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What’s Behind Failed Projects? Exploring Poor Resource Allocation in Project Management

July 26, 2017 | By Greg Bailey

We have previously mentioned the alarming statistics regarding the number of projects that fail. Not only that, but the rate at which they are falling short has increased over the past few years.

When other areas of the business are flaunting stats around improved success, productivity or efficiency, why can’t the same be said for project management? We can’t attribute it to the tools at a project manager’s disposal—like many other industries and verticals, technology is evolving and offering workers tools with more capability and functionality than ever before. So, what’s the reason? Why do projects continue to fail?

We think resource allocation in project management—or rather, the mis-allocation of resources—is often to blame.

The importance of resource allocation in project management

Project and portfolio management (PPM) consists of many different facets; project managers have to deal with everything from managing pipelines and resources to financial elements, change and risk. Resource management is one of those PPM facets—dedicated to the proper (and most efficient) distribution of the people, skills, materials and money in your project.

If resource management is the umbrella term for the distribution of resources, resource allocation concerns balancing the various needs and priorities of a project. Determining the best course of action that will lead to maximizing the effective use of limited resources to offer the best return on investment possible is the name of the game. This means project managers need to build a proper plan of how, when and why these resources will be allocated and distributed for the entire project lifecycle—before, during and after the project.

Over-allocation is a killer

Projects can fail for several reasons. There may be a lack of visibility into available resources, poor communication could result in people not knowing who’s doing what, or a lack of realistic expectations might cause projects to go over budget and take too long to complete.

One of the most important factors is the overallocation of resources, which can happen due to any of the barriers to resource management. It is when a resource (usually a worker) is assigned too much work in a given timeframe. When this happens, you have two options. You can leave them overallocated, which will affect their stress levels, work ethic, standard of work and morale (which in turn can affect their safety at work, etc.) Or, you can reallocate the work by examining the details and deciding to ‘trade-off’ other areas of the project. This might include:

  • Assign additional resources – divide the work between people who aren’t already on the project. This has the possibility of taking away productivity from other areas.
  • Delaying a task – delaying a task (ideally one of low priority) is one of the simplest ways to deal with overallocation.
  • Substituting resources – find another worker based on their skillset and availability and the demands of the project.
  • Decreasing task duration – reduce the scope of the task and therefore the amount of work required for the worker.
  • Find a replacement – find a resource better able to complete the task on time. This could be a worker with more time or a bigger piece of machinery.

While choosing one of these options will usually get you around resource overallocation, there are several drawbacks that can end up costing you time, money or the productivity and effort levels of your workers. So be careful!

While over-allocation is a risk all project managers must deal with, resource allocation has a lot of potential. Offering you improved visibility over your projects, resource allocation in project management can help you get the most out of resources that might otherwise be scarce or stretched.

With effective resource allocation in project management, you’re able to explore and examine your data, test hypotheses and visualize the potential and perceived impact of increasing, reducing or otherwise changing your resources. You can explore your options ahead of time so you can come up with the best plan of action and better prepare for inevitable project changes that happen along the way. Ultimately, this can help project managers reduce risk and discover cost savings that you might otherwise have missed.

Mastering resource allocation in project management

Tempus Resource, from ProSymmetry, offers modern and powerful resource allocation with modelling capabilities and what-if scenarios. Taking a single project or an entire portfolio, users can create a resource allocation model to test the effects of changing or modifying their projects in real-time, which can help maximize their resource forecasting. This helps both project and resource managers approach resource allocation in the most efficient and effective way possible, maximizing their resource capacity and getting their project to completion every time.

For more information on resource allocation or a free 30-day trial of Tempus Resource, get in touch with us today.

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