Tag: Technical Project Management


Top Business Trends to Watch for in 2023

This past year has been a bit of a respite from the chaos of the last couple of years as many people have settled into working from home, in the office, or some combination. We seem to have arrived at a new normal, at least as it relates to where we’re physically working.

Fortunately, much of what we’re working on and observing from our business training is as dynamic as ever. As members of the Educate 360 family have been doing for the last 30 years, we try to keep our finger on the pulse of what we see happening that suggests trends in various areas of our business world. This year, we are organizing our trends a little differently to better reflect the interplay between the areas we are watching, such as traditional disciplines like project management and business analysis. Further, as our Educate 360 family of specialized training brands continues to grow, we can include more topics to accommodate our broadening range of knowledge and expertise that more comprehensively reflect what’s happening in the business world.


With that in mind, our 2023 Trends Watchlist includes trends in:

Project Work and Product Delivery

  • PM Skills and PM Processes
  • Use Cases are Back!
  • Business Relationship Management is a Hot Certification for Everyone
  • Wither “Transformation”?
  • From “Projects” to “Products” Continues
  • Refocusing on Value
  • PMO – “Pretty Much Over”?


Data Science

  • Text-to-Anything Models


Cloud and Information Security

  • Serverless Architecture
  • The Security Risks of Digital Nomads
  • Shifting the Surface Area of Attacks in a Remote World


Power Skills and Leadership

  • Staying Disciplined to Priorities – Adding Less to Do More.
  • The 45-minute Meeting
  • Attracting & Retaining Talent…Continued


We’d love to hear your thoughts about our observations and prognostications. Join our webinar on January 5, 2023 to hear our contributors talk about these trends, get your thoughts, and answer questions. (Date has passed.)


Project Work and Product Delivery


PM Skills and PM Processes

In the world of project management, we are noticing more awareness of separating project management skills and project management processes. Organizational leaders know when projects are not producing the results expected; the challenge is understanding whether that is a consequence of the knowledge and competencies of the people working on projects, how projects are managed in the organization, or both. Of course, good processes can contribute to better skills and good skills can help develop good processes, but they are two different things. In our discussions with clients, they are paying more attention to whether they need to work on developing the skills of their practitioners or improve their project management processes. As with any good problem-solving, understanding the cause of the problem makes for a more strategic and ultimately successful investment of resources to fix it.


Use Cases are Back!

Use cases became widely adopted in the 1990s as a core model in Rational Unified Process (RUP). They are technology independent so there are no constraints as to how they can be used. Use cases were to be written from a business perspective, in business terminology for the end users to tell a story about their expectations of the system, that is, “If I do this, this is how I expect the solution to respond.” Unfortunately, over time, use cases were co-opted by technical designers who added technical design elements to them, so they ceased to be understood by the business. Eventually, they fell out of favor except by technologists.

However, there has been a resurgence of use cases being used in agile environments and using them as they were meant to be. For example, use case diagrams are again being used to diagram conversations about which “actors” (people or other systems) will interact with the system. They are also being used to provide contextual detail to make sure everyone is on the same page about what the system will or will not do and provide a conversation holder about how the user will interact with the solution. They ensure all questions about possible alternative or exception paths are answered at the outset before these questions bog down work or slow down an agile team’s progress. They also feed nicely into test cases. All of these benefits are again being recognized – in a new type of environment.


Business Relationship Management is a hot certification for everyone.

Organizations are built on relationships. Thus, every organization needs a business relationship management (BRM) capability. Many certified project managers and business analysts are recognizing the value of expanding their capability in this power skill and even pursuing certification. It does not take away from other roles or drive the individual in a different direction, but rather empowers them to thrive with a mission to evolve culture, build partnerships, drive value, and satisfy purpose. As a project manager, BRM capabilities can optimize the value of ideation, and value management. They help link projects to organizational strategy and purpose across functions. As a business analyst, BRM capabilities focus on building partnerships and recognizing, measuring, and communicating value through effective relationship management. As an organizational change manager, BRM capabilities help build strong partnerships with people to help them move from the current state to the future state. Even executives can use this certification to support and communicate organizational factors and value to support strategy and satisfy organizational purpose.


Wither “Transformation”?

While the word, “transformation” continues to be popular both within the Agile community and within organizations pursuing a more adaptive way of working, an emerging trend within both is a growing realization that the word actually underplays the fundamental change needed to realize the desired result. Becoming agile (note the lowercase reference to adaptability versus the uppercase reference to the Agile movement) is starting to be viewed, not as an event that can be defined, planned, executed, and closed; but instead as an evolution, a fundamental shift toward becoming an organization that values learning, along with continuous small improvements, above all else in delivery of customer value. This development will come as no surprise to the founders of the movement, but it represents a significant shift for those organizations who are just beginning to understand what being “agile” truly means.




