Resource Risks Project Teams Must Address

Project resource management is a big component in many projects, but there are some resource risk areas that even very experienced PMs may sometimes overlook. Because these issues can cause big delays and budget overruns, teams should put a priority on identifying and mitigating resource risks early in the planning process.

Project resource management

Leveraging internal staff is one frequent source of problems for organizations working to nail down resource needs and availability.

Overbooked employees

It’s easy to inadvertently schedule your in-house personnel to carry out more tasks than their time will allow. This is a particular problem in enterprise-wide technology projects, when activities will occur in waves or staggered deployments across multiple locations. The common approach is to treat each wave as its own sub-project. By isolating the various phases, the work may appear more manageable, but any overlaps between the waves becomes a potential trouble spot. What may look like a short delay turns into a conflict when one employee is suddenly expected to be working on two waves simultaneously—the one that was delayed and the one that follows (which the team is desperately trying to keep on schedule).

Another issue that arises when scheduling internal staff is that most of them are already committed to their day-to-day tasks, all of which must continue to be handled even as project-related work is assigned to them. When relying on in-house labor resources, PMs sometimes resort to using task duration estimates from previous projects. Problems surface if today’s daily workload is too high and stakeholders can’t finish their project activities per the plan. The team must then either scramble to secure additional—and potentially expensive—resources to fill in the gaps, or watch the project fall behind schedule.

There are also risks associated with external resource partnerships.

Flawed vendor coordination

Vendors have important expertise when it comes to identifying a project’s needs—permits, licenses, safety measures, etc. For example, a skilled trades-person may need to hold a specialized license in order to validate a piece of equipment. If your team develops a plan based only on broad availability of that vendor, rather than on the open time-frames of an individual with the necessary credentials, you may find at the last minute that you don’t have the resources you need. Additional risks appear when teams use insufficient or obsolete data to estimate the project’s external resource requirements.

Solutions

Addressing both internal and external resource issues requires the development of a detailed, top-level plan. Teams often bypass this step because it seems cumbersome or time consuming, but it’s a crucial component in avoiding delays associated with overbooking resources and neglecting necessary tasks. And when it’s done right, what appeared unwieldy becomes much more intuitive.

Begin by involving everyone who will execute the project’s activities. These stakeholders need to be part of the planning process, providing input and ensuring that granular data—from a tasks duration and timing to special skill requirements—is gathered from the people who are most familiar with the work that will be done. Employees will then have the opportunity to assess their project workload before efforts get underway and gauge how much time is available to them alongside their normal duties. At the same time, vendors can offer recommendations on any special needs and windows of availability.

This approach to the planning function is the best way to ensure the project schedule is based on current and complete data. You will gain visibility across the complex timelines that accompany staggered deployments and other multi-phase projects, and by participating in the formative planning stages, stakeholders will be fully committed to their project responsibilities.

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