Managing the uncertainty in resource availability is a major challenge for most involved in project portfolio management, despite taking numerous actions to mitigate this challenge. Often you have selected a high priority project, defined your scope and effort estimates, identified and responded to critical risks and have scope well managed, but yet your project is still behind schedule. So, why does this happen? Is it because of scope creep? Effort underestimation? Technology risks? Or political delays?
To determine this, we suggest starting by asking yourself these three key questions:
- Are your team members dedicated to working on individual projects and doing project work only?
- Are your functional managers able to accurately predict operational utilization?
- Are you getting accurate estimates for planned allocation on other projects?
Rarely do we have scope defined or managed to the lowest level of detail and effort estimates tend to be inaccurate. Additionally, staff availability estimates are usually inaccurate, so is it really any wonder that projects often aren’t completed on time or on budget? No! However, there a number of reasons why this occurs. First, very few organizations can afford to dedicate staff to work only on one project at a time or dedicate staff to only work on projects. Additionally, there is likely to be cost constraints on hiring or augmenting and collectively this results in inaccurate skilled resource availability estimation being the primary source of risk to knowledge-based projects. And this is just the beginning of the issue.
On top of this, skilled resource availability estimates are likely to be optimistic; staff may feel pressured to complete deliverables by planned end dates in spite of this; staff have to multi-task and switching from one task to another reduces productive time for any one project; and the likelihood of quality issues and / or team member burnout increases.
Just by looking at the number of issues that can arise out of this common challenge of managing resource availability it is clear why this is major concern for those who experience it and by considering the actual issues themselves it is obvious why this is also a common issue. But don’t be dismayed by this, as there are a number of steps that you can take to manage the uncertainty in resource availability.
- Be Strategic
Eliminate unhealthy multi-tasking
Use critical chain
- Be Tactical
Improve operational estimation
Overall, this comes down to working smarter in which being both strategic and tactical will achieve.