5 tips to help you manage resource constraints

manage resource constraints

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The success of a project is closely linked to the way in which the project manager manages the various resource constraints. The most common resource restrictions encompass the limits and risks inherent in resource availability and project costs, scope and time.

A change in any one of these factors sets off a chain reaction that ultimately affects the overall quality of the project.

Are you forced to postpone a deadline because your main developer has pulled out? This will drive up costs.

Does your customer want to add additional tasks? This changes the scope, which in turn changes costs and schedules. And you’ll be forced to reorganize workloads or put busy team members on overtime.

The million-dollar question is not whether resource constraints will occur – they will – but how to manage them effectively when they do. Here are our 5 tips.

1. Conducting stakeholder interviews for an in-depth work breakdown structure

The heart of project organization lies in the work breakdown structure. This key document references in detail all the deliverables required to complete the project. On this basis, resources are allocated to the activities listed in the work breakdown structure. If certain steps are overlooked, team members will inevitably be lacking to complete them. This means that resources will have to be redeployed along the way, often with great difficulty.

The first step towards an effective work breakdown structure is to gather as much information as possible from project stakeholders during the kick-off call. The more information you have about the customer’s objectives, the easier it will be to identify precisely which tasks and personnel are needed to achieve these targets.

Don’t hesitate to come to the meeting with a list of questions, and send us an e-mail if you have any questions afterwards. This will save everyone a lot of hassle later on.

A precise and exhaustive work breakdown structure identifies each step required to complete a project.

In addition, a detailed work breakdown structure makes it much easier to manage resource constraints. It clearly identifies the dependencies between different tasks and those that can be carried out simultaneously.

Let’s take an example from the field of construction project management. A rigorous work breakdown structure makes it much easier for the project manager to think ahead.

For example, if a single piece of construction equipment is to be used on several sites, the manager can anticipate a possible bottleneck in advance, and plan to hire additional equipment if necessary. Without this foresight, the sudden discovery of such a problem in the middle of a project would cause delays in the schedule and could result in substantial additional costs.

2. Create realistic schedules based on data from previous projects

Unrealistic schedules constrain all your resources. Take a moment to think about it: if you realize that your team can’t meet the approved schedule (especially if the project is already well underway), you have two solutions.

You may decide to hire other people to speed up the pace, but this means diverting their efforts from their current tasks and modifying the deadlines for these projects. Alternatively, you can turn to your customer and negotiate an extra deadline, with the risk of causing a negative impact on your relationship and income if they ask for a discount in return.

Escape this hustle and bustle by examining the timescales of similar projects completed in the past early on in the project planning process, and use them to set achievable milestones. For example, if you know that two previous projects with a digital customer took between 5 and 7 billable days to complete, it would be unrealistic to plan for the next one to be finished in just 4 days.

Examine the duration of past projects to establish more rational schedules.

It’s also worth mentioning that these project indicators help you to insert a strategic buffer period into your schedule, giving you some latitude with regard to your deadlines, should obstacles emerge. In the case of the next digital project, this could mean increasing the billable time to 7.5 or 8 days, depending on the new project scope.

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3. Eliminate over-allocation by monitoring resource use

The professional exhaustion of the team can lead to a hardening of project management constraints. Unexpected absences occur, impacting productivity and the quality of the work carried out. What’s more, overallocation can backfire during the course of a project, when a collaborator is suddenly absent. The need to find a replacement then becomes urgent.

It’s essential to respect your collaborators and their time. Avoiding overloading project team members is a crucial strategy for managing resource constraints. Be sure to check your capacity planning to avoid missing out on overallocations.

Although overtime may be necessary from time to time, it should not become commonplace. Take absences into account, and keep a close eye on resource utilization rates. They should not exceed 80%, in which case workloads need to be adjusted. Beyond that, you increase the likelihood of costly burnout, or even employee turnover. Discover another article on this topic.

Forecasting reports help you make more strategic choices to keep projects on track.

Finally, don’t forget to talk to your team and express your gratitude for the work they do. Let them know you’re available to help if they feel overwhelmed.

4. Implement forecasting reports throughout the life cycle of your projects

Managing resource constraints is intrinsically linked to advance planning. One of the most effective tools for achieving this is the use of weekly forecast reports.

Of course, it’s impossible to foresee every problem that might arise; however, using project data to anticipate potential risks gives you the opportunity to get ahead of many obstacles.

By way of illustration, if you generate a forecast report for next month and it shows an abnormally high number of  unavailable or non-billable hours, this indicates an underutilization problem that needs to be resolved immediately.

Forecasting reports help you make more strategic decisions to keep projects on track.

When you have the data to highlight warning signals, you can take action and anticipate unforeseen events that could easily destabilize your current and future projects.

 

5. Transition from Excel workbook to dedicated resource management software

While it’s possible to use manual tools like Excel to manage resources, this quickly proves laborious and error-prone compared to using an automated resource planning tool, especially once your team reaches a certain size.

Project management software such as Teambook can help you maintain an optimal balance between your teams, your costs, your scope and your time.

Our user-friendly platform eliminates manual resource management work and gives you a clear view of everything that’s going on with your projects.

  • Save time when planning and reporting. A software dedicated to resource management saves you time by automatically adjusting analyses such as utilization rates as workloads change. With a tool like Excel, you’d have to do this manually. The same goes for reports – you can compile customizable reports with a few clicks, instead of spending hours manually collating data.
  • Supports accurate capacity planning with leave management features. Thanks to our integration with Google Calendar, you won’t lose any employee days off when planning resource allocations for projects. Teambook also tracks various categories of time off, so you know which team members to encourage to take their well-earned time off and avoid burnout.
  • Allows you to take a macro and micro view of resource information. With synthetic, granular project data at your fingertips, you can quickly find what you’re looking for and see the real-time impact of workload and schedule changes.

For example, when you add a new project, you can see how it impacts your team’s utilization rate. If it’s significantly below or above 70-80%, dig deeper and look at individual team schedules to see where workloads can be adjusted for a more optimal workload balance.

“Teambook has significantly improved our visibility, strengthening project ownership and forecasting capability.” Vincent Lehmann – Soleil Digital

Conclusion: project resource planning requires the right organization and tools.

Managing resource constraints can be a Herculean task. However, by identifying limited resources early on in your strategy development phase, you give yourself extra time to deal with them. By adopting the right organization and tools, you avoid further frustration for yourself, your team and your customers in the long term.

Discover how our project planning software can keep you on track as you adapt to changing parameters. In fact, you can try it free for 14 days. And best of all, it’s free for less than 10 projects!

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