Learn the do's and don'ts of resource planning for multiple projects.
Doing resource planning for multiple projects is like weaving a spider web — put one thread (your resource) in the wrong place and it will get tangled; cut it altogether — the whole system will collapse.
But, whether we want to or not, learning how to manage multiple projects is a necessity. It is the new normal for businesses in 2024 - a post-pandemic world where leaders aspire to do more with fewer resources.
A recent report suggested that 59% of project managers already run 2 to 5 projects simultaneously. Additionally, research by Wellingtone found that the most significant challenges that project managers face today include managing too many projects, and poor resource management.
Forewarned is forearmed, as they say, so here are some project management challenges and solutions you might want to keep in mind if you have to manage resources across multiple projects.
Project management is a complex game as it is. But when there are multiple projects running at the same time, the gains - as well as dangers - get multiplied.
When there are several projects and a limited pool of resources working on them, it becomes a juggling act. The team gets spread thinner and thinner as existing projects progress and new projects commence. Initiatives get launched without the needed resources to maintain them, which often leads to each unit and everyone in it being involved in several initiatives at the same time, trying to keep their heads from spinning.
In a situation like this, common resource-related challenges often include:
Planning your resources and their capacity means that you know whether the people you currently have in the team have enough free time to start and finish the project you initiate. More often than not, a lack of insight into your resource availability makes it nearly impossible to do efficient resource allocation and gives room to false expectations as to when the project will get delivered and whether it will get delivered at all.
Assessing business risks is a common thing, but if you want to know how to manage resources across multiple projects, never forget about the risks associated with resources. When doing capacity planning and resource allocation, think about things like people getting sick, taking paid or unpaid leave, choosing to resign from their role, or any other reason that might throw a spanner in your resource management plans.
Much as you would prepare mitigation strategies for a range of risks that could endanger your projects, resource risk need to be accounted for, too.
Continue reading: What is Resource Risk? A Visual Guide for Project Managers
Having to deal with lack or no real-time overview leads to project managers taking crucial decisions by flying blind. You need to do that human resource planning for a solid start and then regularly check for any possible changes to see if you need to do adjustments to get the project to the finish line.
But when project managers need to run all of that hustle in spreadsheets, they do not just waste productivity hours, but plan resources with no real-time data at hand.
In short, resource utilization stands for the amount of time your resources spend doing a certain task. If you have no documented utilization data to rely on when planning your resources for the upcoming projects, making accurate estimates of how many hands you will be needing and how to allocate them is problematic, to say the least.
Continue reading: 5 Instant Benefits of Resource Planning for Any Organization
There are lots of traps in resource planning for multiple projects. But where there are traps, there are also ways around them. Here are some of the tried and tested ones:
Having this bird-eye view over all of your projects and available resources is the best way to plan well. For example, with all of your project and resource data being consolidated in one place, you can analyze your resource capacity at any given point in time and see who is free, who is full, and who is already at risk of burnout.
Overbooking and double-booking your resources are among the first things to keep away from. Yet it is also the very problem that is more likely to take place in multi-project management. With a Heatmap and a holistic resource pool view on the table, you will be able to allocate your resources wisely and even juggle them, if need be.
Finding a free resource planning tool for managing multiple projects is a great first step towards automating your resource planning processes. With a tool that matches your project needs, you will be able to reduce human error, collaborate efficiently, save time, and improve the overall grasp of where the project is moving and how likely it is to end in a bottle of champagne being opened.
A recent report by West Monroe found that 36% of managers spend 3-4 hours on administrative tasks daily, while for 23% of managers more than half of their workday - 5 hours - goes into admin work. As crucial as it might be, you can substantially reduce the time you and your team invest into administrative work (which is inherent in every role) by having routine processes automated.
Poor communication can easily derail projects. And so it does, in 30% of the cases, a recent PMI report claims. Communicating with project team leads to get insights into their resource availability, allocation, and planning will put a life jacket on your business initiatives. Even more than that, it will give you a realistic image of what is doable and what is not so you don’t have to waste a minute planning a project that will never see the break of dawn.
In a situation where resource capacity is under pressure, it's crucial that that everyone involved is on the same page so that they can align their efforts based on what is most critical. Assess the urgency and importance of each project - clearly define objectives, deliverables, and timelines for each project, and make sure you're communicating this information with your team.
At all times, keep a close eye on project progress and resource utilization. Leverage project data to identify potential bottlenecks, risks, or dependencies across your projects. Real-time visual overviews of your project schedules, such as Runn's Project Planner, can be massively helpful in this respect: it's far easier to spot potential conflicts when all your schedules and timelines are visually represented in front of you.
Finally, acknowledge the fact that what you're doing is extremely complex; it may even at times be a source of great pressure and frustration. Building resilience - both at the individual level, and team resilience - is extremely important to help you get through the challenging days with a smile on your face and the motivation to seek creative solutions.
Make sure you're encouraging an environment with a no-blame culture: you want your people to be excited about improving their skills and applying lessons learned from previous projects, rather than being defeatist, dwelling on failures, and becoming resentful. Build psychological safety to encourage flexibility and innovation among your team members, so they can work together and find creative ways of managing resources and delivering successful outcomes in challenging times.
Resources are the lifeblood of any company. And because the careful management of resources is absolutely essential to business sustainability, it's imperative that businesses see the value of prioritizing resource management as part of their overall strategy for success.
Plan a talk with Runn today to see how you can do smart resource planning for multiple projects, or read on:
It's a challenging career, but if you build the right foundation of resource management skills, you can achieve great professional success as a resource manager. Read on to learn how.
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