How to Manage Resources in Agile Project Management

January 25, 2021

Agile project management is an iterative approach to deliver a project. It consists of several iterations or incremental steps to achieve its ultimate goal. Project management in an agile environment is predominantly used in software development projects. It allows you to adjust and refine requirements as you go along rather than following a bottom-up approach. The associated benefits are also realized throughout the process rather than only at the end.

According to an HBR finding in 2018, agile adoption has gone beyond IT. As per their survey, about 55% of certain sample organizations have partially implemented agile methodology & processes, and a quarter of the same group has already put it into practice.

The traditional project management method tries to complete the delivery within a stipulated time and budget. It does not allow frequent changes to the business requirements in the middle of the project. Agile project management, on the contrary, fixes time and cost to control the requirements. It heavily relies on the collaboration between the team and the business users to create the right product.

Managing resources is an important component of project management. They are scarce, expensive, and need to be utilized efficiently and effectively. Does resource management play a significant role in the agile development framework? It certainly does, as it is the only way to control project resource cost and complete the delivery satisfactorily.

In this article, we discuss several resource-related issues and their solution in an agile environment.

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1. What is Agile Methodology?

There are many different agile methods, and some of the popular ones are Scrum, Kanban, Lean, RAD, and Extreme Programming. We briefly discuss Scrum, a robust framework for implementing agile software development processes, and other projects. It utilizes short iterations of work, called sprints, and daily meetings, called scrums, to tackle discrete portions of a project until it is completed. There are three key roles within Scrum: The Scrum Master, Product Owner, and Team members.

The sprint planning meeting is held on the first day of every sprint. After a delivery commitment is made in a sprint planning meeting, the team begins the work and track its progress. At the end of each sprint, the stakeholders are invited for a sprint review. The features that were completed during the sprint are discussed, and feedback is requested.

The Product Owner keeps track of the feedback and maintains a product backlog with the changes.

In the release-planning meeting, the Product Owner presents the features she/he would like to see completed in the quarter. The team provides gross level estimates which decide the specific features that can be completed in a given sprint. The team also jointly determines how many of such features can be completed by the quarter-end.

Release planning can be feature-driven (how many sprints will be required to deliver all the features?), time-driven (how many features can be completed by a specific deadline?), or cost-driven (Important features that must be created within the budget?).

The Scrum methodology requires product backlog (work to be done), sprint backlog, release burndown, and sprint burndown. The team defines all other forms of documentation as per the specific situation.

The project manager often becomes the ScrumMaster, but it may always not be the case. In traditional estimating, all requirements are fully defined, with tasks then created and estimated based on their fixed scope. Agile estimating and planning instead uses a top-down method to forecast for each sprint.

Different Project Management Methodologies

2. What are the traits of an Agile Resource?

Apart from technical and domain knowledge, the following additional skills are also required for the resources working in an agile environment:

    1. Focus primarily on the essential work and reduce involvement with mundane and unnecessary tasks.
    2. Ability to remain calm and display sound judgment under pressure.
    3. Strong motivation and coaching skills to guide the team members throughout the project.
    4. Keep everything transparent and prioritize with exceptional organizational abilities.
    5. Be a one-minute manager and take a quick decision rather than procrastination.
    6. Adaptability to accept change under all circumstances and reduce unnecessary confusion with excellent communication skills.
    7. Unparallel Negotiation skills as you need to satisfy many stakeholders.
    8. Fast learner and willing to acquire new technical skills.
    9. Flexibility to work as an individual contributor and supervisor.

The PMO Game-Changer- Value Driven Project Resource Management

3. Resource Management Software for Agile Framework

Resource quality plays a significant role in an agile project environment. One cannot make optimal use of a critical resource by assigning work beneath or above a person’s capability.

One also needs visibility into all the resources – available or not – and their costs. Only then can one balance people, technology, knowledge, time, and budget to deliver on-time and goal. This needs to be analyzed before creating WBS (Work Breakdown Structure).

Here are some of the salient features of resource management software to manage agile projects:

Resource or Workforce Scheduling

Resource scheduling involves identifying and allocating resources for a specific period to different project tasks. With a centralized Gantt chart view of the enterprise, resource scheduling eliminates silos of spreadsheets. It also facilitates you to deploy “best-available-best-fit” resource as opposed to the “first-available-first-fit” resource. Most of the agile projects operate with small team size. Unless the right resource is deployed for the right task, the product backlog will be adversely impacted.

Resource Utilization

A resource is effective if he is working on a billable or strategic project and fully utilized as per his capacity. The efficiency of an organization can be determined by the cumulative utilization of all its employees. Resource Managers can proactively mobilize resources from non-billable to billable/ strategic tasks and maximize their billable utilization. It is crucial to ensure that minimum time is spent on mundane tasks such as attending meetings for the scrum team members.

