Resource conflicts can have devastating consequences on a project. Teams may be without labor support during a crucial time, or seemingly small workforce delays could snowball enough to impact the final completion date. With time at a premium, efforts to analyze resource issues aren’t always as in-depth as they should be, leaving PMs without enough visibility into potential conflicts.
Gaining clarity around resource challenges calls for accurate and complete information. Solid data gives your team what it needs to develop effective solutions to avoid resource conflicts entirely, or to at least mitigate their impacts. If you want to get better at recognizing and resolving project resource conflicts, consider where good data can help you accomplish that.
Begin by compiling a comprehensive list of team members’ non-project responsibilities. Between customer requests, administrative obligations, and all the other tasks that drop into the laps of employees, project leaders might be unaware of everything team members must accomplish in their day-to-day jobs. If resource availability is gauged by managers or others, there’s a strong tendency to underestimate the draw that regular activities place on employees’ time. Instead of basing a project resource plan on guesstimates or outdated information, gather team members’ daily workload levels directly from them. They’re also the right people to provide task duration estimates and real-world timing forecasts for fitting project activities into their regular schedule.
Next, identify where resource conflicts are likely to occur between project and non-project activities. Most PMs already scour their project’s task sequences for potential risks. A delay in the delivery of a piece of equipment, for example, may be flagged as a likely problem area if the vendor has a history of being late, or if downstream tasks are highly sensitive to lags in the timeline. Similar risks could exist in team members’ daily activities, but they’re often overlooked during the project plan development process. Talk with employees to identify where particularly heavy tasks loads or other issues could impact their availability for project work. This allows you to avoid jeopardizing the schedule by inadvertently double-booking a resource.
In addition to finding resource conflicts, good data can also be useful when looking for possible solutions. As you examine employees’ non-project activity lists, keep an eye out for opportunities that will enable the organization to skirt resource conflicts by changing how project activities are scheduled or executed. Do you see lulls in the daily task schedules that could allow the project team to get ahead of certain time-sensitive items? Have employees identified downtime cycles that might support short bursts of intense project work? Remember to ask staff if they have any thoughts on how best to avoid resource conflicts. With their hands-on perspective, they can provide insight on where activities might be re-sequenced—to begin earlier, to occur simultaneously, or even to be compressed into a shorter duration through the use of off-hours labor. This careful planning can save a project from becoming mired in resource issues.
After you’ve developed the full picture of the resources required to execute your project and where availability issues and conflicts could hamper those efforts, you can then consider other options. Are there external providers who may be able to fill the gaps when your in-house resources aren’t available? Is it possible to bring in temporary staff during the project to address some of the daily needs and free up your workforce for project-related activities? Budget impacts will need to be weighed against the risks of delays and other problems, but with good resource data available the organization will be able to make the best strategic decisions for each project.