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Nothing destroys an organization’s ability to execute more than resource constraints. Your organization has more work than its employees can handle, and “everything is important.” Executives say with pride, “We figure out a way to get it all done.”
Enterprise or functional leaders often make project prioritization decisions without considering or understanding all the resource demands. If the demand for resource support is greater than the availability, projects won’t get done or will take much longer to complete. And forcing extended work hours for a long period will likely lead to frustration, mistakes, and turnover.
Having a reasonably accurate estimate of supply and demand provides data to make informed staffing decisions. Do you need to hire more resources? Should you shift specific resources from lower to higher priority initiatives? Would you benefit from enlisting temporary support for day-to-day work or projects? Or is it necessary to delay projects until resources are available?
Simply put, organizations that assign qualified resources to plan and execute their most critical initiatives will have a competitive advantage. What follows is a resource management framework to help measure supply and demand, identify resource constraints, and enhance project prioritization.
When designing and implementing a resource management model, it should not be complex or difficult. It should be designed to make planning more effective and efficient. So keep it simple. Track only the relevant data, and augment that data with discussions with managers to get a complete picture.
It’s important to only start projects that can be properly resourced. If the data indicates there aren’t enough resources and the functional managers confirm it, there is a risk of failure. Establish an “in queue” or “parking lot” for projects requiring prioritization or awaiting resources.
There must be a foundation upon which the resource management can stand. That includes a well-functioning governance structure and established processes for project intake, evaluation, justification, prioritization, and maintenance—all focused on the well-defined objectives of the portfolio. Without the foundation, it will be difficult for any resource management process to succeed.
Take inventory of the current projects within the portfolio. Ensure they have a direct impact on the strategic goals and objectives of the portfolio. And define reasonable and customary organizational work hour expectations. What is the typical work week for a full-time employee (say, 40 hours)? Some resources may do project work on top of their “day job,” but you must start with a baseline.
The following section details how to design a resource planning model, customized with the appropriate level of granularity.
To design an appropriate resource planning model, the organization must dig deeply into resource demand and supply to determine what level of information is necessary to make decisions. They also must understand key aspects of the portfolio. Answer questions such as, how often do projects get started, and how long do they typically last? How dynamic or static are the project resources throughout the project life cycle?
Consider the responses when designing the resource planning model. Follow these three steps: develop the parameters for presenting resource demand, define supply capacity, and establish a review cycle.
Establish the type of resources required to support the project portfolio. First determine the level of detail needed, as shown in the illustration “Resource Planning Model Parameters.” Most organizations evaluate resource needs by department or role, such as the nursing department or specifically RNs. In some cases, it is important to consider more granular level of requirements based on skill level, e.g., an IT developer with expertise in Android apps. In the interest of keeping it simple, use the broadest level that will identify potential resource constraints.
Next determine the parameters for how detailed project resource requests need to be. Consider the current resource planning competency of the organization. Requests may be as simple as an IT resource for about four hours a week throughout the project. In a more sophisticated model, requests will include resource estimates by project phase or milestone. For instance, when developing a new product or service, they will need marketing and sales in the early stages to define the requirements and then not again until it’s time to prepare for market launch.
Finally, determine the timeframe, or incremental breakdown, for resource demand requests. Should requests outline the resources needed per month or quarter? Consider the usual length of projects and the organization’s ability to accurately predict project timelines.
Once demand parameters have been established, determine the support requirement. Limit the focus to the key project resources. If project managers request resources at the role level, the available resources should be assigned at the role level.
Next, determine how precisely resource availability is calculated. The most basic method is by dedicating people—there are 12 individuals available to do project work. If people do project work on top of their day jobs, more detail is required. Estimate operational demand by role or person for a more accurate idea of time available for projects.
The last step in designing a resource planning model is determining how often the data should be refreshed or updated. Dynamic, fast-moving project portfolios may require resourcing to be adjusted weekly. But for portfolios with longer projects, a quarterly review may be enough to monitor the status. Select the timeframe that is most appropriate for the organization’s project portfolio and ability to react as demands change. Establish processes and a communications platform for updating supply and demand.
Resource management is difficult because it depends on many variables that are constantly changing. However, when an organization commits to developing and maintaining a resource planning process within its project portfolio management structure, workload estimates and decisions will improve, and the most important projects will get done.
For a thorough look at how to put the resource planning model to use within the project prioritization and portfolio management process, as well as an example of how resource management enabled a company to realize its strategic initiatives, download the complete whitepaper, “Solving the Resource Constraints Quandary: Why Project Prioritization Falls Apart and What You Can Do About It.”
Author: Noe Dorantes, MBA, PMP
Director, Integrated Project Management Company, Inc.
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