In the Workfront 2018–2019 State of Work survey, U.S. workers said they only spend 40 percent of the workday on their primary tasks. Emails and pointless meetings topped the list of things that keep knowledge workers from getting work done. So we asked, “what is the biggest thing that would help you do more with less?” One-third of workers answered, “instituting better processes.” Here are suggestions to do that within your business.
Discovering Resource Management Systems
Most organizations are working with limited resources—meaning money, people, materials, equipment, and time. While business leaders and project managers focus on securing clients or customers, and creating great products or services, they may neglect to properly manage these valuable resources.
The solution is to implement an effective resource management system. When used correctly, such a system lets you see where your resources are over- or under-booked, enabling you to keep your employees at capacity. Coupled with a work management system, your team will be focused on the right work, at the right time. This in turn saves you and your clients or customers money, and fosters higher retention rates. Here’s how:
1. Be accountable.
Eighty-six percent of U.S. workers say they don’t know what their colleagues are working on. If that’s the case, they may not even be working at all. With a resource management system in place that’s tied directly to your work management system, you’ll be able to tell exactly what each team member was working on and when, and managers can view each team member’s overall utilization. And by using a work management system, project managers can track each job’s progress in real time. All of these capabilities combined keeps employees accountable to themselves, their colleagues, and their managers, and positively impacts a business’ bottom line.
2. Stay productive.
The fact that 40 percent of U.S workers’ days are spent performing tasks other than their primary job duties indicates employees are very capable of wasting time—especially if they don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing. It’s important to accurately plan and forecast the work you want your teams to do—so that they can spend more time focusing on the work that drives your business forward. When a resource and work management system is in place, they’ll know exactly which tasks need to be accomplished in what order, and how long they have to get them done. Even the most self-motivated employees need a certain amount of structure in their day-to-day workflow. Resource and work management planning provides the required structure.
A work and resource management plan template helps you assign work to resources according to whatever priorities have been set by the stakeholders at your company. Consider how certain tasks align with the strategic mission of your team or department. Are they absolutely urgent, important, or can they wait? It pays to create a prioritization methodology around your company or departmental goals, against opportunities that arise or the direct requests of higher management.
Implementing Your Resource and Work Management Systems
1. Plan ahead.
Every project requires a certain allocation of resources. If you plan it right, you’ll not only avoid resource wastage, but you’ll be also prepared for inevitable unforeseen circumstances. The more you can plan ahead, the more time, sanity, and money your business saves later on. When faced with a project, lay the groundwork by assessing your team and doing the following:
Determine the purpose of the project. Setting a clear goal puts everyone on the same page. It also serves as a guiding force for the collective employees as they cross off tasks and navigate unexpected hurdles.
Input all the tasks that need to be completed in order of importance. Thirty-five percent of employees say they don’t think work is prioritized correctly. Employees are more motivated when they know exactly why their work is important. This knowledge may also help your team members finish their tasks with time and money left over. Your automated resource and work management system will help assign the resources based on your priorities.
Gather the project requirements. Gathering information about a project before it kicks off enables you and your team to plan and resource effectively for the full scope of any project. Your project input form will vary depending on the type of work you’re doing, but it should focus on the end goal you’re working to accomplish, including:
Relevant deadlines and milestones
Project goals and success metrics
Actionable learnings from prior projects
Key competitors and approach
Approvers required throughout the project
If you don’t know how long certain tasks take, start gathering that data as soon as possible. Track the hours worked on the project, against the overall period time period. Business leaders typically under-allocate time for projects. Having a clear idea of how long things take helps you accurately forecast your resource needs.
This is also the correct stage to plan for the unplanned. Once you know how much time and money typically go into unexpected work, you can account for it during your resource management planning. You may end up scheduling team members at 60 percent utilization instead of 80, but that will save needless panic when markets change, an employee gets sick, or a client changes their mind about what they want.
Input available resources. It may be time-consuming, but this step is essential to the success of your plan. Overworked employees can easily contribute to a stressful, hostile work environment. When stress becomes a factor, employees are likely going to get burnt out, stop doing quality work, and eventually quit. Resource management lets you note how many hours each employee should spend on each task — don’t schedule an employee nine hours of work when they should only be working eight hours a day. Pay attention to vacation days, remember to allow for breaks and lunch hours, and make sure the team has all the information and equipment they need to complete work in the allotted time. Your automated resource management system enables of these things.
Compare, contrast, and adjust. If your available resources are much lower than the resources you’re going to need, you’ll have to make some changes. You may need to ask a client for more time or money, and you may need to tell them you simply can’t get certain projects finished. But that’s not all bad news. Finding this out ahead of time is preferable to finding out after you and your customer have already put in tons of time and money. This stage of the resource management planning process allows your team to accurately prioritize tasks and determine what resources are absolutely necessary to reach project goals.
2. Measure results.
Progress toward any goal must be measurable. Throughout the project, measure what resources you are spending the most time and money on. If you see anything starting to get out of balance — taking too much time on the wrong tasks, or starting to go over budget — you can always adjust. You already expected the unexpected, right? Instead of suffering a catastrophic project derailment, you have the ability to re-allocate resources toward any last-minute requests or problems.
It is also important to keep track of your timeline. Is your team meeting its deadlines? Are you on track to meet your set end date? It is better to find this out immediately than after a deadline has passed. Your work and resource management plan template is a living document. It can withstand all the updates, deletions, and additions you can throw at it. That’s the beauty of real-time tracking—you can see problems coming with plenty of time to fix them.
Give Your People What They Want
More than half of U.S. workers aren’t using a work management platform, but would like to. It may seem awkward trying introduce a brand-new resource management system in the beginning, but as with any other beneficial change in the office, employees eventually come around. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you ease your people into the process:
Clearly define what employees need to do differently.
Lead by example. Start using your new resource management plan template in your own work right away.
Reinforce the importance of doing things the new way with rewards for those using the new system, and consequences for those sticking to the old methods.
Before you know it, your team will embrace a resource management system that allows them to prioritize their work, set clear goals — Maybe they’ll even work fewer weekends, and that generally results in improved engagement. Your customers can trust that you’re finishing projects in the most efficient ways possible — saving them time and money. Finally, you’ll be able to create a strategic growth plan by comparing how many resources you have, and how many you need. By managing your most precious resources, you’re setting your employees, clients, and business up for success.
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