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Emily Weissang

Bringing the Human Story to Data in Resource Management

Resource managers deal with data every day. But how do expert RMs see data differently? Well, we asked them - and this is what they had to say.

Good resource management always relies on data for decision making. 

But great resource managers don’t just take data at face-value. They look even further, absorbing the context around that data, and listening to the story that it tells.

And by taking this big-picture perspective to data, they open up a world of potential improvements - identifying pathways to create real, impactful outcomes for their people.

So, how do they do it? Well, in this article we’ll share how leading resource managers look at their data and what they see beyond the numbers. 

Don’t forget to bookmark this post to revisit later any time you need a little inspiration for what RM best practice and excellence looks like! ✨

Data & resource management

Resource management can both save a business money and open up new avenues for increased revenue generation - but it can only do this if you are targeting the right things. Data is how we spot where our attention is most needed, and where our strategic initiatives should be focused.

As Gary Ward, RMO Director at Guidewire Software, explained it when we invited him to join us for a webinar:

There's a lot of value to really exploring what you can do with your data, and what you can achieve from a metrics point of view. Utilization rate, time to staff, allocation efficiencies - these are some of your “bread and butter” metrics, but there are few other ones that are really valuable, too. 

Understanding your cancellation rate, your extension rate for resource requests, and the demand that comes in is really, really important. Tracking portfolio rate of change is helpful, too, to articulate the churn in the demand itself. Being able to actually quantify that and measure that is incredibly useful.”

And it’s not just about the long-term, strategic changes that data can guide us towards: data is also vital for improving day-to-day project operations. 

Whether you’re running resource management reports from previous projects to help set baselines for new projects, identifying resource risks before they cause delays, or responding to resource requests, the first step is to take a look at the data.

This is something Laura Dean Smith, Director of Consulting Operations (Resource Management) at Clarivate, confirmed in our recent webinar "How to Successfully Grow the Resource Management Function":

[Data] is so essential to mine and my team’s day: we really prioritize getting this knowledge. 

For instance, if you're able to run reports from all of the different past projects that have been done for the same client, you can look and see what are the common resource names, what are the roles that you're seeing. What are the different commonalities?”

Data about resource skills and availability is also the guiding star when it comes to allocating people to projects where they can perform at their best, as Laura describes:

We don't just have a list of resources, we have a detailed skills matrix, which means we can more easily tie together what the project type is with the skills required for that project, the roles required and map these things across…there’s definitely so much you can do with resource data."

On top of that, data is key to effective stakeholder management. It forms the basis of those all-important status meetings, conversations, and updates that keep everyone on-board and bought into the work that your teams are undertaking.

Looking beyond the numbers

Tracking metrics and observing trends is just one side of the coin. To dig even deeper, resource managers look into the meaning behind those numbers and what they can tell us about employees and how they feel about their workplace.

As resource management is both people-driven and data-driven, resource managers need to bridge the gap between the two by listening to their people and analyzing the big picture behind those numbers.

Exploring utilization rates is a good example of what this can involve. Let's say you have a team member whose utilization rate is 120%. At first glance, you might think that they are very productive and proactive, going above and beyond. Commendable of them, right?

Well, it’s not quite that straightforward. The key is to balance both data analysis and speaking to the people about their workload: with further investigation and contextualization, you may observe that this excessive utilization rate shows that demand for this individual's specific skills is just too high. 

And seen this way, 100%+ utilization isn’t evidence of an awesomely productive team: it’s a big flashing warning sign that you need to hire extra talent in order to ease the burden.

Learn more ➡️ Overutilization: Know the Dangers of Overworking Your Team

utilization rate in Runn
Runn makes it easy to spot where overutilization is a problem

Articulating the value of data

Part of the data story is communicating why the data needs to be gathered in the first place - so that people can really invest the time and effort into getting it right. 

Without buy-in from the rest of the business, getting hold of quality resource data will be an uphill struggle. Which is why great resource managers care about articulating why data is needed and what it is collected for.

In our webinar "Resourcing for Success: Best Practices Every Manager Should Know", Christine Robinson, former Resource Management Director at Baker Tilly US, shares how she encountered a manager who was reluctant to spend time updating his team’s schedules. He didn’t see the value in it; he thought it was just busywork.

So, Christine gave him the low-down on why it mattered - and how accurate data today would equate to better outcomes for his team tomorrow:

When I spoke to him, he kind of just brushed it off as if it were just a check-box exercise. And I said, ‘Look, we're not asking you to update your schedule or your team's schedule because we're trying to create a homework assignment for you. Do you know what we use that information for? We're going to take that information, and we're going to use it to see how many people we might need to hire for next year - because we don't want you to be too overwhelmed. 

We want to see if we need to bring in some additional seasonal help for your team, perhaps. But if you’re just going to tell us “I don't know”, I won’t know how many people you're gonna need, right? You have to keep the schedules updated so that I can make an educated recommendation.’ 

And by the time that I stopped speaking, he was like, ‘We have to update our schedules! Everyone has to update their schedule!’” 

Bringing the human story: understanding data in context

Resource managers should never lose sight of the fact that the people they manage have goals and aspirations. Indeed, people are seeking opportunities to do the work that sparks their interest and develop their careers in directions that excite them.

What’s more, teams will be at their most productive and happy tackling projects that they enjoy sinking their teeth into.

By humanizing resource management and putting people first you will be able to maximize their potential, bridge talent gaps, and help them pursue their interests. But in order to do this, resource managers have to lead with a people-first attitude.

Conversations and relationships are the vital context that helps you take the data and make decisions that center the human. 

For Laura Dean Smith, this is a principle that takes high priority for her team:

There's a question around how much do resource managers really need to know the individual goals or plans or skills of each individual resource. But part of the strategy for my team is that they do know - that is something that I charged them with. I tasked them with talking to every single resource. 

I have one Senior Resource Manager, for instance, who oversees a pool of about 115 resources. And she does know each and every one of them by name, and they know her, and she does know what their different skills are. She might have to look some stuff up sometimes. But she has pages of documentation on conversations with these resources and their managers.”

Managing this level of qualitative data is, admittedly, a challenge. However, Laura recommends a starting point - a Skills Survey:

If you haven't looked at doing a Skill Survey, I’d say that’s really important. My team and I refer to it all the time.
skills inventory in Runn
You can track the results of a Skills Survey in Runn

Further reading ➡️ The Beginner's Guide to Skills Management

To sum up

Data can help you achieve everything from resource management case validation and process optimization, to effective resource allocation and employee retention improvement. However - the key is using data well.

And that’s why great resource managers are also skilled data storytellers. They advocate for why data matters but, in addition, they look beyond the numbers. They build a narrative around what the numbers mean, informed by the relationships they nurture and the conversations they initiate. 

But in order to use data well, you’ve got to get it managed. To bring your resource management data under one roof in a purpose-built tool, explore Runn today. Get started with a free trial ➡️

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