The Wellingtone report on the state of project management in 2021 has shown that only a third of organizations deliver their projects on time and within budget. It means that the majority of companies face project failure to a greater or lesser degree.
In a complex multi-project environment, the price for improper project and/or resource management is higher due to dependencies between initiatives, and a problem with one project can negatively impact the other projects. So, project and resource managers should be aware of the factors that lead to project failure.
What mistakes prevent initiatives from successful completion in a multi-project setting, and how can they be prevented? Let’s dive into these issues.
Why Do Projects Fail?
Project can fail for a number of reasons:
- Project management mistakes (e.g., poor planning, scope creep, unrealistic expectations);
- Resource management mistakes (e.g., poor resource planning, improper resource allocation);
- External factors (force-majeure circumstances).
Let’s examine what mistakes in managing multiple projects can lead to project failure.
Poor resource capacity planning
Resources are the most valuable asset of any project. But in a multi-project environment, this statement gains even more importance: people are involved in several (or more) projects simultaneously, and their work can make or break the success of all the initiatives.
So, first of all, a resource manager has to make sure that all the current and upcoming projects are staffed with necessary people – i.e., plan resources’ capacity. If it’s not planned properly in advance, it may turn out that the resource demand exceeds the available supply. Resource shortages will lead to the following problems:
- Cost overrun: unplanned resource shortages will result in unbudgeted expenses.
- Overwhelmed employees: an alternative to hiring new people can be increasing the workload of the available employees.
- Project delays: either hiring new people or waiting for critical employees to become available will extend a project’s duration.
In the worst-case scenario, if there aren’t enough people to deliver the estimated scope of work, and it’s impossible to hire them quickly enough, some of the initiatives can fail.
Learn more about resource capacity planning from our blog post: Resource Capacity Planning: What, Why, and How
Improper resource allocation
Allocating resources to multiple projects is a real challenge. In a multi-project environment, this process is always accompanied by a number of difficulties, e.g., resource conflicts when employees are required by several projects at the same time; uneven workload distribution, when some team members are overloaded, while others are idle; lack of resources with necessary skills to complete project tasks, and more. At the same time, it’s the basis for fruitful project work. If resources are improperly allocated, it will result in the following issues:
- reduced productivity as a result of inappropriate workload distribution;
- resource shortages and the need to hire more people instead of optimizing the utilization of the existing ones.
When unmanaged, these problems will lead to inability to deliver the work within the planned budget and timeline.
Read how to optimize resource allocation and make it maximum efficient in our blog post: 4 Tips on Efficient Resource Allocation in a Multi-Project Environment
Focus on projects, not resources’ progress
It may seem surprising, but one of the typical mistakes in a multi-project environment is controlling the completion of tasks and monitoring the state of projects. Though it’s also important, when running multiple projects with a shared resource pool, the main focus should be shifted to monitoring the performance of resources: do they cope well with their workload? Do they work at their full capacity? Do they need upskilling to improve the quality of their work?
Monitoring people’s performance is so important because due to dependencies between projects, even one inefficient team member can hamper the flow of the whole multi-project environment, which in turn can lead to delays, cost overrun, and/or inability to deliver the planned scope of work.
So, monitoring the state of resources makes it possible to timely detect potential bottlenecks in the workflow, so that they won’t become major problems for the whole environment.
Poor workload management
Control over employees’ workload is one of the important components of efficient resource management. In other words, it’s about making sure that the team members are neither overloaded nor idle and show high productivity levels. Improper workload management can lead to disappointing outcomes.
- Missed deadlines.
If a team member can’t cope with his or her tasks on a regular basis, don’t be hasty in considering him or her incompetent or inefficient. The problem can be caused by excessive workload.
- Low productivity.
Both under- and overloaded employees are disengaged and inefficient. While it’s quite clear with idle team members, it may seem that the overloaded ones can deliver more. But it’s a delusion, especially in the long run. On the contrary, an overloaded employee can cause serious problems to the whole project environment (e.g., by making mistakes that require rework or suddenly falling ill).
