Your secret weapon to avoid overloading people
The key to the success of any project is the people involved and in our article best practice tips for managing your people we look at some of the key challenges and how best to overcome them.As a Project Manager one of your main roles is to manage day to day resource planning, availability and utilisation. This can be an extremely challenging part of the job, especially if you manage a large pool of resources. In a bid to do more with less, key resources, whether they’re human, software or machinery, can get overloaded. This can cause bottlenecks that disrupt the progress of projects and delay their delivery and when teams have busy workloads it can lead to stress and low morale. Finding the balance between under-utilisation and overloading can be a challenge but get the balance right and you are on your way to achieving optimum project delivery.
It’s a simple fact of life that some resources are more efficient than others. This breeds a tendency to rely on the select few resources you know will deliver results. However, as these select few resources are given more and more tasks, they ultimately become overloaded. The work breakdown structure becomes unbalanced and work is no longer evenly distributed amongst the team.
There is no straightforward way to manage this part of your job so we have put together some useful techniques - and a secret weapon - to help you get the best out of your resources and make sure that they don't get overloaded.
1. Schedule your projects realistically
Set a project schedule that gives resources the time they need to complete a job properly. Try not to fall into the trap of setting an ‘optimistic’ project schedule which pushes resources to meet unreasonable project goals and milestones. This can add undue pressure on resources and could result in overloading, bottlenecks and a lack of resource motivation.
2. Prioritise your projects
Prioritising your projects gives you a way to resolve a potential problem when a resource allocation overload is apparent. By delaying the low-priority project will allow you to resolve the situation without putting pressure on an individual or team. Building enough slack into the project schedule will allow for certain tasks to be delayed without impacting the overall delivery date of the project.
3. Replace or assign an additional resource
If you spot a potential overload, reassigning a resource from elsewhere and dividing the task between two resources should reduce the time the task takes. Alternatively, if you have an available resource you think could be more effective, replace the existing resource assignment. That could free up a key resource for tasks other resources are not able to complete. Try and identify your 'hidden' resources as these will give you an extra pool to call on if, and when, needed.
4. Build in a Plan B
Before the project begins, give yourself some options to offer you additional capacity and flexibility should an overload occur. Plan to use overtime if it’s necessary or employ temporary personnel to supplement your resource group. If you can identify opportunities to outsource tasks, this will give your resources more time to focus on parts of the project that require specialist skills.
5. Linking tasks
There may be tasks from separate projects that can be linked to reduce the amount of time they take. For example, if a resource has been assigned the task of researching market A and B, rather than tackling the two separately, time could be saved by linking the tasks. This is only possible where two tasks that need to be completed for two different projects are similar enough to link.
6. The last resort
If after you have tried all the above a resource overload is still imminent, you could look at two options; either reduce the scope of one or more projects; or extend the project’s duration.
Whatever the outcome, the earlier action is taken the easier it is to resolve issues. If you have good project and resource visibility and can see where there is likely to be a potential overload you can take steps to mitigate the situation and avoid any delay in project delivery.
Your secret weapon
Here at Hydra we know there is no magic wand when it comes to managing project resources. But what if you had a secret weapon that could help you find the right resource for the task, and allocate them quickly and efficiently? Hydra’s Resource Management Solution allows you to manage conflicting priorities and resource requirements effectively, improving resource efficiency by up to 58 percent.