From “Projects” to “Products” Continues

While this trend began a few years back, the shift from “project-based” thinking to “product-based” thinking will continue and accelerate in the new year. The implications associated with this trend are profound. Organizations will continue to define their “products” (this is often not as easy as it sounds) and be challenged to alter how these products are staffed, funded, developed, deployed and evaluated. One specific aspect of this shift will be the continued emphasis on outcomes – the impact that a product delivery effort has on its intended users and/ or customers. This emphasis will specifically challenge organizations to truly understand who these users and customers are and identify ways to measure the value that they provide from their perspective instead of focusing on legacy measures of success such as “on-time, on-budget”.


Refocusing on Value

With economic tightening underway worldwide there will be increased pressure to define and deliver true value in 2023. “Value” is a word that remains misused and abused in many organizations. Who among us hasn’t been told, “that’s not value-add!” with no definition of the word accompanying that exclamation? With funding plentiful due to governmental subsidies during the pandemic and organizations dealing with the multitude of changes forced on them by COVID, it was easy to relax the definition of what was truly valuable. As the economic cycle trends downward and funding becomes more scarce, organizational discipline around defining and delivering “value” will only increase.


PMO – “Pretty Much Over”?

This title is a re-run of a joke that has circulated for a number of years in the Project Management and Information Technology communities. While 2023 will not see Project Management Offices (PMOs) go away, it will see a shift in both their purpose and structure.  Organizations will continue to realize that a centrally controlled office responsible for policing how individual projects are executed is not adaptive enough to accommodate the change that is ever present in today’s workplace. Instead, PMOs will shift to being smaller organizational units dedicated to laying out and fulfilling the minimum structure necessary for reporting results while, at the same time, becoming a resource that individual efforts can call upon for training and instruction in methods that speed the delivery of value (e.g., removing organizational impediments).


Data Science


Text-to-Anything Models

Recent advances in Machine Learning and GPU Cloud Computing have allowed for the creation of models that can take in text input and generate output in a completely different modality. Consumers may already be familiar with services like DALLE-2, which allows for the generation of images from a text description (text-to-image), but that is only one use case for text input generation. Recent publications have shown work in text-to-video, text-to-3dmodel, and text-to-audio. Text-to-video models allow for the generation of videos (several minutes in length) from just a text description, for example “Video of biking during a sunset” and then viewing an .mp4 output displaying the video. Text-to-3DModel has allowed for the quick creation of 3D digital assets from a simple text description and text-to-audio can generate background MP3 audio files from a simple text description, such as “audio of car alarm in background noise”. We expect to see more use of these technologies in an increasingly wider variety of applications into and beyond 2023.


Cloud and Information Security


Serverless Architecture

Most organizations that have migrated to the cloud did so by simply building out their applications in the cloud the same way they always did on-premises starting with creating virtual machines. As the cloud deployments have matured, we are seeing a shift to the serverless architecture. Instead of worrying about the size and quantity of virtual machines needed to run a given application stack, serverless allows companies to concentrate on the application itself. No longer needing to worry about the underlying instances their applications are running on (operating system and runtime updates and security patches as well as scale) developers can now focus solely on the application and its code. Services such as AWS Fargate, Azure Functions and Google Cloud Run are all examples of this serverless architecture. The move to serverless is being driven in part by cost savings. But serverless is also increasing agility and time to market of solutions.


The Security Risks of Digital Nomads 

The pandemic caught many companies off guard when employees needed to start working from home. It was a challenge for those organizations that must comply with regulatory requirements to make sure their staff was able to access personally identifiable information (PII), protected healthcare information (PHI), and financial information in a secure manner. Many have succeeded in creating a secure environment for those that gain access to sensitive information from home by implementing Administrative, Physical, and Technical controls. As companies continue to allow employees to work from home, a new trend will emerge to compromise the assets that support the critical business processes.


Shifting the Surface Area of Attacks in a Remote World

Hackers will no longer focus on directly attacking a company’s network; a new emphasis will be placed on compromising the end user’s personal accounts and applications used on the same computers gaining access to corporate data. Security professionals will need to focus their attention on the increase in social engineering attacks and phishing emails designed to gather information from the computers being used for remote access. The cached information in memory, temporary files and on the local hard drives on a compromised machine will be a treasure trove for hackers.




Staying Disciplined to Priorities – Adding Less to Do More

As 2023 brings in another year of unprecedented access to data, leaders continue to be inundated with inputs to inform decision-making and prioritization. This access to information is generally positive for leadership but it elevates the need for more disciplined prioritization. Prioritization allows individuals, teams, and organizations to ensure that they are spending time, money, and other resources on the most important initiatives. Priorities can be defined by helpful frameworks to assess the nearly unlimited options a leader has to steer a team forward.

