How To Resource a Project
By Paul Slater
A guide on what to consider when planning your project resources.
The conventional wisdom on project and program scheduling has it that if you increase the amount of resource the time taken to completion will reduce. Software scheduling tools will work all this out for you providing they have been set up correctly but what should you as the project leader or project manager be considering from the outset? We are of course talking about people here in terms of resource, a somewhat impersonal description it has to be said.
Perhaps the first thing to consider is the type of project itself. By this we mean is it a multi-phase project with each phase having different characteristics – a design phase followed by some form of implementation? Such projects require different skill sets within the project team and significant time and energy spent on providing the lead by the project manager. Is it a project that spans a number of different functions and disciplines? Again, significant effort will be required to ensure a common understanding is maintained across the project team.
So back to increased resources leading to reduced timescales. Where this is straightforward to envisage is in projects or phases of projects that have a clear line of sight to the end.
Let’s consider a construction project to upgrade a section of road. There will be a phase of the project that is involved in working out designs and plans that will be conducted by a relatively small team of specialists. Would increasing the number of experts at this stage speed things up? Probably not – definitely a case of ‘more cooks spoiling the broth’. Once the design work has been completed and we get into the construction phase there are different disciplines at work that’s for sure. What is also different is that it is very clear what’s required to get from the starting point to the successful finish point. Would increasing the project workforce in this construction phase help reduce timescales to completion? Almost certainly yes, notwithstanding any practicalities involved.
This example is perhaps one where increasing resourcing can also mean using separate teams so that shift-work can be carried out to further speed up completion. It would be difficult to conceive of how such an approach might be adopted in the earlier design phase. Just how much extra resource is used needs to be a judgment based on the actual costs involved and that of managed any extra resources (key if multiple shifts are used) and the expected return for completing in an earlier timeframe.
[Tip: Remember that clients may not have the funds to pay early as their budgeting systems may prevent them from doing so. It is essential to maintain a good and open relationship with sponsors and clients when considering such changes.]
There are three aspects to consider when scheduling your resources or changing them in an existing project:
- Project Type – R&D or design projects require set skills and disciplines and need time to come up with workable solutions. Adding more architects to the design team for a new building design will only bring in different opinions that will have to managed – all this adds time. A project with a straight line of sight between start and finish such as in construction or coding (after the software design is complete) will benefit from increased resourcing – but keep an eye on the ROI.
Project Team – a project team that is more or less from one discipline could well benefit from an increase in numbers providing they take into account the type of project as mentioned above. Where this gets awkward though is when the team is multi-disciplinary. What project leaders/managers often forget is that by increasing the size of their team they have to put in place sufficient time and effort to ensure the communication between different disciplines is maintained. This in itself may require extra team members.
Project Complexity – A project that consists of different phases requiring different skills and functions and a project team that comprises different disciplines who have to work together is complex. Add to that distributed teams and team members perhaps working in different parts of the world in different languages (and business cultures) and delivering their elements of the project in different counties and you have a truly complex project. If you have some of these elements (and there are many more) you must ensure you have sufficient resource to lead and manage the project team itself. This may seem obvious but what is needed here is the acknowledgement that leading and managing the team is part and parcel of the project and not merely an administrative overhead. Without it, no project gets delivered.
No two projects or programs are the same so when faced with having to schedule resources ensure you don’t just think about what’s been done before. Consider the project type and its complexity together with the skills and disciplines needed in the project team. Once you have done that there’s just the small task of going out and recruiting the right project team members.
Paul Slater owns Mushcado Consulting and is based in Gloucestershire, United Kingdom. He offers consulting services to private and public sector businesses and specializes in facilitating change, reviewing projects and delivering training that really makes a difference.