How to Schedule Resources across Multiple Projects
It is not uncommon for organisations to have several projects running concurrently. That means thorough project resource planning is important because usually team members are active on several different projects at the same time. This can cause a scheduling issue when the same resources are shared across divisions, with different project managers. Or when different projects have competing priorities from leadership. This can create conflict among teams and have impacts on schedules.
It can also lead to the best resources becoming burned out. They will need to have their tasks actively managed, not just on one project but on all of them together.
The following are 9 tips for scheduling resources successfully across multiple projects:
1. Minimize the Overlaps
Schedule resources so that they are given as much time as possible to focus only on one project. That might mean a few days on one project here, then a bit of time on another project, then a week back on the first project and so on. It will feel as if they are jumping around, but in reality it is avoiding having them multitasking.
2. Schedule for the Busy Times
All projects have times of peak activities. This can be worked out from what the resource demands are – normally there are high demands on the team during the delivery/build stage of the project and also during testing. Then there is another peak just before the project ends as everyone it overly active trying to get last-minute things done.
Look at all the projects and establish where the busy times are. Try to stagger the busy times so that there aren’t two or three projects in build at the same time – even offsetting the schedules by a couple of weeks will make a big difference to the resources.
Watch out for when projects are due to go live at the same time and make sure the resources can be managed over one or more projects needing the same person.
3. Collaborate on Scheduling
Ask team leaders, work-stream leaders and staff themselves about how they would manage any resource conflicts. Work together – they will probably have some great ideas about how to juggle tasks and make sure all projects deliver as expected. This can be done easily with an online project scheduling software.
When working in a culture where employees trust one another to do the right thing and to make the right decisions, then they can be relied on for their responses. If they are overloaded, trust them! Then make plans to adjust their workloads accordingly.
4. Where to Focus Your Resources
Look at the schedules and make sure that e everyone is working on what is important. It’s not sensible to have someone working on a low important task that isn’t holding anything else up on Project A when they could be better place working on a priority task on Project B. When they have completed their Project B task other people can carry on working but at the moment they are stopping the project progressing.
Think about whether projects could slip in order to move more important work forward. Then adjust the resources so they are working on the priority tasks first.
5. The Right Level of Scheduling
No one works at 100% efficiency. Everyone needs a little downtime during the day to get a coffee and a bite to eat at lunch time. People have off days where they come into work feeling under the weather or they have to take a personal call.
When project managers schedule resources to one project there can be an impact on workload and many experienced PMs know not to schedule anyone at 100%. Around 80% is a more realistic amount to aim for. However, when thrown more projects into the mix that approach can get lost and suddenly…resources are scheduled at 100%. Don’t do it!
6. Talk to Other Project Managers
Resources may be working on projects that are managed by several different project managers. In fact, if they are all being managed by one project manager then the job of resource levelling is much easier. As there would be good visibility across all initiatives and tasks so planning for the busy times is easier and applying the right level of scheduling.
But what happens when there is more than one project manager involved?
The best way to deal with this is to make sure the project managers share their plans. Get them to talk to each other. Set up conversations if required, or consider having a weekly (or monthly) resource review meeting where progress and obstacles can be discussed.
7. Use Workload Scheduling
Take advantage of the resource scheduling features on an online project management software. Use the workload scheduling tools and reports to see where project resources are overloaded. It’s easy to see who has too much work and who can take on more tasks when shown on graphical reports. Then resource levelling can be applied (adjusting the workload so it’s within acceptable boundaries and no one is overstretched).
8. Use Dashboards
When using workload scheduling tools at a project level, they can be configured to use project dashboards to bring several projects together and compare resource allocations. This is hugely helpful as in an instant it can be identified which projects are the biggest drain on resources when looking at it from a portfolio level.
The great thing about dashboards is that many can be created, so there is a view of all Commercial projects, one with one view for the projects that involve the IT team and so on. It’s an easy way to get the data to manage resource clashes and make sure that everyone has enough time to do their priority work without holding any projects up.
9. How to Manage Absences
The thing that catches many project managers is absences – planned or otherwise. When there is no line management responsibility for the team, it’s not the project manager’s job to approve vacation request forms. Because of this a resources can be scheduled to work on tasks during the time they are actually away. If a resource is scheduled to work on several projects during that time then a hit could be taken on a number of initiatives – it’s not just one project at risk but many.
Remember to build good relationships with the line managers and also constantly remind team members to advise when they are out of the office.
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