While it may be tempting to take immediate action with the new information presented and regularly add priorities to pursue new opportunities, the best leaders will remain disciplined to ensure that new information enhances ongoing priorities and that new initiatives are not considered for addition until progress is beyond a certain point. When a leader declares something a priority, it should have a strong and clear rationale for pursuit but also have clear checkpoints of progress along the way. This allows the team to stay focused on the end vision of that priority, while also allowing for pivots and tactical changes as necessary with the infusion of new data and information. Too many priorities with too little progress can have a detrimental impact on team productivity and morale.

Priorities can also serve as a fantastic filter for a team’s time allocation – does what I’m about to work on relate to our organization’s priorities? If not, I’m going to limit my time dedicated to it so I can get back to the things that will drive the progress against our organization’s priorities! The pressure will continue to increase for leaders to help their organizations stay disciplined in their priorities, despite temptations to chase after new opportunities with continuous cycles of new data and information in order to accomplish more against their stated priorities and keep their team members engaged and energized.


The 45-Minute Meeting

A tactical leadership trend starting to emerge and likely to increase in popularity in the coming year is the notion of the 45-minute meeting (…or the 25-minute meeting). Three years into the remote / hybrid work environment because of the global pandemic and let’s face it: it is not uncommon to have long stretches of your day in back-to-back virtual meeting environments barely leaving room for a bio-break or scrap of food. We’re all tired!

A simple way to improve productivity and employees’ mental health in the current virtual communication environment is to reduce the duration of meetings. Just because calendar invite preferences default to 30-minute increments, does not mean that they cannot be adjusted. And as meeting durations get customized, people are being more intentional about the time spent virtually collaborating – like sending agendas in advance to help cut down on the awkward silences and gaps to figure out where to take the discussion next or sending relevant materials before the call to provide additional time for digestion and contextualization. The lack of complaints from the recipients of invitations to shorter meetings is also likely to continue. It turns out that the vast majority of people appreciate a few minutes to refill their coffee!


Attracting & Retaining Talent…Continued

This will sound repetitive from last year, but the key leadership issue we are still hearing about is attracting and retaining talent. While the underlying drivers are slightly different, this theme is still the same. A year ago, there was a lot of talk about returning to the office and a hot labor market making people more prone to leaving. While these issues are still there, as a return to office has happened in all sorts of grey ways, and some rumblings of the labor market getting just slightly less hot, these have become just two of multiple factors and not so much THE factors driving the attracting and retaining talent challenge.

What has become the driver is broadly making the workplace one that people want to join and at which they want to remain. This is clearly stating the obvious. However, it seems like the obvious has too many factors to consider: pay, benefits, work-life balance, mission, advancement, fulfillment, feeling welcome, and enjoyment, just to name a few. (As you can see, last year’s prominent topics of COVID-related items and hot labor market are subfactors in this list).

Balancing all of these items seems impossible considering that they are of unique and varying degrees of importance and priority to every individual. It is becoming clear that the simplest answer to hitting the mark on those factors might be the only answer and that is to focus one level up: Is this a place at which people want to work? That simpler question is easier than constantly thinking the next level down to the tens if not hundreds of levers and dials that one tries to get right. Are people happy with what they are doing, do they feel welcome, do they feel they are well-compensated at work?

We can’t get every dial perfectly right and by no means are we saying we can get things right for everyone, but in aggregate, using common sense and basic human empathy can really be the only formula – all the dial-turning is more art than science if you use your common sense and empathy as a leader. Unlike last year when leaders tried to get the exact right formula for inspiring people to return to the office, now with no one item being the most important to everyone, leaders just need to look, listen, and act wholistically to make their company a place at which people want to work.




Educate 360 Professional Training Partners upskills individuals with the Management & Leadership, Data Science, and IT skills needed by technology-led and innovation-driven organizations. Educate 360 is comprised of specialized training brands with footprint throughout the U.S. and Europe including Pierian Training, Project Management Academy, Six Sigma Online, United Training, Velopi, and Watermark Learning.

Jason Cassidy, PMP, is CEO of Educate 360.

Andrea Brockmeier, PMP, is Director of Project Management at Watermark Learning.

Ken Crawshaw is Senior Principal Technical Instructor for United Training.

Amy Farber is Chief Strategy & Commercial Officer, driving growth initiatives across Educate 360.

Dr. Susan Heidorn, PMP, CBAP, BRMP, is Director of Business Solutions at Watermark Learning.

