due

With PPM systems ill-equipped with resource management capabilities, the resource request process is all but doomed to fail. It is time to dedicate the proper amount of time, money, and manpower to resource management.

Organizations that commit to resource management can better identify resource availability, making it far easier to uncover (and resolve) the potential over or under-utilization of resources.

Agile Aspirations: How Attainable Is Agile Project Management, Really?

The agile methodology has been a hot topic in project management circles for some time now. But how attainable – or sustainable – is it for project managers?

This post explores agile project management—what it is, how it works, and if it’s the right approach (or a realistic one) for your company.

Breaking down agile project management

The Association for Project Management (APM) defines agile project management as follows:

“An approach based on delivering requirements iteratively and incrementally through the project life cycle. At the core of agile is the requirement to exhibit central values and behaviors of trust, flexibility, empowerment, and collaboration.”

The first half of this definition is what most project managers will be aware of when they think of agile. But it’s worth noting that agile project management is an adaptation of the agile methodology, and a far cry from the traditional approach to project management.

The traditional approach
The traditional approach to project management usually involved creating long, fixed, and highly detailed project plans before projects kicked off. These plans were then followed as closely as possible along the course of the project. 

Agile flips the script. Agile methodologies—the two most well-recognized being Scrum and Lean—allow projects to start with more of a ‘rough idea’ of what is required. The idea being that, as the process is producing and delivering work in short, incremental bursts, the requirements are clarified as the project progresses.

The agile methodology therefore encourages frequent reviewing and amending of current plans based on information that the team is continually gathering. In other words, the agile methodology lets a product team be highly flexible: adjusting priorities and plans whenever it makes strategic sense to do so.

Whether approaching projects traditionally or in an agile manner, the end-goal is the same: costs and schedules are to be kept to a minimum, so projects can be completed as efficiently as possible. The difference is that agile does not place as much emphasis on detailed documentation, particularly at the planning stages of a project.

This has its inherent risks, of course. APM recognizes that agile project management can make identification of risks and the management of resources more difficult. That’s why, if you want to make a success out of agile project management, resource management is vital.

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The importance of resource management in Agile

Resource management is key to implementing the agile methodology to project management. While project portfolio management (PPM) typically focuses on the ‘bigger picture’—setting objectives and keeping the project on budget and on time—resource management drills down into the specifics around your resources, the most important being your people.

Just like PPM tools make the broader management of your projects easier, so too can resource management software help you get right into the details. With more visibility over your resources—particularly their allocation and utilization—you are better placed to make more informed decisions (thus making it more likely you make the right ones). How does resource management improve project visibility, exactly?

  • Affirming flexibility

A large factor to flexibility in project management is being able to manage remote teams, often in dispersed locations. Managing remote teams needn’t be any different to managing a traditional, on-site team, but it will require a greater emphasis on technology ensuring everything is running according to plan.

Key to this is resource allocation, which can provide improved visibility over your resources. Resource management solutions make it easy to see which of your resources have too much or too little work to do. By moving tasks around where needed, you can ensure everyone is working to their ideal capacity.

Resource management software creates a visual representation of resource allocation, providing hot/cool maps to make it much easier to spot staff that might be over or under-worked, so you can solve the problem quicker.

Alongside resource allocation is resource utilization: so not only are people giving the right amount of work, but the right kind of work. Resource utilization helps project managers assign tasks to the people most equipped for the job, mitigating the risk of under or overutilizing staff.

  • Minimizing risk

Advanced resource modeling capabilities allow project managers to harness their project data to create ‘resource scenarios’. You can create hypotheses and discover alternative resource allocations, visualizing how changes will impact your costs and the over- or under- allocation of your resources in a risk-free environment.

Resource modeling lets you see the effects of adding more people or subtracting workers from a project task, moving a project deadline forward or back, and much more. This is a real boon for project managers looking to capitalize on the fast-paced, incremental nature of agile project management.

Resource management never felt so agile

To instill agility in your projects, you need to dedicate appropriate focus on the people that are responsible for completing them. Resource management puts you in the position and gives you the tools to do just that. You get better visibility into the allocation and utilization of your resources and the ability to experiment to discover the best approach to your projects in real-time.

