Project Portfolio Management: Are You Suffering From Resource Allocation Syndrome?

Categories: Project Portfolio Management, Management Tips
Resource allocation is a good thing, right? You are managing multiple projects at once. On a Monday, after drafting up a general report, you find that while one of your resources is clearly overbooked for the week with tasks from 4 different projects, there is one resource with the same skillset, that doesn’t have any tasks until Thursday. You reallocate the second resource to the projects that the first one is working on and normalize the workload. Great, huh?

Resource Allocation Syndrom in Project Portfolio Management (PPM)

The Second Kind of Resource Allocation

Now, think about the other kind of resource allocation there is. After an intense meeting with the management, you draft up a report. They said that you must make Project X a priority. From the report, you see that there aren’t any free resources to allocate to the project. To hell with it, a priority is a priority. You move things around. You allocate some resources from Project Y and Project Z. Your resources have to get acquainted with the new project. Their current tasks are put on hold. Projects Y and Z both suffer. Not so great, isn’t it?

The Case of Needing a Better Overview

If the resource allocation you are doing is mostly the first case, you don’t suffer from resource allocation syndrome. However, you probably still need a good resource allocation  that would give you a good overview of the availability of the resources. A good resource planning software like Ganttic will show you how tied up your resources are with other projects while planning for a new one and lets you track the skillsets of your resources, so you don’t miss anything while planning and you don’t have to reallocate later.

The Case of Resource Allocation Syndrome

If you are doing the second type of resource allocation more than you would like to admit, you probably have a serious case of resource allocation syndrome. Don’t worry, you are not alone. A research showed that resource allocation syndrome is a pretty common problem across the industries. When resource allocation syndrome arises, one can be pretty sure that there is a profound flaw in the way the whole organization is used to deal with managing multiple projects with the same resource pool. Since it’s such a universal problem for those that deal with project portfolio management it might even seem like that’s the way it’s supposed to be. You know what. No, resource allocation shouldn’t be a retroactive fix to a problem that can be avoided with a bit of a mentality change in your organization.

Is there a cure?

Luckily, there is. Is it an easy fix? No, definitely not. This is what we suggest for you to do:

  • Before taking on new projects, analyze the status of ongoing projects and the availability of your resources. Winning new contracts is important. Do you know what’s even better? Successfully finishing the ones you already have. That’s one of the biggest things that is overlooked. You can only take on new projects if there are enough resources available. It’s as simple as simple and complicated as that.

  • Have an overview. You should know all the skillsets of your resources. You should know all the projects they are working with. You should know the priorities set for these projects. And you don't have to memorize it all. Use a visual tool with flexible resource grouping and filtering features. 

  • Things go wrong. Take it into account while planning. Don’t be optimistic. In project portfolio management, it’s not a good quality to have. Rather, have a fair amount of pessimism in you. If you use a resource planning software, and you have a good overview, it’s easy to notice the places where holdups are hidden. Don’t overlook them.

  • Prioritize before not during. With every new project, you should always know the which project is the top dog. It may be frustrating to see that some projects are getting more or better resources and others get what’s left but over-utilized resources are not a solution. Know your priorities and act accordingly.  

Are you one of those project managers that uses resource allocation as a retroactive fix? Do you believe implementing our suggestions would help you?