Norman Kennedy, MCT, AAI, is a Cloud and Security focused Senior Technical Trainer at United Training.

Jose Marcel Portilla is Head of Data Science at Pierian Training.

Mike Stuedemann, PMP, CST, is a Scrum-Focused, Agile Agnostic Coach and Trainer at AgilityIRL and partners with Educate 360 for Scrum Alliance courses.

When and How to Implement Managed Services in Your Organisation

What are Managed Services?

Managed services are the process of outsourcing some or all of your day-to-day IT operations to an outside provider. Most organisations do it already. If you have Office 365 or G-Suite, you have software as a service, which is a form of managed service. The days of the organisation that runs all of its IT from its own data centres, managed by a team of in-house staff, are all but over. The question of when and how to implement managed services applies better to separate services than to the whole organisation.

Do I Need to Outsource?

So, when should you outsource a service, which is an IT system used by your organisation’s staff or its customers, such as email, CRM or online services for customers? A key factor is often whether the service is specific to your organisation or not. If it is, it may well be rare or unique, perhaps the website that provides a differentiated service to your customers. Such a service may require to be managed by in-house staff trained in its particularities. If the service is more off-the-shelf, however, such as email or CRM, even if it is strategic, managing it with your in-house staff could distract them from more value-added work that only they can do. This is where it makes sense to consider managed services. Your organisation and its staff should focus on its core competencies, not on standard activities which can be done just as well by others.


In fact, standard activities can often be done more cheaply by others.

 What are the Benefits of Using Managed Services?

Managed Service Providers (MSPs) will be able to spread the cost of the staff required to do these activities over many customers, and so can deliver the service less expensively than in-house teams at all but the largest organisations. The economies of scale can also deliver benefits in other areas. The MSP may well be better equipped to keep your organisation compliant with regulations such as GDPR, and they may provide stronger security against malware and accidental data loss. When you engage an MSP, you can negotiate contractually binding service level agreements (SLAs) with them. The SLAs provide clarity about the level of service expected, which may be better than the best efforts of an in-house team.

Other reasons to adopt Managed Services include increased efficiency – MSPs can implement best practices and industry standards, as well as help you with planning, procurement, and governance. Of course, you may be able to do this in house, but to do so as cost-effectively as an MSP requires a large scale.

An increasingly strong reason to use an MSP is that it can enhance security. You can write it into your SLAs that the MSP must keep your software updated, something which can drop down the priority list when IT is kept in house. This can affect even the largest organisations. One of our customers, a large logistics firm, suffered a major financial loss caused by malware which exploited a vulnerability in its operating systems, a loss which could have been avoided if those systems had been kept up to date.

It is important to keep the services you delegate to MSPs and those you keep in-house under review. The technology is changing rapidly, and more and more services are reaching the point at which it is better to outsource them than keep them in-house.

How to Implement Managed Services

Once you have identified a service which could probably be outsourced to an MSP, how should you go about it? Even if you have a trusted supplier in mind, it is normally worth evaluating proposals from several others, if only to keep up with current pricing, and what new services might have emerged in the market. Write up a set of requirements and send them to each prospective supplier. This, of course, is normal procurement best practice, but, aside from competitive pricing, what should one look for in an MSP?

Key Factors to Consider

A good MSP will always have strong technical skills. Ask to see whether they are accredited as a company with important software and other IT vendors. For example, if you are implementing a managed service for your Windows desktops, is the MSP accredited with Microsoft? What qualifications are held by their staff? Do they follow ITIL principles? Ask them for reviews by their customers. Unless you are looking for help with a specific technology, it is good for MSP to have broad-based technical skills, rather than skills focused on a single vendor. That way, they can better advise on procurement decisions and will be able to recommend solutions that are best for you, rather than those which fit their skill set. For example, if you host or are looking to host systems in the cloud, an MSP with experience of multicloud may be a better partner than one with experience of only one cloud provider.

Incident Management with Managed Services

Closely related to technical competence is organisational competence. A good MSP will minimise emergencies; well-maintained systems should only go wrong rarely, but if something does go wrong, how good is their incident management? What system do they use to track incidents? It should be based on a helpdesk system such as ServiceNow or Jira Service Management, but for mission-critical systems, it should include incident management such as xMatters or PagerDuty. How good is their monitoring and alerting? Important systems should be monitored, and any anomalies should be flagged as alerts. The best monitoring and alerting systems now have built-in machine learning to help interpret monitoring data from individual devices and determine whether particular readings give cause for concern and if so, provide diagnostic information.

