In June 2009, I worked with an intern from The University of Texas in Austin to collect data about the resource management tools and processes of today’s organizations. Our definition of resource management was the “planning, allocation, and scheduling of manpower, machine, money, and materials” as defined by Wideman’s Comparative Glossary of Project Management Terms.
Last week I talked about how the survey was conducted and described the respondents. This week I want to share with you some of the interesting things we learned from the survey about the State of the Union of Resource Management.
Finding 1: Project Resource Management Tools in use today
The most commonly used tools are Microsoft Project – Desktop and Microsoft Excel (67% and 60% respectively). The next three in order of frequency were: In-House Developed Applications, MS Project Server and MS Access.
Although the most frequently used resource management tools offer good information to the project manager, neither Project – Desktop nor Excel provide the task level information needed to make resource allocation decisions for complex or multiple, concurrent projects. On the other hand, organizations that used more mature resource management tools such as MS Project Server and Oracle’s Primavera were better able to track and status projects and felt more confident that their tools provided the information needed to make project decisions.
Finding 2: How Resource Management Tools are used
The organizations responding to our survey consistently reported that while they had resource management tools in their organizations they were not used consistently. One critical area where the tools were not used effectively was project time tracking.
In software development projects, worker time on task is usually the single greatest project cost category. However, 15% of the polled organizations reported that they did not track employee time on projects while 53% reported that they only tracked time at the account number or project level rather than the more predictably useful task level.
Finding 3: Effectiveness of resource management tools for decision making
The average response to questions on “how effective resource management tools are as the basis of decision making” is the most disturbing implication of the survey—only 10% strongly agreed that their resource management tools gave them sufficient information.
Other concerns were reflected in the 33% of the respondents that reported their resource management tools do not provide timely information and the 60% who said they could not use their tools to find resources with specific skills when they were needed on projects.
If managers cannot get the information they need to understand status, management risks, and plan for new projects from their tools, they are left with a much less effective ad hoc process for resource allocation and management. And that was indeed the report of survey participants. The average and the most frequently responses on allocation indicated that resources were allocated by the resource owners in an ad hoc way, were based on the perceived priority of the project, and did not consider the impact of allocation on existing projects.
The failure of resource management tools and process to support decision making across the enterprise leads to many challenges for project managers. Next week, I will tell you about our findings on perceived challenges and offer some observations on how to more effectively use resource management tools.