High level view of the typical demand and capacity workflow, from request through delivery, with recommended process approaches.
The diagram below illustrates a typical demand and capacity workflow, from request through delivery.
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.
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:
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.