Good technical and organisational skills in an MSP are reflected in the provider’s certification in industry standards such as ISO 27001 (information security) and ISO 27018 (cloud services security), as well as quality standards such as ISO 9001. Check which accreditations are held by your prospective MSP. ISO 27001 is particularly important if you are considering entrusting the MSP with your data. It ensures that the MSP’s own systems and processes adhere to minimum standards of security.

Organisational and technical competence must be complemented by the provider’s ability to meet your desired SLAs. If you need 24/7 support, they must be able to provide it and meet all your other requirements concerning response times, resolution times and dedicated support channels. For example, can you call them for a high-priority incident as opposed to logging a ticket?

Of course, IT moves fast, and competence with current technologies should be backed up by an ability to be aware of and adopt emerging standards and technologies. A good MSP will have a wide range of customers and partnerships and will be able to draw on its network and relationships to offer you the best of what is up and coming. At its best, this can give you a competitive edge in your business by allowing it to benefit from the latest technologies before your competitors do.

Finally, it is important that your MSP is sound financially and reputationally. Find out how long it has been in business and ask to see its recent financial information. Research any news appearance to check there is nothing untoward.

Improve your Business Strategy now

In summary, implementing managed services should be done primarily to allow your organisation to focus on what it does best. Managed services can also reduce your costs, improve security, and introduce the latest techniques to your organisation. Implement managed services on the parts of your IT which are not unique to your organisation and keep the scope of managed services under review. In choosing an MSP, evaluate several, and check their technical skills, organisation skills, standards compliance, ability to innovate and financial stability. If implemented well, managed services can improve your competitive edge and contribute to the overall success of your business. Looking for more information on Atlassian Managed Services? Read this essential guide here at Automation Consultants.

7 Best Practices of Resource Forecasting to Optimize Project Costs

Resources play a crucial role in achieving successful project delivery. Whether human, equipment, facilities, or process, a project needs help to get the work done on time and within budget. Recent market fluctuations and economic uncertainties fueled by the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic have wreaked havoc on business sustainability.

As human resources are expensive, project managers cannot afford to rely on guesstimates to meet the deliverables within a dynamic business environment.

According to Deloitte’s Global Cost Survey 2020, “74% of organizations preferred cost reduction over other business initiatives in the post-pandemic era.”

So, to stay profitable amid the current volatilities, accurate estimation is a prerequisite. It is when resource forecasting comes into the picture.

Before delving deep, let’s get the basics right.

What is resource forecasting, and what is its significance in project management?

As the name suggests, forecasting defines the probability of future events and helps project managers implement corrective measures in advance. Resource forecasting is the process of predicting resource metrics used in projects such as demand, supply, cost, vacancy, etc., in advance. It usually occurs in the project initiation phase or can happen as early as the sales process stage.

Resource forecasting is a critical function of the project resource planning process. It ensures that projects are suitably staffed and equipped to address any sudden changes during the entire lifecycle. Using resource forecasting techniques, managers can predict future workload, skill requirements, project financials, resource utilization and apply corrective measures accordingly.

In the absence of appropriate forecasting tools, projects might get delayed or result in budget overruns. It has a cumulative impact on the deliverables and leads to project failure and low client satisfaction. Therefore, businesses must invest in a robust resource forecasting solution to stay profitable and ahead of the curve.


Best practices of resource forecasting and how it helps optimize project costs

Cost management is one of the crucial responsibilities of a project manager. Let’s understand how resource forecasting contributes to cost optimization:

1.Maximize profitable utilization and reduce resource cost

Keeping your team members busy doesn’t necessarily translate to productivity. They could be either occupied on non-billable or mundane BAU activities. So how can you ensure the productivity of your project team for a high ROI? Billable utilization is an essential KPI of project management that directly contributes to revenue generation and project effectiveness.

Using resource forecasting solutions, project managers can gain insight into billable, non-billable or strategic work ahead of the curve. Accordingly, managers can mobilize resources from non-billable to billable/strategic work and improve project profitability. Forecasting analytics helps avoid over or underutilization and facilitates optimum utilization of resources against their capacity.

2.Minimize last-minute hiring/firing costs

Often, projects are unable to kick off at the right time due to insufficient resources. As pointed by PwC Project Management insights, “lack of resources contributes to 30% of project failures.”  Resource forecasting helps predict the resource demand for future and pipeline projects. Using capacity planning, managers can identify the excesses or shortfalls ahead of time and apply appropriate resourcing treatments to bridge the gap. If the requirement is more than capacity, there is a shortage of resources, which means you cannot start the project. On the contrary, if the demand is less than resource supply, there is an excess, which hits your bottom line.

