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Recommended Demand and Capacity Workflow

High level view of the typical demand and capacity workflow, from request through delivery, with recommended process approaches.

From Initiation to Delivery – The Demand and Capacity Process

The diagram below illustrates a typical demand and capacity workflow, from request through delivery.

  1. Project Initiation Proposal: First, a project idea or “initiation” proposal is generated, either from a strategy session, a business need, or a regulatory requirement. Often a process step ensures some sort of business intake filter to validate the project request for completeness and business validity. In ResourceFirst, this can be entered as an Initiation project. See the article on Project Intake and Initiation for more.
  2. Review in Portfolio and Plan Roles/Skills Needed on the Project: A portfolio manager (sometimes this is a product owner, process owner, business unit leader, or PMO representative) reviews the request in the context of the appropriate portfolio.

    The project or program is created, categorized appropriately, scored for value/risk, and prioritized/ranked against other projects in the portfolio.

    The needed skills are determined and the timing of available capacity for those skills is assessed.

    High level effort forecasts are entered, usually at a skill or role level (This is best done collaboratively between the portfolio/product manager and resource/functional managers, but should ideally have input from the targeted project manager, if known yet).

    A high-level financial forecast can be entered as well.

    As mentioned in item #1, in ResourceFirst, project requests (i.e., project proposals) can be approved by authorized parties on the Initiation page in the Projects area. Prior to approval, initial high level resource skill forecasts can be made on the Initiation details page (on the Assignments page in that area). If adding skill assignments after approval, this can be done on the Assignments tab on the specific project’s workspace (accessed by clicking on any project hyperlink on pages that list projects).

    Once the resource skills forecast for the approved project has been entered, you can visit the Projects–>Demand page to see the overall demand for projects in the portfolio, and you can update priorities as needed on the Projects–>Data page.  Make sure the Unit Priority field is in your view.

    With the basic information entered, the project or program is given an appropriate start date, depending on priority and available capacity.

    Sometimes tradeoffs are required in order to apply valuable limited resources to the most important work. Scenario simulations may be performed in order to see the impact to the portfolio based on different situations (e.g., staffing, reprioritization, etc.). Once the project is prioritized and given a start date, a project manager should be officially assigned.

  3. Plan Project & Fine-Tune Skill and Named Resource Assignments: The project manager plans the project at a high level, making sure to work with the resource/functional managers as part of the core team, to assure the effort forecast includes the right skills at the right time.

IMPORTANT:  There are three primary methods for assigning skills and resources to projects:

a) Core Team Method (Simplest and Recommended): The project manager owns the project plan, schedule, and delivery of the project. Each resource/functional manager owns the effort forecast (aka Skill and Resource Assignments) for people within their domain, as well as the delivery of said resources to the project. This forces the Resource Managers to be involved in the planning, as they often know best their staff’s particular strengths and availability. It forms a solid basis for a contract between the project and resource managers and makes each accountable for their respective roles. The Core Team includes the portfolio/product owner, project, manager, and resource/functional managers working in collaboration and dedicated to the project’s success.

b) Request/Approval Method: As with the Core Team Method, the project manager owns the project plan and the resource managers own the resource forecast. In this case, the project managers are authorized to “Request” skills needed (i.e., the skill assignments they enter are submitted as request rather than going directly on the effort forecast). The resource managers can then review and approve or deny the requests. See “Using Resource Requests” for more.

While this method sounds efficient in theory, in practice, much information is lost when the project and resource managers don’t adequately communicate and the need is treated as a “handoff.” Plus, projects are often delayed waiting for resource managers to approve skill and resource requests, so the resource managers become a bottleneck. Use this method with caution.

c) Project Manager-Driven Method:  In this method, the project managers enter skill and/or resource assignments directly, and/or they enter requests which can be set up to be auto-approved (the result is the same either way, except with auto-approval, at least you have an audit trail). The resource managers then review their people’s resulting forecast, and any issues are discussed through conversation. Even with this method, it is still vital though, that the resource managers are accountable for the forecast for their staff, even if they review the forecast after the fact and negotiate changes with the project managers.

Again, this method seems most expedient on paper, but in practice, communication is often lacking between project and resource managers, and the resource managers often lack the motivation or desire to stay attuned to their people’s workload and/or proactively head off overloads. It requires that project managers talk to resource managers prior to assignments (which often doesn’t happen) and it requires resource managers to regularly view reports to address overloads (which also often doesn’t happen). If these conversations and overload-handling processes don’t happen, then the result is overworked resources and project delays.

With any of these methods, keep in mind:

  • The project manager is mostly concerned about his or her project, not the other activities resources may have on their plate.
  • In most cases, the resource/functional manager has the best picture of the current and upcoming workload of their staff and their individual strengths.
  • In many cases, the resources themselves will have the best understanding of what it will take to accomplish a task and how long. For this reason, it is a good practice for resource managers to consult the potential resource or subject matter expert when planning and estimating resource forecasts. Likewise, a resource may be working on things their manager is unaware of, so this presents an opportunity to discuss workload.
  1. Assign Named Resources for Near-Term Items: The resource manager fills skill needs or resource requests (depending on the above method) with named resources by searching for candidates among their pool and revising the effort forecast for the project. As mentioned above, if the project managers perform this function (not recommended), the resource managers must be self-motivated to stay involved and check the forecasts regularly.
  2. Execute Project & Adjust Resources: The project manager fleshes out the project schedule and manages the project execution, reporting status as required. During project execution, as phases and milestones shift, it is imperative for the project and resource managers to communicate re the impact on the effort forecast. The project manager may choose to also enter named resources at a task level in the Project Scheduler, outside of the effort forecast (but ideally within the existing effort forecast windows).Reconciling the task-level resource assignments with the high level resource forecast is often a fruitless cause. Project schedules are dynamic and always changing. Managing resources at a low granularity is difficult to do effectively and is often mismanaged. A “good enough” level of resource-to-project allocation, aligned with project phase timelines and milestones, is more easily maintainable and, ironically, often more accurate.  The best way to resolve discrepancies between task level needs and the project’s effort forecast is via a simple conversation between the project manager, resource manager, and/or the resource.

To reiterate, using any of the proposed methods: The project manager typically owns the project schedule, but the resource manager generally owns the effort forecast. This is recommended because only the resource manager has a complete picture of the resource’s full workload, including projects, base services, and other current and pending activities. The resource manager is also often most aware of their teams’ strengths, and which people are most critical for which projects.

Below is a high level diagram of the typical project staffing lifecycle. Using the recommended Core Team Method, the resource aspect of steps 3 and 4 below are combined.


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