Processes for Resource Planning – The Requirements


+++ Which Processes for Tactical Resource Planning to Establish at Your Company +++ The Impact of the Form of Organization on the Project Resource Management Process +++

By Johann Strasser

What are adequate processes for resource planning? And which requirements do they have to meet?

Resource planning processes are shaped by your company’s form of organization. This article will outline how the process of resource planning differs between matrix and line organizations.

Appropriate process cycles are important for both forms of organization. And resource commitments should remain stable over a cycle at all events.

Note: By tactical resource planning, we mean the coordination between project and line managers. It depends on the company’s form or organization (matrix or line). The goal is to meet the requirements for resources with the necessary skills for projects in a timely manner using staff from the line. This tends to be the team leaders’ task.

Requirements for the Coordination Process between Project and Line Managers

On the one hand, project managers tend to desire resource commitments from the line managers as fast as possible. For the commitments enable them to plan their projects. On the other hand, these commitments ought to be truly reliable.

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Against this backdrop, the following problems emerge for team leaders:

  • Multiple project managers will send repeated requests to the same team leaders at different times
  • Therefore, the team leaders cannot be said to have a stable basis for their decisions
  • Yesterday’s coordination may be obsolete as early as today due to a new incoming request
  • Team members are often assigned responsibilities outside of projects. This affects productivity in the projects.

The Solution: A Suitable Planning Cycle

The key to success is to agree on a planning cycle.  This can be a substantial contribution to smoothing the resource planning process.

Length and duration of the cycle are to be defined in accordance with the lifespan of projects at your company. The organizational effort for planning and coordination needs to remain within reasonable limits over the long term.

What is important: The longer the cycle, the more stable the system. However, too long also means too rigid. Cycles between one and four weeks are customary and useful.

We recommend starting with a monthly cycle. This will ensure acceptance without overwhelming the organization. Only shorten the cycle once the system works and if the dynamics require it.

Our tip: Start with a monthly planning cycle. This will ensure acceptance without overwhelming the organization. Shorten the cycle to 3-2 weeks once the system works and if the dynamics require it.

And here is what you should pay attention to:

Come to an agreement with all involved that resource planning for the current and the upcoming cycle can be changed only in exceptional cases. The employment of resources should only ever be rescheduled for the cycles after that.

This will save the company a lot of coordination effort. You avoid ongoing modification. Instead, rescheduling only happens at fixed intervals.

Another interesting read: The Challenge of Resource Planning in Project Management

This approach obliges all participants to coordinate better. Ad-hoc changes only happen as a last resort. This fosters efficiency in execution, as each member of staff is able to work free of interference for a longer period of time.

The figure below shows a process cycle of this kind across the levels of the roles involved.

Processes for Resource Planning 1

Figure 1: Example of a process cycle across the decision-making levels

This is a practical example (cf. Figure 1):

  1. First, the team members need to do their time tracking by Friday.
  2. The project managers have to accept these by Monday night and reschedule the resulting remaining effort.
  3. This may result in resource conflicts that only become apparent on Tuesday when all project managers have updated their planning (red square).
  4. The conflicts can be resolved with the team leaders until Tuesday night or Wednesday (red circle). It is of particular importance that priorities are set according to the strategy. Again, the strategy needs to be known so that it can be considered here.
  5. Finally – depending on the competencies of the PMO – there will be a meeting with a steering group / top management. This is where the resolutions are passed for all remaining decisions resulting from conflicts.

Below you will find out how the planning processes differ between line and matrix organizations.

Our tip: Agree with all involved that resource planning for the current and the upcoming cycle can be changed solely in exceptional cases. Only for the subsequent cycle may the employment of resources be rescheduled.

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The Planning Process in the Line Organization

In the line organization, the negotiations are not about people but about dates for deliverables. The project managers plan which deliverables they need by what date. These requirements they pass on to the team leaders.

The detailed planning is done by the line managers. The project manager is not involved in resource planning at the level of people.

Project managers in the line organization are mainly involved in the scheduling coordination of projects and sub-projects or work packages. Resource coordination takes place within line departments / teams. The team leader is responsible for this.

In this environment, stable process cycles and classic PM tools enable a transparent multi-project administration and can bring about very good results.

In a line organization, team leaders can also work with PM tools. After all, they have to plan the details, such as tasks and times including absences, for their team themselves (see figure below).