In either case, time and budget overruns are inevitable.  Corrective measures such as training programs, adjusting project timelines, hiring permanent or contingent resources, or selling excess capacity helps. These proactive measures eliminate unnecessary hiring and firing costs and help create a future-ready skilled workforce. Thus, resource forecasting facilitates informed hiring decisions and allows sufficient lead time to reduce unwanted cost escalations.

3.Eliminate employee burnout and deliver within time and budget

Often, managers constantly overload few high-performing resources with work as they have proved to deliver efficiently in the past. This practice can result in employee burnout, increased absenteeism, compromised quality, or worse, unplanned attrition. Consequently, the project profitability is at stake, and cost escalations become unavoidable. Using a modern resource forecasting solution, managers can gain foresight into workforce utilization and take preventive measures to avoid overallocation in the first place.

Forecasting analytics enables managers to consider resource availability and capacity before assigning them to projects. It ensures that employees are not overburdened. Furthermore, resource forecasting helps managers to avoid under/over skilled resources to projects. Underqualified resources delay projects and cause subsequent budget overruns. Overqualified resources may feel disengaged, unproductive, and overshoot the project costs. Enterprise-wide visibility helps allocate the right resources to projects at the right time and cost.

4. Reduce bench-related costs and manage your bottom line

A study by HBR points that bad hiring decisions can lead to 80% of employee turnover. It can cause a large bench of mismatched skillsets that adversely impacts the bottom line. Resource forecasting solutions have inbuilt people on the bench reports that show which resources will end up on the bench after a specific date. Using this report, managers can minimize bench-time and improve project profitability by proactively looking for appropriate tasks for resources before getting rolled off.

Furthermore, project vacancy reports provide visibility of resource demand across the enterprise. Using these reports, project managers can deploy appropriate benched resources to tasks. Resource forecasting also improves the billability of benched resources by providing training or shadowing opportunities. Project managers can address other resource shortfalls by making informed hiring decisions.

5.Improve employee productivity with competent resource allocation

When managers consider employees’ skills and interests before assigning them to tasks, it enhances their engagement and productivity. It helps managers deliver projects within the stipulated budget and timeline. As already mentioned, resource forecasting predicts the resource requirements for future projects in advance. Using these analytics, managers can start planning for fulfillment.

Studies have shown that empowering employees to select projects of interest increases task ownership and motivation. Accordingly, managers can publish the resource requirements within an enterprise on an appropriate resource management tool. Relevant resources are notified and can show their interest in joining the project. Managers can allocate suitable candidates from the potential applicants to ensure higher engagement, productivity, and eventually project profitability.

 6.Track and improve project financials ahead of the curve

Cost management is one of the essential functions of project management. Besides estimating, allocating, and controlling the project budget, cost management also helps businesses predict future expenses to minimize budget overrun. Using resource forecasting solutions, project managers can monitor critical financial indicators such as costs, revenue, profit margins, and overheads.

Tracking and comparing the actual spending against the estimated budget helps control budget overruns. If there is a variance, necessary corrective measures can mitigate project risks ahead of time. Comparing the forecasted vs. actual spending helps improve future estimations and align them to reality. Forecasting analytics allows monitoring of shared resources working on multiple activities. Accordingly, managers can adjust the resource mix and control project costs in advance.

 7. Timely availability of resources helps avoid cost escalations

Bottlenecks are a nightmare for project managers, especially when they happen close to the deadline leaving no scope to prevent delays or cost overruns. One of the causes of bottleneck could be when a critical resource’s unavailability in completing one task delays other dependent tasks. Subsequently, the project fails to deliver on time and within budget.

Resource forecasting can help make the right resource available for the right project at the right time. Project managers can use resource optimization techniques to avoid resource bottlenecks. They can apply resource leveling, i.e., extending project timeline to accommodate available resources or resource smoothing, wherein additional resources help in timely delivery.

The Takeaway

To sum up, resource forecasting is a crucial element in project planning. Ideally, managers must control project costs from the beginning and not leave them to the end. Cost management primarily helps eliminate unnecessary project costs without compromising the quality of the deliverables. It is a continuous endeavor that requires constant monitoring to stay within the budget. Resource forecasting identifies discrepancies and helps you to take timely actions and avoid budget overruns. Some project managers reserve a small fraction of the budget as a buffer for unforeseen circumstances.  They formulate the project plan with the remaining funds to avoid last-minute hiccups.

How to Increase Efficiency of Your Current and Future IT Operations

With COVID-19 and other changes in today’s landscape, there has been an unparalleled shift.

that provides a once in a lifetime opportunity to implement a more evolved IT operational management and service provisioning model.

