Resource management is a critical aspect of any project. It simply cannot be taken too lightly, though we often take the scheduling and availability of our project and creative resources for granted. Now's not the time to tell you which resource management software tool to use or which project management tool with great resource tracking to use. What needs to be established is the importance of actually tracking resources and planning, forecasting and re-forecasting throughout the project or creative initiative.
In my opinion, there are three key reasons for investing time, energy and money into managing resources and a resource forecasting software.
Ensuring resources are available when needed. Ever had that situation when you knew you had a resource planned out for September and October on the project only to find out that he/she is also planned on another project in October during some PMO or creative director meeting? We've all had resource issues and conflicts. Once, I had a situation where my lead resource on the project was going to be gone for an entire month starting next week due to a wedding – her own wedding – in India. Her manager knew, but someone forgot to share that with me. At the time, I was using Excel for the project. If we had been using a more enterprise type resource management solution with a process of established collaboration practices behind it then all eyes would have known this... not just her manager. You can somehow we get through these types of issues by onboarding a new lead resource ASAP, but it will be costly, there will be a learning curve, and it will cause some obvious customer discomfort. All of this could be avoided with a good resource management process and software solution.
Ensuring resources aren't over-committed to the project. Just as your resources need to be available when they are needed, you don't want them committed to the project when they aren't needed. I realize this is a very fine line to walk. What if something comes up? What if a critical task is delayed a few days and we don't have the resource available when we really DO need them? That's the very reason you need resource management software. But, you don't want a resource assigned 100% to the project when his/her overall usage throughout the engagement is only going to be 60%. You want the resource to be free to take on other tasks on other projects for the benefit of the company and for the benefit of your project. If resources are assigned 100% and only needed 60%, then that remaining 40% will likely still get charged to your project... or at least much of it will. And few projects can take that kind of resource time charging hit without feeling it in the end budget-wise. That's also a good reason to be continually reviewing the resource forecast weekly and revising it as needed. Unneeded resources on the project often mean unnecessary charges to the project, which no project manager adores.
Ensuring resources are assigned to the right tasks. Finally, resource management software should help us to make sure that resources are assigned to the right tasks. The last thing a project manager needs is a resource who doesn't know or understand his/her assignments at any given moment. It should be clear what resources are needed for and what they should be working on. If they are working on the wrong tasks at the wrong time (or even at the right time), it will surely lead to longer timeframes, missed deadlines and budgets overrun with additional and unexpected costs.
Summary / call for input
The software we use to manage our resources is up to you and your organization. You must pick one that fits well with your goals, your mission and your industry. The key is to pay close attention to your resource planning and forecasting and continually revisit it throughout the project. And a good resource management tool will help you do that. Evaluate and plan wisely.
What are your thoughts? What needs do you have in the areas of resource management? What are your biggest challenges? Please share and discuss.