Find out how to make your workload management process effective and keep employees engaged: 5 Signs That Your Workload Management Process Is Wrong
Setting the right priorities across project tasks is a must when you run multiple initiatives simultaneously: every project participant should put their effort in the most important work for the moment. Lack of prioritization will result in the following problems:
- inappropriate resource allocation – you cannot assign tasks to shared resources without understanding which of them are the most important;
- bad multitasking: if project participants scramble between the tasks without understanding which of them matter most, their productivity level will be low.
With such initial conditions, successful delivery of projects will be out of the question.
All of the above-mentioned factors are independent and centered around proper utilization of resources. To prevent all these challenges or get the workflow back on track, resource management effort should be combined with the capabilities of the right software solution. Let’s dwell upon the latter in the section below.
How a Resource Management Solution Can Prevent Project Failure in a Multi-Project Environment
It’s no secret that resource management tools have become resource managers’ right hand these days. As a rule, they have a variety of functions to ensure efficient utilization of shared resources and simplify multi-project management. To illustrate how they work, we’ll take a look at Epicflow, a resource management solution designed specifically for work in a multi-project setting.
Before we dive into Epicflow’s functionality, let’s outline the most essential ways of preventing the mistakes listed in the previous section.
- Setting priorities between projects to determine which of them require most efforts;
- Planning for risks and uncertainty to be ready for unexpected events that may require additional resources;
- Making sure that employees’ workload is balanced and their productivity level is high;
- Keeping track of team members’ competences and facilitating their upskilling/reskilling, so that they can be interchangeable in some situations;
- Avoiding ad-hoc changes to the workflow and relying on data in making decisions.
All of these tips can be successfully implemented with Epicflow’s functions. It’s time to consider them in more detail.
Automatic prioritization of project tasks based on dependencies between projects
Fruitful work on multiple projects is impossible without setting the right priorities between tasks across the whole project environment. In Epicflow, every team member is provided with their personal prioritized list of tasks, so that everyone knows what to put their effort into. Along with this, the system resets the priorities in response to workflow changes in real time.
Providing resource managers with information required for resource allocation
A resource manager cannot keep in mind the data on each employee’s skills, capacity, and availability. So, all the necessary information is easily accessible in the system, which significantly simplifies the resource allocation process. In addition, Epicflow integrates with human resource management systems, and makes the data on team members’ days off or sick leaves available.
Suggesting options for maximum efficient resource allocation
To make sure that your employees work on the right tasks, you can make use of Epicflow’s resource allocation advisor. It analyzes data on people’ skills, availability, and capacity and proposes optimum variants of allocating resources to project tasks.
Providing access to real-time and historical data to track progress and overall performance
In Epicflow, you can monitor how the project team performed during a certain period. It will contribute to more realistic estimates in the future – you’ll know what output you can expect of them. Also, you can monitor the state of current work on projects, namely the amount of completed and remaining work, which will make it possible to timely spot workflow roadblocks if any.
Forecasting resource bottlenecks based on historical and real-time data
What’s special about Epicflow, is that its AI-driven features can predict future bottlenecks before they turn into major problems for the whole environment. For example, it shows improper workload in the future so that a resource manager can make necessary workflow adjustments to avoid this problem.
Conducting scenario analysis for informed decision-making
Whatever decision you make under conditions of uncertainty (resource allocation or any changes to the project environment), it should be based on precise data. With Epicflow’s What-if analysis, you can try out different scenarios, analyze their outcomes, and make your decisions accordingly.
Optimization of employees’ workload
As we’ve noted before, balanced workload is one of the keys to employee productivity. Epicflow provides opportunities for detecting both overload and idleness, so, a resource manager can use this information to adjust it to the optimum level.
As we see, Epicflow provides resource managers with comprehensive support by ensuring efficient resource utilization and orchestration of multiple projects. At the same time, its opportunities aren’t limited to preventing project failures; it also contributes to reducing projects’ lead time, costs and thereby creates conditions for business success.
If you want our solution to become your reliable assistant in wise resource management, don’t hesitate to contact us.