Resources are the critical drivers of an organization’s success. They bring in the desired revenue by working on various projects and enhance productivity and profitability of the firm. So, to unleash their true potential, they must be available to work on suitable projects at the right time.
However, as the project demands constantly evolve due to changing priorities, misalignment between capacity and demand can lead to schedule and budget overruns. So, how do organizations successfully deliver the projects and make the business more efficient amid a dynamic market environment?
While a solid project resource plan appears to be the ideal solution, projects seldom go as initially planned in the practical world! It’s because no matter how methodically you prepare in the project planning phase, changes due to unforeseen circumstances are still bound to happen. For example, it could stem from changes in the project scope, the absence of critical resources, or sudden ramp-up/ramp-down activities.
In these scenarios, can we consider a resource plan created before project execution to be reliable until the project closure? Or should we prepare a flexible plan from the beginning that allows us modification at any project stage? After all, flexible planning can allow us to explore efficient workflow alternatives, creative approaches, and possibilities of grabbing opportunities when they arise.
Importance of Flexible Resource Planning and Scheduling
Flexible resource planning and scheduling are essential to tackle the challenges arising from the changing project parameters. A thorough plan can help the workforce maintain the organized workflow, but it should also be flexible and receptive to changes that aren’t visible in the planning phase. The project may deviate from the plan where the need for change becomes inevitable, and only a flexible resource plan can address the problems.
A rigid resource plan can cause problems like unorganized dynamic working, wastage of time on rework, lack of innovation, etc. As these factors have a massive impact on the project management, a rigid resource schedule and plan can be significant reasons for project failure. Therefore, a flexible resource plan can let your workflow improve and has the following benefits;
1. Resource optimization
A rigid schedule prepared on an excel sheet or static tools does not allow you to reassign the tasks or reallocate resources. As a result, When you try to apply a change in the booking on a task, the interdependent tasks will face an issue. Also, if you try to modify booking manually, you have to prepare a new plan from scratch in that given time. Unlike static tools, planning and scheduling done on flexible tools allow you to keep room for improvisation in the process of execution all the time.
Whenever a need for urgent work arises, a flexible schedule lets you reassign an employee from low-priority tasks. For that, you don’t have to go through all the department heads to look for an available resource. Modern resource management solutions can help find the right resource instead. 360-degree visibility across the enterprise enables you to identify appropriate resources for suitable projects. In addition, the flexibility of the resource schedule lets you distribute the responsibility of the urgent task to multiple resources so that no one works beyond their capacity.
2. Eradicate project planning bottlenecks
A flexible schedule is helpful for planning project tasks throughout the timeline and allocating the resources as per their capacities. It allows you to accommodate several tasks in the workflow without disrupting the organized work. Also, it lets you meet the changing work demands on the go. For example, you might have to take care of several problems every day or every week that you didn’t anticipate at the beginning of the plan.
Due to task dependencies, delays caused due to the unavailability of a critical resource in completing one task can delay other tasks, causing project failure. With a rigid resource plan, you cannot modify the resource bookings to accommodate unforeseen changes. On the contrary, a flexible resource schedule will let you postpone the low-priority task to a later date or change the bookings to adjust unexpected tasks without overutilizing anyone.
3. Streamline the hiring process
With the changing dynamics of the project, the flow of the tasks can fluctuate. A fixed schedule, therefore, can’t be used to adjust the resource plan. On the contrary, flexible resource scheduling will allow you to calculate demand and supply situations. In addition, resource forecasting and capacity planning help align project demand with the capacity in advance.
It helps you identify the resource shortages, and accordingly, you can ask HR managers to plan the hiring activities. Depending on the project duration and other factors, you can decide on using a contingency workforce for the job or hiring a new resource. Since there is a lead time associated with hiring, it will overall help the organization in planning. Ultimately, it enables you to reduce the resourcing cost when you plan the hiring process ahead of the curve. In addition, it lets new employees go through the initial training to prepare for the work when needed.
4. Simple Cross-functional Working
Dynamic resource planning supports the seamless functioning of a cross-functional team with an engaged workforce on demanding tasks. As cross-functional teams comprise resources from different teams or departments, flexible coordination of bookings made on each cross-team member is necessary. In addition, to leverage optimum use of resources across various verticals in the organization, you must avoid silos of information.
Therefore, using a single source of truth, a cross-functional team can operate efficiently with a dynamic schedule that supports them in juggling multiple tasks. Moreover, the job of the task assigner becomes extremely simple when they can distribute the multi-disciplinary projects to the cross-functional teams by modifying their prior engagement.
5. Organized Remote Teams
Post pandemic working has increased the number of people working remotely. Some remote teams operate at the exact timings, while others work across different time zones. As a result, they face communication and coordination challenges. Here, a dynamic schedule lets you find a common time passage for interaction and work. For example, you can plan a rotating time for meetings to prevent longer work hours for a remote team than others.
Efficient resource management software consolidates resource information, including their bookings on a consolidated platform. It helps you to readily look into the availability of resources to organize meetings without affecting workflow. Additionally, task management becomes easier when you always have the liberty to modify the bookings later.
6. Ascertain Strategic Goals
Despite all the project requirements and scope changes, flexible planning and scheduling help you meet the strategic goals. A dynamic schedule allows you to restructure the workforce by calculating the risks and forecasting the outcomes. In addition, you can pursue strategic goals by implementing agile principles and change management.
Using resource modeling and simulation techniques on a resource management tool, you can build multiple scenarios. After comparing each scenario and its implications on the schedules, financials, etc., you can arrive at the best possible outcome and apply it to the actual resource plan. The flexibility of resource planning and scheduling allows you to work on the agile principles that analyze the changing project requirements to deliver the product accordingly. Also, change management directly requires you to be receptive to dynamic workforce management.
7. Make informed decisions using real-time BI
As project priorities and demands evolve every minute, the data also changes every minute. As a result, you need to have access to real-time data to make quick and informed decisions for improving the resource health index. Otherwise, you will make incorrect decisions based on the backdated data, which can be extremely costly.
Real-time business intelligence will help you make quick and informed decisions. Advanced resource management software provides highly configurable dashboards and reports with role-based access that enables you to see the information exactly the way you want. As a result, there is no information overload, making it easy to identify areas that need immediate attention quickly. For example, the dashboard helps you precisely detect where resources (teams or departments) are underutilized or overutilized. In addition, it gives you the flexibility to assign underutilized resources to unfilled project vacancies and reassign excess work of overworked resources to avoid burnout.
Resource planning is an essential element of the project plan. At the same time, if it is not receptive to changes, your business will lose market opportunities. Even worse, your organization may observe failures because of a rigid resource plan which jeopardizes business profitability and sustainability. For many projects, the scope changes, product requirement changes, deadlines change, and thus the requirement of flexibility also arises. Therefore, breaking out from blindly following the plan and trying every possible method to improve workflow efficiency is essential. Simply having the right resources does not solve the problem. Having the right tools and technology will ensure the right resources are available at the right time. In the end, does it truly matter whether your plan went through several modifications due to the changing parameters? Or is it more important that your organization delivers quality work by achieving the strategic goals?