Most managers know that trying to keep track of employees, with their various projects and skill levels, is a daunting task. Perhaps it is not so bad when you only have two employees, but when you work in a larger organization, it is simply impossible to keep track of these resources without a little help. Here are some of the ways in which managers can manage their personnel more effectively in order to maximize success.
1 – Understand Employee Skills and Availability
Different projects require different skill sets. For example, a project team might require engineers, sales representatives, plant managers or R&D professionals. Finding the right person to assign to a project or task can be extremely challenging without the right resource management processes in place.
Even when managers understand resource availability, it changes. They might run around and get all of the vacation schedules recorded in a big spreadsheet, only to find that a week later it has all changed. Rather, what managers need is real-time access to team member schedules, tasks and available time. This makes assigning people to tasks much easier. The system should also be web-based, since the team is probably not all in one workspace 24 hours a day. Spreadsheets aren’t effective because they do not allow for global access from various participants (and they also cannot be audited).
2 – Allocate Resources Effectively
Once you understand resource schedules and availability, you will be able to allocate them more effectively. In a 100 person organization, for example, there are always five or ten people who are overbooked. Everyone wants these people to work on their projects, and every time one of them takes a vacation or gets sick, the organization groans.
Conversely, there are other people who are under-utilized. When a manager has visibility into this, he/she can fix the problem. For instance, if a resource is 100% allocated, the manager should not assign them to a new project. If another resource is only 70% allocated, the manager knows that they are free to do more work. Without the right data, managers are often unaware of these problems, and it can lead to lost profits from under-allocated personnel as well as the eventual burnout of over-allocated personnel.
3 – Track Time by Project and Task
Projects are executed in order to bring in a positive return on investment (ROI). Managers and executives, however, cannot know if a project was successful or not unless they understand its total cost. The cost of labor is often a major factor in total project cost, so tracking time to projects and tasks is an inescapable requirement for measuring project ROI.
In addition, project time tracking allows managers to address problems much faster. For example, if a manager sees right away that 20% of a project’s allocated budget has been spent and only 5% of the work has been completed, he/she has a fighting chance of recovery. A manager who does not have this information early on will find out much later that their project is drastically over budget. This is just one example of how real-time data enables project managers to fix problems before they start.
When you have 5, 10 or 25 people reporting to you, it becomes increasingly difficult to know what they are working on at all times. Is John wasting time on a project that is not all that important to the department or the company? Is Mary spending all of her time on something a colleague has asked her to do, while neglecting the project you really need her to work on? When your employees are not tracking their time, you just don’t know, and what you don’t know can most certainly hurt you.
4 – Identify Staffing Gaps
By categorizing your staff by skills or function, you can assign the right people to the right jobs. For example, if you need an engineer, you can easily find one who is available for the time frame you need. You can also use this data to identify staffing gaps. If you only have two engineers who are consistently working at over 100% allocation, you know that you need to hire additional ones. Again, you would not have known this without the data a project and resource management solution can provide.
5 – Know Which Projects You Can Handle
When management asks if you can take on a major project and complete it by the end of the month, how do you answer? You might say yes and then scramble to free up the right people and get them to execute the project by the deadline. You might also refuse the project, despite the revenue it would bring, because you are unsure whether your people can handle it or not. With better processes, you no longer have to guess. You know which employees with the right skill sets are available and which are not.
The success of a project and, ultimately, a company, depends on one’s ability to manage personnel effectively. The larger the organization, the more difficult this becomes without the right system to provide visibility and communication. Keeping tabs on who you have assigned to tasks, how long it should reasonably take them to complete the tasks and how much effort they are making are the three key components to avoiding trouble in the long run. Once you get those down, you will be able to execute your projects with ease, making your company successful and your customers happy.