Optimizing your IT service model not only brings cost reduction and efficiency, but the process also helps identify under-looked areas that can be cut or strategically leveraged elsewhere to gain productivity and speed. With budget constraints, IT teams now have the opportunity to reduce non-strategic IT services and resources that will enable the organization to thrive and just not survive during these challenging times. When reviewing how to optimize your IT operations, it’s best to breakdown your outcomes into steps, as well as understand that processes, methods, metrics and hardware can all take different forms.

Remote workforces and other new operational requirements are key drivers to changes in how IT can provision new services and streamline IT operational models. Wondering where your company should start to begin the process of increasing efficiencies in IT operations? Here are three important considerations to keep in mind:

Reinvent Your IT Operational Model

  • Eliminate high cost, legacy IT services: Overall, this will reduce the costs of your operational model. The legacy items will include both IT and customer-facing services that were previously ‘untouchable’ and provide questionable value for the organization and your customers now. By starting with IT in this process, you will be seen as an organizational leader and lend more credibility to your proposals to reduce or eliminate customer-facing programs and services.
  • Focus on retention and development of strategic IT assets: In an IT operational model, a focus on these assets and staff resources will help architect and lead the effort in transitioning your current IT functional silos into a more integrated, IT services provisioning model. In addition to this, you must re-evaluate your IT service providers and select those that will champion and support the effort to effectively collaborate with other partners. Lastly, elevate existing resources and find new IT staff assets that will effectively partner with your customers to create an enabling IT services foundation that can be leveraged across organizational units. Architecting and building this common foundation will improve time to market, reduce implementation efforts and reduce ongoing maintenance costs.
  • Transparency is key: A critical success factor for optimization is transparency. Create an efficient, clear communications process that utilizes measurable deliverables and metrics for operational performance, project management and alignment with financial objectives. Start with a simple, well thought out core of basic measurements to get started, gain momentum and refine your model as appropriate.


Design The Roadmap

  • Engage executive leadership: As we all know, an executive steering committee is essential in establishing and managing IT priorities. This must be an organizational focused, transparent process that includes communications that are actionable, quantified and focused only on items that impact project scope, cost and timeline.
  • Ensure visibility: Data and metrics that measure the operational and strategic impact of a proposed IT initiative must be developed upfront. Data must be presented that establishes the baseline and measures progress against the expected outcome. In concept, this metrics-based process will be the same that you built for your IT organization. In this case, the metrics will measure growth, financial performance and quality metrics that are easily understandable across the executive team.

Execute Strategically

  • Implement a project management methodology: Both technical and operational inputs are required to build your project plan. This will enable the necessary alignment with reimagined operational workflow processes and deliverables. An iterative project management process should track project progress and provide early visibility to project deliverables and any required scope changes in this rapidly changing business environment.
  • Align your technical and operational deliverables: Project and IT operational resource management need to be managed and tracked as a single integrated process so that operations are not sacrificed for projects. Knowing the time and cost going into the process can ensure better outcomes through strategically gathered datasets.
  • Focus on IT program management: Projects should be grouped into programs with related objectives, technical/operational resources and stakeholders. This helps avoid silos and enable the proper timeline, deliverable and resource allocation management to implement these projects in coordination with one another.

With the remote workforce ever-changing, IT operations are at an exciting turning point. There has been an unparalleled shift and opportunity to implement the more evolved IT operational management and service provisioning models to eliminate risks and bring cost reduction and efficiency. With many companies experiencing chaos by not having the right tools or modifications in place for a remote workforce, now is the perfect time to optimize IT operations. Of course, any effort to simplify and streamline your IT operations and project execution model is challenging. It requires one to step back with their teams and colleagues to rethink their existing models and processes, and then engage with clear communications, planning and execution. The most important factor is to get started and learn to be agile from there.  

How can you enhance your workforce capacity planning

Reports suggest that employee costs can comprise up to 70% of operating expenses in a highly skilled workforce.

Thus, optimal utilization of your resources is critical for delivering successful projects. However, is just a ‘gut-feel’ approach or conventional offline practices are suitable to manage your workforce efficiently?

Definitely not! Because these offline practices lack accuracy and cannot forecast valuable insights, which can result in the wrongful hiring/firing cycle, thereby incurring extra costs to the company. This is the reason why leading companies find it imperative to take a data-driven approach to plan for the needs of the organization proactively. It will minimize the extra costs of misaligned talent deployment.

An advanced capacity planning solution is designed to provide leaders with foresight into the workforce capacity. It provides enterprise-wide visibility into the available skills that lets them decrease the bench strength. Using these insights, leaders can tap into the right potential and allocate the right resources to the right job.

Moreover, this unmatched visibility into critical skill gaps and foresight into capacity and demand for future projects helps leaders to enhance productivity and deliver the best results. Although capacity planning can facilitate you to scale up your resource management game, one question persists,

How to leverage the tool to the best of its benefits and enhance capacity planning?

