As a resource manager, you must be familiar with the struggles of fulfilling multiple projects demands at once. This ordeal is mainly due to the various resource constraints faced during the allocation process.
But what is a resource constraint?
It is a limitation or risk related to the resources in a project, such as shortages, mismatched skillset, the sudden absence of critical members, and more.
If not addressed strategically, they can impact the triple project constraints – scope, timeline, and budget. It can eventually lead to a project coming to an abrupt halt or even failing.
PMI’s survey also reveals that the two primary causes of the project failure were limited resources and resource dependency, which constituted 22% and 23%, respectively.
This blog highlights those constraints and the potential solutions that can help tackle them effectively.
But before going any further, it’s important to note the first step to resource allocation is resource requisition which a project manager initiates. The first section gives a glimpse of this workflow.
What is a resource requisition workflow?
Resource requisition workflow is a series of steps undertaken to fulfill open project positions. First, the project manager assesses the requirements to execute various tasks in a project. Then they raise requests to resource managers to deploy the right resources against these vacancies. The resource manager then analyzes these requests and assigns the competent resources matching the requirements.
However, fulfillment of resource requests is easier said than done. Various constraints can disrupt the seamless allocation process and cause hindrances. A resource manager has to take a strategic approach and deal with these constraints to fulfill the demand on or before the project’s onset date.
The following section explains these scenarios in detail and the approach that the resource manager can adopt to combat each of them.
Techniques Used to combat various resource constraints
As stated earlier, various resource constraints can surface after a project manager requests a resource. If not tackled well, they can hamper the project’s execution and affect its delivery. However, resource managers must note that not every constraint will be the same.
Different constraints or limiting factors may arise in different scenarios. Therefore, it is vital for a resource manager to stay aware of the potential roadblocks and equip themselves with the right knowledge to deal with them.
Here’s the rundown on the most common scenarios that a resource manager faces and ways to handle them.
Scenario 1 – Resources with matching skills are available within the organization
It is an ideal scenario where project resource demands match the available capacity of an enterprise, both in terms of skillset and headcount. This makes it hassle-free for a resource manager to select the right resources, and allocate them to the specific tasks.
Given the simplicity of the situation, the solution is direct:
Solution – Identify and allocate the right resources using centralized visibility
In this scenario, the entire resource requisition workflow can be tracked using resource management software. In addition, the resource manager can get a centralized overview of the workforce and their schedules to select the right resource for the right project. Then, using multiple filters such as the department, location, skill, role, competency, experience, etc., resource managers can drill down to identify and allocate the best fit available best fit resources. This makes it easy to narrow down the resources – especially in enterprises with a large number of resources.
Scenario 2 – The existing resource pool has partially matching skills
In this case, there is only a partial alignment between the project’s resource demand and the available resource pool. Adding to the complication is that there is not enough lead time to hire external resources, so what should you do?
Solution – Negotiate with the project manager to give them on-the-job training
Once the resource manager identifies the resources that meet the minimum qualifying criteria, he/she can negotiate with the project manager to consider them as an option and provide on-the-job training or shadowing opportunities. However, it’s not so easy to bring the project managers onboard.
The resource managers can also negotiate by proposing free billing of these resources for some time to assess their work quality until the project managers are convinced. However, resource managers must keep this option as the last resort because free billing will only reduce billability and impact the profit margin.
Scenario 3 – There are resource shortages and skill gaps within the organization
The situation now gets complex with an added layer of difficulty. However, it’s not to say that resource managers have never faced this predicament. In this scenario, the available resources don’t have the requisite skillset, or the available capacity is less than the demand. So, we can infer that there is a significant skill gap in the organization.
What are the plausible ways to bridge this gap?
Solution – Hire a full-time or contingent workforce and conduct upskilling programs
There are two ways to handle this. First, if the project is of short duration and requires niche skilled resources, hiring a contingent workforce is the ideal solution. Second, if there is enough lead time, the resource manager can upskill/retrain the existing workforce before deployment.
However, if upskilling is not feasible, hiring a full-time workforce with the requisite skills can be a good option.
For example, if a business is set to venture into a new field and diversify its product/service portfolio, it may need resources with completely different competencies and skills for multiple endeavors. In this case, hiring full-time resources is the best strategic decision.
Scenario 4 – Resource managers have to fulfill critical resource demands for a new project
At times, a project requires niche skilled critical resources to complete a specific task. However, these resources are already booked on some other projects, and thus, these positions are difficult to fill. Further, hiring a critical resource with the same levels of experience in a short span is also not practically possible. So, a resource manager has to think of a way to utilize the existing critical resources while not affecting the ongoing projects.
