Tools for Resource Management – The Survey Results


The resource management tools that organizations use should be able to map employee skill and experience to tasks that need to be done, document and track resource assignments, flag risks from over-committed resources, and identify under-utilized ones. The Cognitive Technologies’  2010 resource management survey sought to understand what tools organizations use today to manage their project assets and the degree to which they feel that the tools give them the information needed to plan effectively and make decisions. Our 2010 survey benefited from the responses of 250 individuals representing a broad range of companies and management responsibilities.

To find out what resource management tools were in use across in the organizations surveyed, we provided a checkbox list of 20 common tools from which respondents could select one or multiple tools. Selecting “no tool” or “other” were options. The top ten resource management tools were:

Project Resource Management Tool Frequency
Microsoft Office Excel 160
Microsoft Office Project 157
In-house developed application 93
Microsoft Office Project Server 74
Other 48
Microsoft Office Access 40
Oracle Primavera 24
CA Clarity Project and Portfolio Management Software 19
Oracle PeopleSoft Enterprise Applications 17
Hewlett-Packard Project Portfolio Management 11

The tools vary by cost and capability with the higher-end tools running several thousand dollars and the Microsoft tools costing in the hundreds of dollars per user. However, purchase cost does not reflect the total cost, since less expensive tools require more application development time to provide useful resource management information. The biggest difference in capability between the high-end, mature tools and the Microsoft Office-based tools is the ability offered by mature tools to track multiple projects concurrently, maintain information about a centralized pool of resources, and provide information in near real time.

Not surprisingly, companies using mature resource management tools were more likely to report that their tools provide timely and sufficient information. They tracked employee time and project status at a more detailed level than those companies using less mature tools did. They were also more likely to have dedicated resource managers and to employ more standardized resource allocation processes. We also found that companies using sophisticated resource management tools tended to have higher annual revenues, undertake more projects per year, and support a larger project management staff than organizations using less sophisticated tools.

The number of respondents who reported that the tools they use do not provide timely information to support decision-making increased from 33 percent to 45 percent from our 2009 survey. Only 30 percent of the companies used their resource management tools to track employee project time at the task level and 14 percent used a formal process for evaluating resource needs across existing projects. More than half – 70 percent — of the respondents said that their resource management tools were not used to find project resources based on skills and experience. Rather, companies allocated resources in an ad hoc fashion for new projects based on the perceived priority of the project.

Next week, I will offer our thoughts and conclusions gained from correlating several bits of data and discuss challenges the project managers and senior management see in the future of resource management.

Hey PMs if resource management is so important, why don’t we do it better?

Albert Einstein reportedly defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. That seems to be the status quo for IT resource management in many companies. Cognitive Technologies  conducted a survey of resource management practices during the summer of 2010. We found, as we did in our 2009 survey, that resource management issues continue to plague managers who ranked it as a leading or number one challenge to success.

Today and over the next couple of weeks, I want to tell you about our survey of resource management tools, processes and challenges.

Who was surveyed?
To get a representative population of respondents from non-profit, for-profit, large and small organizations as well as project managers and senior staff, we sent 4,800 targeted email invitations, requests for participation to 120 PMI chapters and newsletter-based general invitations. We also posted an invitation to participate on LinkedIn, Twitter and selected project management blogs.

In total, we received 250 responses — sufficient to provide a meaningful sample for in-depth analysis. Over three-fourths of the responding organizations were commercial businesses of which 44 percent were publically traded companies and 39 percent were private. The remaining 17 percent of respondents represented government and non-profit organizations.

The industries represented by responding individuals showed broad-based coverage from Financial Services, IT/Technology, Healthcare/Pharmaceuticals and Consulting. Slightly less than half of the companies were large with revenues of more than $1B. Medium-sized companies with revenues between $100M and $1B accounted for 26 percent of respondents with the remainder being small companies.

Finally, respondents to the 2010 survey represented both upper management and project management within their organizations in almost equal proportions. Respondents who self-identified as upper-level executives totaled 49% of the respondents, while 46% identified themselves as project management practitioners.

What did we ask?
Project resource management involves planning, allocating and scheduling personnel, services and equipment. Because IT projects succeed or fail primarily because of personnel availability and performance, we concentrated our questions in that area. The 2010 survey asked 25 questions dealing with the utilization of resource management tools and processes and the perception of resource management challenges. We asked respondents to identify the resource management tools used in their organization, how the tools were applied and their perceived effectiveness. Process related resource management questions focused on formal processes and data used for resource management planning and analysis. The last section of the survey asked project and senior managers to describe their resource management challenges.

What did we find?
Although next week’s post will go over the results in detail, here are a couple of key findings from our analysis of the survey responses:

  1. Almost all organizations, regardless of size or industry, use tools to help manage personnel resources.
  2. Approximately half of the surveyed individuals report that their resource management tools did NOT provide timely information to support decision-making.
  3. Companies with higher project success rates used tools to track and status projects at the task level.



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