Here is the answer, followed by some useful tips:

1. Begin with assigning the key resources

The first step towards enhancing capacity planning is using critical resources with a highly specialized skillset for the high priority projects. The reason is that their talent and expertise can impact billable and strategic work in the future. This allocation will help you hit the ground running, and you can start booking more resources as needed.

By setting up a systematic and organized resource profile, you can be in the know of your resource’s abilities and competencies, and if they have taken training in any particular course. Now, how can you use these skills at your advantage? Recognize opportunities that align with your resource’s capabilities and assign them these tasks. You are not only helping your business grow but also enabling your employees to grow professionally and enhance performance. It’s a win-win for both.

2. Strategize with what-if scenarios

As a manager, you don’t want to be caught off-guard with unforeseen scenarios. A robust capacity planning tool caters to this as well. At the nascent planning stages of a project, you can modify the situations and predict the likely outcomes with accuracy. While doing so, you can plan with what suits best to your project and is profitable for the future.
What-if analysis is quite simply, a plan before the plan. The data-driven actionable insights will let you make strategic decisions and empower performance levels down the line. Moreover, you will be spared from unnecessary budget overruns, project bottlenecks when you have unmatched visibility of all the situations well in advance. It will also help you optimize resource utilization and work assignments for future projects.

3. Predict capacity v/s demand

One of the major benefits you can avail from a capacity planning solution is its ability to generate accurate forecast reports. These reports will forewarn you of the future project resource demand and the actual capacity. By leveraging these reports, you can bridge the capacity vs. demand gap (that can result in project bottlenecks) using appropriate resourcing treatment.

What’s more? These predictions will also give you a comprehensive view of excess and shortage of resources (resources gap) you might face down the line. To cater to this, you can implement adequate remedial measures and ensure uniform utilization of resources. Here is a list of potential solutions you can use:


When there is a shortage of resources: 

  • Adjust project timelines to align with available capacity.
  • Retrain and skill up available employees to fill the gaps.
  • Hire contingent workforce before time to avoid further roadblocks.
  • Optimize Bench Management to minimize bench time.

When resources are in excess:

  • Bring forward project timelines to allocate tasks to the idle resources.
  • Fast-track projects by marketing the capacity available.
  • Bring forward initiatives to meet strategic goals and allow resources to brainstorm and contribute.
  • Allow movement of resources across departments to maximize utilization and reduce bench time.

4. Track the planned v/s actual hours 

Allocating resources is not the end of capacity planning. One major responsibility a manager has is to keep the project costs under control, maximize billability, and reduce resourcing costs. In order to do so, managers must keep a check on the project’s progress, resources’ progress, and the number of hours they log to a task. Why is this information so vital?
The reason behind its significance is, when you have a report of the actual hours utilized by resources, you can compare the same with the planned hours for each task. If your resources exceed the planned hours, you can brainstorm and identify the potential reasons behind it and take corrective measures ahead of the curve. This will keep the project costs in check and keep your firm from incurring any unnecessary costs.

5. Plan, represent and assign

Different types of projects demand different courses of planning. A mature resource manager goes for a hybrid approach to plan these projects. To streamline your staffing, you can follow a 3-step approach of planning, representing, and assigning resources. Here is the detailed explanation of each step:

  • Plan – the most important step to a successful project is a well-channelized plan. You can opt for the best approach that suits your project. For example, you can use work breakdown structures to detail the stages and allocate resources. In other cases when you are not sure of the resources who will work on the tasks, you will require high-level planning and approvals from senior managers to proceed further.
  • Represent – A capacity planning solution is flexible enough to let you represent the resource demand in different units. You can directly represent the demand in headcounts, or FTE (Full-time equivalent- standard working hours of a firm per week), or a number of hours at your convenience. For instance, if you require 4 FTE, that means you need four employees to work for 4 weeks or 4 employees to work for a week and complete the task.
  • Assign – After creating a meticulous plan and listing the resource demand, the last step is to use the advanced filters of the tool, enter your requirements based on role, department, competencies, location, availability, and a number of hours/FTE/headcount and assign the right resources to the right task.

The takeaway

A powerful, advanced, and comprehensive capacity planning tool is pivotal to utilize the talent pool to their best extent. When a resource manager has 360-degree visibility of the resources and their skills, has a provision to toggle and compare scenarios before planning for a project, he/she can build the highest value project and eliminate potential pitfalls.

The above-mentioned tips to scale up your capacity planning process will enable you to empower your decision making, enhance productivity, and help your resources add a more valuable contribution to the firm. Now that the potential benefits of a structured process are clear, have you thought of revitalizing your planning process?