Resource Planning for Increasing Productivity in Your Business - dummies

Resource Planning for Increasing Productivity in Your Business

By Marina Martin

Every business efficiency project has limited time, money, and other resources. Writing down your resource requirements when you are planning any project to increase productivity or decrease waste acts as a helpful checklist for ensuring you get those requirements. This forms a basis that team members can use for making assumptions (e.g., if the project requires six weeks, they have six weeks to work on it!).

It also serves as something of an “order form” for other departments and upper management to understand the time, budget, and other support you require to reach your stated goal.

Construct a schedule for your project

You cannot construct an accurate project schedule in a bubble. Invariably, each member of a project team is also working on other projects. Creating an accurate schedule for your project relies on obtaining accurate schedules for all other projects. If you’re just starting out with formally tracking projects, then you have to work off best guesses, and account for this timeline as an uncertainty in your project plan.

A person-loading graph is a bar chart with the number of total hours along the left (y-axis) with each week as its own bar (the x-axis). Each employee has his own graph. For a full-time employee, each week would have a bar reaching up to 40 hours.

Each week’s bar is then broken down into the number of hours spent on each different project that falls under that person’s responsibilities. After your organization gets into the habit of keeping these graphs, it’s very clear visually which employee has availability each week.

Tracking hours on a daily basis is usually too granular; it’s much easier to spend eight hours a week on a project than 1.5 hours a day on it.

Based on the hours estimates from your human resources matrix and each associated team member’s person-loading graph, you can work out how many hours each person can work on the project each week, and therefore work backward to determine realistic dates for both the final project delivery date and each major milestone within.

The number of hours you estimated in the human resources matrix earlier does not fit neatly into a 40-hour work week. No employee, anywhere, operates at 100 percent efficiency (meaning they work at peak productivity for every single minute they are at work). There’s daydreaming, phone calls, snack breaks, unexpected meetings, and numerous other things that interrupt work.

Although you can increase individual employee efficiency, you can’t get it to 100 percent. Therefore, assuming that an employee who “works” 40 hours a week will actually perform 40 hours of project work in a week is simply asking for project delays.

What if you don’t know how long something will take? Make an educated guess based on your team’s existing body of experience or any available research. Clearly mark your timeframe as an estimate, and plan ahead for what you’ll do if it takes twice (or four times) as long. In other words, don’t make any mission-critical dates depend on a timeframe with a high likelihood of variation.

If you’re embarking on the launch of a brand-new product line or another project that you know today is likely to change completely before your projected delivery date, consider Agile Project Management. With Agile, you set “sprints” of approximately two weeks each, checking in with your team and adjusting course as necessary between each sprint.

Someone needs to be responsible for following up on each deadline. If initial deadlines go by without acknowledgement, it’s all too easy for project members to assume that the project itself has taken a lower priority or, in some cases, stopped altogether. This causes quite a chaotic scene when the entire project is due and most of the members ceased working on it weeks earlier!

A successful project has a closing process during which the final milestones are accounted for, the project is closed as a success (or failure), relevant details are captured for future reference, and next steps and/or projects are set to further the project’s goal.

Beyond accounting for work hours, you also need to set a schedule for checkpoints — including meeting with project members to get updates on project progress, measuring progress towards the project goal, and general team meetings.

Re-visiting the project after a month or so can help determine whether your gains are still as efficient as originally planned. It also helps determine whether the project could have been planned better in certain areas.

Identify needed resources for the project

In addition to personnel, your project may require a variety of other important resources (such as furniture, fixtures, equipment, raw materials, and information). Plan for these nonpersonnel resources the same way you plan to meet your personnel requirements.

As part of your plan, develop a nonpersonnel resources matrix. List each of the project’s activities along the left side of the matrix, and each resource required to perform those activities across the top as individual columns. Within each overlapping column, enter the number of hours for which that resource is needed. You can expand this original matrix into additional matrices to show the resource allocation breakdown across weeks or months.

Nonpersonnel Resource Matrix Printer Old Server Recording Studio
Compile list of CRMs 0 0 0
Clean data export file 2 10 0
Record screencasts 1 0 20

There’s also financial resources to consider, usually expressed as a budget. A project budget takes three phases:

  • A rough order-of-magnitude estimate, which is based on the team’s general understanding of a project’s needs

  • A detailed budget estimate, where you research and ballpark the costs of each task outlined in your Work Breakdown Structure

  • A completed, approved project budget, which is adopted into the final project plan. This is basically the final draft of the detailed budget estimate.