Efficient resource management is at the heart of the efficient delivery of multiple concurrent projects and business performance in general. At the same time, in a multi-project environment, it can be incredibly challenging to allocate and manage employees in such a way that they have a balanced workload, are productive, and ensure seamless delivery of all projects.
What resource management challenges are typical for a multi-project setting? And how can they be addressed? Let’s delve into these issues in the article.
4 essential resource management challenges
A multi-project environment is a complex system of interdependent activities. What makes its management most difficult is dependencies between projects: they can share human, material, and financial resources, have overlapping activities and due dates. In addition, a multi-project setting involves dealing with a huge amount of data that has to be stored, managed, and properly interpreted to achieve the intended results. Let’s review typical resource management challenges in a multi-project environment in more detail.
Staffing concurrent projects
A lack of resources becomes a common challenge when you need to staff projects in a multi-project setting. In a great number of cases, it is caused by the specificity of a multi-project environment and management mistakes. This includes the following factors.
- Resource conflicts.
When multiple projects are running in parallel, resource conflicts can become a real challenge. One employee can be required for several initiatives at the same time, which is a direct consequence of resource dependencies between projects.
- Poor resource planning.
Before starting a new project, a resource manager should have an idea of resource demand for this project (how much capacity and what competences are required), compare it to available employees’ competences and capacity, and find ways to bridge them if necessary. Otherwise, it will result in last-minute hiring which actually won’t solve the problem immediately – it takes time before a newcomer can deliver the required output.
- Wrong priorities.
This mostly refers to project portfolio management. When allocating resources to projects, you need to know which of them generate the biggest business value and require critical employees first and foremost.
Assigning the right resources to the right tasks
To ensure efficient work on projects, you should assign employees to tasks that correspond to their competence levels. However, it can be challenging for the following reasons.
- A lack of skilled employees.
Some industries (aerospace and defense, automotive, and others that deal with innovations and technology) require digital workforce to staff their projects. But at the moment, the competition for tech-savvy employees is very high, which makes it difficult to find them as quickly as needed.
- Office politics.
Among other things, this phenomenon can affect resource allocation decisions – when resources are assigned to a project that addresses the needs of influential stakeholders with no regard to its relationships with other initiatives.
Poor visibility of resource-related data
By resource visibility we mean easy access to the essential data used in the resource management process – resource allocation and capacity planning, tracking resources’ progress, and assessing their performance. It’s the data on people’s competences, capacity, availability, workload, and output.
In a multi-project environment with numerous employees and activities, resource-related data visibility is crucial. And what is even more important is that there should be a single source of truth for a project and resource manager, the project team, and stakeholders. Inability to see the big picture of resource-related processes and siloed data make multi-project resource management incredibly challenging and ineffective.
Uneven workload distribution
When there are multiple projects in the pipeline, it’s extremely difficult to staff each of them with the required employees and at the same time keep their workload balanced. As a rule, you have a limited number of resources and a great number of tasks to complete. In addition, most of the resources have already been booked by other projects. In this case, it’s very easy to snow them under with work, which is the most unfavorable scenario: overloaded people are not only inefficient, but can also hamper the work of their colleagues and the whole project environment.
There can be another problem. Sometimes, the workload can be distributed unevenly: while some team members are overloaded, the others are idle, which significantly reduces overall productivity. The main cause for uneven workload distribution is a lack of correct prioritization and a discrepancy between people’s capacity and load.
If you notice that your resources don’t deliver the desired output or show any signs of poor performance, it’s time to check the following things:
- Have you identified project priorities correctly?
- Have you allocated resources with regard to the relevant data on their availability?
- Do the employees’ tasks correspond to their competence levels?
- Is the team members’ workload distributed according to their capacity? Aren’t they overloaded or idle?
Spotting the trouble area will become the first step in fixing the issues. But most likely you’ll require the assistance of the right resource management solution – it will provide you with accurate data, automate some RM processes, and contribute to more effective resource management. Let’s examine how a resource management tool’s functionality helps cope with the above-mentioned resource management challenges.
Addressing resource management challenges with a resource management solution
We’ll illustrate how a resource management tool helps resource managers cope with the challenges listed in the previous section through the example of Epicflow. It’s a resource management solution that has been designed for work in a multi-project setting, so it’s focused on the specificity of managing multiple concurrent projects and their shared resources.
What solutions does Epicflow offer to solve the above-mentioned resource management challenges?
Setting the right priorities
Lack of prioritization can turn your project environment into chaos. When it comes to managing resources shared by multiple projects, clear and correct priorities is what you need first and foremost. Thanks to Epicflow’s prioritization capabilities, both project and resource managers know what projects require most of their management attention – they are marked with corresponding colors in the Pipeline. In addition, priorities are calculated for all tasks of the project environment based on dependencies between projects, which tells every project participant what tasks they should complete first and foremost. If you manage a project portfolio, you can assign a business value to every project in the Pipeline, and Epicflow will prioritize them accordingly for your convenience. Prioritization helps all project participants navigate the flow of activities and focus on what really matters for the moment.
Providing 360° view of resource-related data and processes
As we’ve mentioned previously, efficient resource management requires a centralized system that provides visibility into all resource-related data and processes. Epicflow gives insight into the following information.
- Each resource’s competences and their levels, capacity, availability, and attributes.
The system takes into account employees’ absences, holidays, etc., so a project/resource manager can be sure that availability data is relevant. You can also add essential attributes to the system: e.g., employees’ location. In addition, Epicflow has a resource allocation advisor that suggests employees for completing a task based on the above-mentioned information or historical data. In such a way Epicflow addresses the challenge of assigning the right resources in a multi-project setting.
- Resource performance data.
Analyzing resource performance data allows resource managers to assess the efficiency of their efforts and timely detect bottlenecks before they cause problems to the workflow. It’s especially relevant for a multi-project environment, where a problem with one task can negatively affect the whole portfolio due to project dependencies. Epicflow has several features for tracking resource performance. For example, the Historical Load Graph shows the resource groups’ output in relation to their capacity, which makes it possible to assess resources’ work efficiency as well as to find bottlenecks and their causes. The Load Analysis feature can show what tasks and projects are overloading your people so that you can take timely measures to prevent them from excessive workload.
Forecasting for improved decision-making
Oftentimes, resource managers have to make their decisions under conditions of uncertainty: e.g., how many employees they require to staff an upcoming project or how to resolve resource bottlenecks. Epicflow helps them cope with this uncertainty thanks to its forecasting capabilities. For example, its Future Load Graph can predict improper workload: you can see which of the resource groups is going to be overloaded or idle and take timely actions to avoid bottlenecks.
Epicflow’s What-if Analysis feature can help find the most reasonable solution to a problem. Let’s say, you’ve detected an overloaded resource group and have to decide on the best way to resolve this bottleneck. You can do this in the simulated environment of the What-if Analysis mode: it will show you the consequences of reassigning resources, adding more employees, moving milestones, or other decisions so that you can choose the most reasonable one.
Epicflow’s project portfolio management functionality can forecast the proportion of projects that are going to be delivered on time in relation to the total number of projects based on their current statuses. If you see that a significant number of projects are going to be delayed, you can adjust the situation by putting off the start of lower-priority projects — this will free your resources’ capacity so that you can assign them to the highest-priority projects and complete them on time. And Epicflow’s Project Staggering feature can assist by calculating the start dates of the postponed lower-priority projects.
These are just a couple of examples of Epicflow’s resource management functionality. Feel free to contact our experts to explore Epicflow features in action and learn how they can help you drive the efficiency of your resource management processes.
What resource management problems have you come across in your work? Share your experience with us.