Strategic Resource Planning without Perfect Project Schedules

July 15, 2020 | By Samantha Varner

Tempus Resource 2020 Virtual Conference Recap: Bob Blackburn, Henny Penny

Knowing that there’s no such thing as perfect scheduling across any organization, the central question for PPMs and RPMs becomes this: What tools, techniques, and best practices will help maintain strategic perspective without perfect schedules?

As a former PPM, Bob Blackburn of Henny Penny thinks a great deal about scheduling, and he shared many crucial questions in his presentation at the Tempus Resource 2020 Virtual Conference. He wonders, for example, whether resources should be allocated before scheduling or whether schedules should build up your allocations. How much time should a PM spend polishing a perfect schedule vs. leading the project? And, since Agile doesn’t use critical path scheduling, how do you get resource allocation out of agile teams?

In coming up with answers, Mr. Blackburn notes a few key truths:

  1. Some of the best project leaders are not the most detailed schedule keepers
  2. Project schedules that are useful during planning can quickly become inaccurate during execution when issues arise
  3. The ultimate goal of RPM is to stay aligned with strategic business goals

Further, he observes:

  • There are often hesitations to plan/forecast without perfect schedules
  • Not all projects will have schedules or be run by PMs
  • Not all schedules have accurate allocations
  • Not all schedule changes are material to RPM
  • Agile teams say they don’t need Resource Planning

Creating efficient project schedules

In light of all this, how does one create a project schedule aligned with goals? And more specifically, a project schedule that shows what Mr. Blackburn considers the most important component of any schedule: percentage allocation at the task level.

The answer he offers comes in the form of several Tempus Resource tools:

  • Opportunity Maps that offer a “directionally correct, management-level strategic view and decision-making tool” when estimating how many resources may be available for a given project
  • Resource Requests Process that allows for easy communication and alignment among project managers, functional managers, resource managers, and portfolio managers
  • Demand planning by role, which shows demand for a particular role across projects along with capacity
  • Project templates (also called proposal projects) that create the profile of a project with typical phases, resources, and duration to be used in early planning phases before a PM is assigned
  • Planning by phases so that when resources and allocations shift by phase, you can see how those resources are needed by phases and how allocations will change
  • Using a tool like JIRE Portfolio for Agile release planning, product road mapping, or Agile portfolio planning.

Among resource management best practices, many of which can be found at the Resource Management Institute (RMI), Mr. Blackburn specifically recommends that PMs should be updating their own projects with their own data while understanding the goals of RPM and letting go of perfection. Additionally, functional managers should be asked to focus on the workload of their resources and not the overall project.

Ultimately, Mr. Blackburn advises against waiting to plan until you have “perfect” schedules or data. Ambiguity and the “good enough” can successfully lead to strategic decisions that need to be made quickly and add to the overall strategic value of the business.

Many thanks to Bob Blackburn for his detailed and engaging presentation, which you can watch in full below:

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