How will the resource manager deal with this? Here is the solution:
Solution – Implement the out rotation-backfill technique for niche resources
In this scenario, a resource manager looks for the projects on which the critical resources are booked. They find out the projects that have reached a steady-state and won’t be affected much without a critical resource. The resource manager can implement out rotation and backfill strategy to help fulfill critical positions across multiple projects.
In this, the resource manager negotiates with the respective project manager to out rotate the critical resource for the new project, and a suitable backfill is allocated to the vacancy. It helps the new project get the required niche skills without interrupting the one in progress.
Scenario 5: Only a limited number of resources are available for multiple projects
Resources are one of the most significant investments for any business. Thus, organizations have to be mindful before spending their financial repository on hiring a large talent pool. And in many cases, onboarding new full-time employees to meet the requirements is generally not possible due to budget constraints. Thus, managers tend to overload the critical resources with multiple projects and tasks. However, if the existing workforce is allocated to multiple projects, it may lead to overallocation of some resources, consequently causing burnout and productivity issues.
So, what should a resource manager do to ensure employee well-being?
Solution – Negotiate and apply resource leveling for non-critical projects
To tackle this situation efficiently, the resource manager coordinates with higher-ups and stakeholders. According to their inputs, they assess multiple projects based on criteria like budget, resource requirements, ROI, etc., and segregate projects based on their criticality and priority. For non-critical projects, the resource manager negotiates with the respective client and project manager to apply resource leveling.
It is a technique of adjusting the start and end dates based on resource constraints to balance the resource demand with the available capacity. It will help them complete high-priority projects first while preventing overallocation and overutilization of resources and enhancing their productivity.
Scenario – 6 – Resource managers receive multiple projects’ demands with limited resources
This particular scenario is an extension of the previous one. The firm has a limited pool of resources distributed across multiple projects. However, when numerous project demands arise at the same time in an enterprise, it becomes challenging to fulfill them. It is even more common for an enterprise with only a limited workforce and several projects to handle. The resource manager has to find a way to allocate resources to available projects most profitably.
Can a resource manager find a feasible way to deal with this situation? Certainly!
Solution – Use what-if analysis to prioritize projects and fulfill demands accordingly
Prioritization of projects based on the criteria like budget and timeline along with its value-addition is a must in this case due to resource limitations.
Resource managers can implement scenario-based modeling and simulation techniques (what-if analysis) to compare different scenarios and their potential outcomes.
Accordingly, the resource manager can form different resource mixes and compare the revenues earned to find the most profitable project.
Besides, they can also identify the projects that align with the company’s strategic objectives the most and prioritize them. Resource managers can arrive at the best possible outcome and apply it on the actual resource plan.
How does resource management software help overcome these constraints?
Resource management software provides 360-degree visibility of all the resources and their availability. Using the advanced filter, you can effortlessly sort and filter resources by skill, location, department, etc., and find the best-fit individuals for a project. You can also take help from availability and utilization reports to check and find which resources you can allocate to projects without overloading them.
Using utilization reports, managers can identify any over or under allocation and optimize the workload. They can also mobilize resources from non-billable/low-priority work to billable/strategic projects and increase profitability. The tool also helps managers implement simulation and modeling techniques to arrive at the most viable outcome and apply it to the actual resource plan.
Moreover, they can use resource forecasting to identify resource shortfalls/excess ahead of time and take appropriate measures to bridge the demand vs. capacity gap. It helps them prevent any future resource constraints and streamline resource allocation.
Further, automated resource requisition workflow helps avoid ambiguities and confusion around project resource demands. It helps the resource manager maintain an audit trail of requests across the enterprise and prioritize projects on certain predefined criteria. Moreover, the software provides real-time business intelligence reports and highly configurable dashboards for informed decision-making.
Over to you
“Embrace your constraints”, said Cristopher Isaac Stone, popular as “Biz” Stone, the co-founder of Twitter. The same applies to resource managers. If they embrace the aforementioned resource constraints and tackle them head-on, they can seamlessly streamline resource allocation.
Moreover, with the right resource management tool in place, they can also have a comprehensive view of resource profiles, their competencies, and interests. It, thus,enables them to form the best-fit resource plan and allocate the right resources for projects across the enterprise with minimal or no discrepancies at all.
Last but not least, the right mindset and willpower to manage constraints are always the most important attributes every manager must possess. And a resource manager is no exception to that.
So, have you come up with a solid plan to overcome resource constraints?
The SAVIOM Solution
SAVIOM has over 20 years of experience helping multinational clients manage their resources efficiently and effectively. With over 20 years of experience, this Australian-based MNC has a global presence across 50 countries and has helped 100+ clients meet their specific business goals. Saviom also provides tools for project portfolio management, professional service automation, and workforce planning software. So, SAVIOM can help your business to establish an efficient system geared towards your specific business challenges.