Processes for Resource Planning 2

Figure 2: Coordination process at the level of work packages in the line organization

Besides project tasks, it is also possible to manage operations in the project plan for the team. This means the team leader has to maintain only one plan, which contains all tasks of the team:

  • tasks from projects
  • absences
  • general operations
  • individual operations

The Coordination Process in the Line Organization

The coordination process in a line organization looks roughly like this:

  1. The project managers plan rough work packages – without their details and without resources but with planned efforts / budgets.
  2. The project managers hand over their rough planning / milestones to the team leaders.
  3. The team leaders transfer this rough planning / these milestones to their own planning.
  4. The team leaders break down the work packages into tasks in their own plans. Then, they assign these solely to people from their own team or to external resources.
  5. The team leaders’ planning can be checked against the project managers’ at the level of work packages regarding scheduling and efforts (see yellow bar on the left in Figure 2).
  6. The variances are visible on both sides. These variances provide a valid basis for personal discussions in which to coordinate and remove them.

It is important that both project manager and team leader work in their own plans. In a separate step, the two are checked against each other.

Our tip: Make sure that neither role is able to change the data of the other! In this way, project managers and team leader can plan independently. Nonetheless, there should be a technical connection between the team leader’s and the project manager’s planning. This will enable a data exchange for reciprocal information. The latter can serve as a basis for coordination about the resources.

The Planning Process in the Matrix Organization

The matrix organization is a different thing altogether. Traditionally, project managers plan their projects with detailed tasks. These they assign to people or skills (generic resources).

But the team leaders or the respective teams are the ones who decide which people are committed to them and to what extent. The team leaders have to consider all requests from different project managers, as well as absences and operations, to explore the possible commitments.

However, it usually makes little sense to make these commitments at individual task level. As a rule, team leaders do not need to know which tasks their team members are assigned to. They are more concerned with which team member is working on what projects. And when. For this, the coordination with the project managers at project level is sufficient.

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Team leaders in a matrix organization have the unpleasant task of attending to the commitment of the required resources for different projects. In most cases, this cannot be done adequately with the classic tools for project management. This has a particular reason. The team leaders’ commitments are not maintained as an individual data pool. Usually, they are only marked as the status of the project or task.

The inherent problem: There can be postponements in a project. In such a case, the staff commitments (which are only provided with a status) are simply postponed along with the tasks. But team leaders only ever make commitments for designated periods of time.

After all, the same resources also need to work on other projects. This is why postponements usually bring about resource conflicts which sparks new discussion (and coordination) necessary.

For the coordination, it is necessary that project manager and team leader maintain their own planning data at the level of the projects. These will need to be compared (see figure below).

Where there is only the project managers’ planning the team leaders are completely “at the project managers’ mercy”, at least in terms of the data. They can work out their own suggestions for resolving the conflicts, but this will not change the project managers’ planning. Neither can they negotiate with all project managers at once.

To be able to make commitments to the projects, team leaders need to plan the absences and operations first. They can only determine the real project availability of a team member on this basis. Therefore, the team leaders need their own separate planning.

Processes for Resource Planning 3

Figure 3: Coordination process between project manager and team leader about required resources

The Coordination Process in the Matrix Organization

This is what the resource planning process in the matrix organization looks like:

  1. The project managers plan their projects in detail at task level.
  2. The project managers assign either people or skills to the tasks.
  3. The team leaders determine the project availability of their team members from capacity minus absences and operations.
  4. The team leaders analyze the resource requests from the different projects. They commit their team members for free periods of time.
  5. The project managers transfer these commitments (as time frames) at project level. Within these time frames, the project managers have flexibility in planning the tasks.
  6. By comparing both roles’ planning, variances will become visible. This provides a good basis on which new coordination can take place through personal discussion.

Our tip: Ensure team leaders in a matrix organization have their own planning in which they also manage absences and operations. It is only on this basis that true project availability is realized and project managers can confidently rely on the resource commitments.

Conclusion – Processes for Resource Planning

This article has described the requisite processes for resource planning require. And shown how these processes are shaped by the form of organization. Further, we have presented examples of the coordination processes in the line and the matrix organization.

For both forms of organization, you should make sure to establish adequate process cycles. For your team leaders cannot respond to resource requests for the coming week several times a day. You need to gather requests for the cycle after next, as well as the subsequent cycles, over the period of the current cycle. Responses to the requests are only required by the due date.

Ensure that the commitments for the current cycle remain as stable as possible. Changes should only be permitted in exceptional cases. This approach makes resource coordination reliable for all involved. Besides, it fosters efficiency in execution, as each member of staff is able to work free of interference for a longer period of time.

Have you been involved in establishing processes for resource planning? Do you agree on the importance of stable process cycles in the project resource management process? Please leave a comment below.

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