Timesheets: The Thorn In A Project Manager’s Side

Businesses are losing up to $50,000 a year in billable revenue from the inaccurate tracking of hours, according to Harvard Business review.

This statistic likely comes as a surprise for organizations, given over half of respondents indicated that their employer uses timesheets to bill clients (for face-to-face consulting hours or on-site project work, for example). But timesheet accuracy is not translating to internal working hours—in the same study, almost 40% of respondents admitted they do not track employee hours as effectively as they would like. This lack of accuracy and efficiency makes project estimates harder to calculate.

Timesheets are the obvious answer for businesses looking to keep track of working hours. But the manual nature of the process makes it more difficult than it needs to be.

Transforming the nature of timesheets

Timesheets are a perfectly sound solution in theory, providing the data that is added is accurate. But the reality is that workers do not or cannot fill in their timesheets accurately. For employees, filling out timesheets can be a tedious task and the busy nature of on-site work can make it difficult to know exactly how many hours they’ve worked. For project managers, tracking resources across multiple locations and projects is a complex and time-consuming matter.

But timesheets, like many other facets of project management, are undergoing digital change. Businesses that are able to take advantage of this can transform their projects and overcome the problems that hamper estimates in how long projects will take and how much they will cost.

This post will explore the problems with traditional timesheets and explain how integrating timesheets within a project or resource management solution can make the process easier and more intuitive.

The inaccuracies of traditional timesheets

Project managers need to track how much time employees are spending on a task to be able to measure their performance against their project goals and timelines. While this is an essential practice, it’s not a fool-proof one. Inaccurate timesheet data can create the following problems:

  • An inability to see if projects are cost-effective: when working hours are recorded inaccurately, return on investment figures are skewed.
  • Miscalculated time estimations: the most effective projects require tasks to be timed and recorded to-the-hour to ensure they are adhering to allotted time frames.
  • An inability to improve future projects: if tasks or projects take too long, estimations can be adjusted for future projects or changes can be made. But if working hours are inaccurate, these changes get made for the wrong reasons.
  • A lack of resource allocation: project managers are unable to see who is overworked (from recording too many hours) and who has the capacity to take on more tasks.
  • A decrease in project revenue: any combination of the above will lead to decreases in worker productivity and project efficiency, ultimately resulting in lost costs.

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For employees to routinely and accurately fill in timesheet data, project managers must put a clear and structured process in place. While leadership is needed, integrating timesheets with your project management or resource management software can provide a level of data granularity that can remove the inaccuracies of traditional timesheets.

Digitalizing with project and resource management

Integrating timesheets into your PPM or resource management system of record provides additional insight into the availability and allocation of resources. So you can get a better view of how long it takes workers to complete tasks without needing to move your data around.

Of course, integrating digital timesheet data cannot be done if you are still using software like Microsoft Excel for resource management. And even the more popular PPM management tools like Microsoft Project do not have sufficient capabilities. This is why using the right tool is key. The right solution can help you:

  • Decide which projects are more valuable
    By including resource timesheets in your project management software, you can monitor which projects are taking up too much of your employees’ time and adjust your processes to make things more efficient and worth your time.
  • Improve accountability and transparency 
    Timesheets can help you reward employees who produce the best standard of work and highlight individuals who aren’t performing to their potential, so you can help them improve.
  • Improve project estimates 
    Making rough estimates of how long it will take for workers to complete tasks is not a sustainable practice. While the onus will always be on the individual to make sure working hours are accurate, digital timesheets can transfer this data straight to your system of record so your project timeframes (and their cost implications) always remain up-to-date. 

Time keeping on the front lines

By integrating timesheets into your resource management tool, project managers can add timesheet data directly into the tool, providing instant and overarching visibility into resource allocation and availability. As a result, you get more accurate estimations of your projects in terms of time and cost.

What’s more, the most sophisticated resource management tools can integrate with popular PPM software like Microsoft Project or Smartsheet, so you needn’t up and move your entire PPM setup to benefit from digital timesheets.