Capacity Vs. Demand, Forecast shortfall or Excesses of Resources

Resource capacity is the total number of standard hours an individual is available to work as per the employer’s arrangement. Resource demand is the process of understanding the number of resources required to meet the demand for various types of work. Capacity vs. Demand is the process of forecasting shortages or excesses of resources by analyzing the gaps between resources’ capacity against the demand for resources.

It is a shortage of resources when the demand is higher than the capacity or supply of resources. Conversely, it is an excess of resources when the demand is lower than the capacity or supply of resources.

Guide to Resource Capacity Planning

Effective Bench Management

Bench refers to employees who are not assigned to any project but are on the company’s payroll. They are in short kept as reserves by companies on their payroll in anticipation of future projects. If the size of the bench is not controlled, this cost suddenly balloons and significantly affects the company’s bottom line. Scrum Master needs to consider the availability of bench resources while doing sprint planning.

Forecasted Vs. Actual Use of Resource

Resource forecasting is the process of predicting various resource metrics such as demand, supply, vacancies on the bench, resourcing cost, etc. A resource may be booked for multiple projects where he/she is expected to spend a certain percentage of the time. A timesheet is a method for recording the amount of a worker’s time spent on each job. It is an important step in agile project management to control project costs.

The PMO office verifies if the concerned person has spent the same number of hours in different activities as per the allocation or there is a variance.

Managing Pipelined Projects

The two goals of pipeline management are to build a healthy pipeline and to win more deals. The pipeline or future projects also must be delivered on time and within budget, and one needs advance resource planning to complete them. Many scheduling software allows creating a project plan using ghost resources, which can be subsequently replaced with the actual resources. Since frequent requirement changes are expected within a project that follows agile methodology, timely resource capacity planning is essential.

holygrail resource planning project management

Supporting Matrix Structure

In a matrix organizational structure, some individuals report to more than one supervisor or leader. This relationship can be described as a solid line or dotted line of reporting. The management of a shared resource becomes complex when two managers have different project priorities.

It is necessary to ensure that the resource is not overloaded, leading to burnouts or unplanned attrition.

Matrix Organization can complement the agile project management process when the Scrum Master has access to surplus resources in other departments.

Visibility of Relevant Information for Decision Making

Relevant information of a resource can be viewed using an advanced filter, which can help in decision making. It can also be made role-specific, e.g., a project manager will see information only related to the projects he is managing. On the other hand, a location manager will be able to see resource-related data for the location. Some of these fields could be skillset/competency, cost rate, charge-out rate, etc.

A resource management software with an advanced filtering option can easily identify appropriate resources for the Scrum Master.

Forecasting Financials

Forecasting is the process of making predictions of the future based on past and present data. To calculate the gross margin for a project, we need to know the charge out rate and cost to the company of each resource. Most of the projects operate either on a fixed cost or on a time and material basis.

For a fixed cost project, the revenue amount is already known, and we only need to calculate the cost of the resource for the project duration.

Project Managers' Handbook to Resource Forecasting

Scenarios – Modelling and Simulation

The simulation technique is used to determine how projected performance is affected by changes in the assumptions that those projections are based upon. What-if analysis is often used to compare different scenarios and their potential outcomes based on changing conditions. The changes can be simulated in a sandbox environment, and the best possible scenario can be applied to the actual schedule.

When there is a resource crunch, agile project management can decide on project and resource priorities using simulation.

Business intelligence and reports

Business intelligence provides actionable insights by performing extensive data analysis. Resource management metrics are generated using real-time data, individualized reports, and dashboards. The reports allow managers in informed decision making and monitor the overall resource health index.

Scrum masters can immensely benefit from the digital dashboards created using real-time business intelligence with changing requirements.

Workforce Planning and Optimization

Strategic Workforce planning looks at system-wide issues and strategies to:

  • Support the organization’s strategic plan (e.g., reorganization and redeployment).
  • Address external workforce factors that affect the entire business (e.g., succession planning for retirement bubbles or staff reduction planning for budget cuts).
  • Maintain organizational capacity (e.g., in-service training).
  • Mitigate risk exposure (e.g., safety planning and Equal Employment Opportunity training).

A guide to Project Management

4. What is next?

Resources must be utilized efficiently as they are the most high-priced investments of any business. This needs to be kept in mind while planning resources for an agile project. Organizations spend a lot of time and cost in creating the right talent pool.

Depending on the nature of the project, an appropriate methodology such as a waterfall or Agile can be adopted. Accordingly, it is necessary to tap the skills and competencies of resources for overall efficiency and profitability.

5. The Glossary:

A Comprehensive Guide to Resource Planning in Project Management

6. The SAVIOM Solution

SAVIOM is the market leader in offering the most powerful and configurable solution for managing your enterprise resources effectively and efficiently. With over 20 years of experience, this Australian-based MNC has created its global presence across 50 countries and helped more than 100 customers achieve their business goals. SAVIOM also has products for project portfolio management, professional service automation, and workforce planning software that is customizable as per business requirements.

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