When it comes to assigning work to your team members and allocating resources to existing and upcoming projects, are you as efficient as you could be—not to mention realistic about what can be accomplished with the staff you have?
Find out in this Q&A; session with Nick McCleery, Group Product Manager at Workfront, who will explain what's not working with your current approach and offer tips for improving the productivity of your entire team using Workfront's new resource scheduling features.
How does the typical corporate team approach resource scheduling?
McCleery: Typically a corporation approaches resource scheduling as a secondary action after projects are approved. In most cases, the scheduling of actual people is not considered when making that decision. This is problematic for obvious reasons; they are not answering the fundamental question of whether it can really be accomplished with the resources on hand.
Most corporations will try to look at their available resources based on projects currently in progress vs. work they would like to add at a role level. Based on this information, they will make a yes, no, or when decision about starting a new project. If the project is approved, it usually has basic information about the total commitment. This can done in templates, but after approval, project managers will fine tune the project plans. It is at this point that actual users begin to be assigned to actual work.
Resource Managers or Traffic Managers work with Project Managers to assign the work. These individuals will begin with known information. For example, they may know that there is one "Design Lead" working on this project, so they get all the tasks assigned to that role assigned to that user.
After these bulk actions are done, it's time to start the more complicated task of finding available resources for the rest of the work. In almost every scenario, this is done manually by either firsthand knowledge from the managers or guesswork based on calendars, project plans, or spreadsheets. It's laborious and very imprecise. They then depend on feedback from teams regarding over-allocation of users, but not usually until they push a team or person to the near breaking point.
"In almost every scenario, this is done manually by either firsthand knowledge from the managers or guesswork based on calendars, project plans, or spreadsheets. It's laborious and very imprecise."
What mistakes do you often see with these teams?
McCleery: The biggest mistake is that they over-allocate their users. Over 150% allocation is very common. They also rarely find the people with the actual skills needed to perform the work, what I'd call the "best fit." This happens because they don't have the information they need to make the decision, or it's hard to get to that information.
What problems does this create for these teams in terms of the amount of hours worked, ability to hit delivery dates, etc.?
McCleery: This is really just an extension of the last two questions, but obviously commitments become at risk very quickly. In fact, they are usually at risk before they even begin because other projects are already over-allocated. For the resource manager, this issue compounds as users burn out and either get less productive or, in a worse case scenario, leave the organization, resulting in diminished capacity and costly retraining if and when the person is back-filled. This has a ripple effect through the organization as projects begin to steal resources to meet their commitments.
For a corporation working under a contract model, this can be devastating. They will either miss their commitments or end up in the proverbial death march, paying excess amounts of overtime and watching quality suffer.
How do these problems affect teams' ability to perform long-term?
McCleery: Long-term teams who are under constant pressure to deliver more than they are capable of become frustrated with project managers and stakeholders. It can be quite demoralizing. They feel helpless knowing there's little real consideration of what is required to get the work done.
Workfront is releasing a new Resource Scheduler feature aimed at solving these problems. Can you tell us how it works?
McCleery: The Resource Scheduling feature solves these issues in three ways:
1. The tool is designed to deliver information based on the context of the user working in the tool. We present all of the unassigned work that you are responsible for in a visual calendar tool.
2. We show you all the people that can do that work based on their roles and the work that is assigned to them already.
3. Based on all of the tasks and issues a user is currently working on and their schedule, you can see any over-allocations and correct them.
The tool also provides a filter so a resource manager can zero in on work that is pressing at the moment and make assignments to users who match specific needs. This way, the resource manager can make the best decisions about who to assign work to, and see exactly where and how their resources are allocated.
From what you've seen in testing, how will this new feature help teams overcome their resource management challenges?
McCleery: Customers are loving the visual representation of their work and have reported that it is much easier to make assignments through the new interface. This is saving them time and reducing mistakes, but the biggest value for them has been eliminating the manual task of trying to find, beg, borrow and steal resources to accomplish their work. It's a single source of truth that spans the entire organization.
"The biggest value has been eliminating the manual task of trying to beg, borrow and steal resources to accomplish the work."
Learn more about Workfront's new Resource Scheduler tool here.
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