From a project perspective, initial resource forecasting for an engagement is usually done upfront by the Account Manager during the sales process. This initial forecast is what goes into the project hours and budget estimation and ultimately the price that is offered to the customer. Once the customer accepts the price and the delivery team is assembled, the real effort of resource forecasting then falls to the Project Manager.
It’s imperative that budget management be one of the key responsibilities of the Project Manager. Since the time charged to the project by each individual resource is part of that budget and the actual expenses on the project, resource forecasting, therefore, becomes a critical responsibility of the Project Manager as well.
The effort put forth by Sales to price the engagement actually provides excellent input for the Project Manager to use when building both the resource forecast going forward on the engagement as well as the resource loading for the detailed project schedule.
Weekly Resource Forecast
The Project Manager must be on top of the project budget throughout the engagement. This means that actual hours charged to the project by the delivery team must be reviewed weekly by the Project Manager.
If the PM is responsible on a weekly basis for approving the time charge to his or her project, then obtaining the hours actually charged to the project will be easy. If not, then this is where the well-connected Project Manager can use connections in Accounting to quickly get the needed time accounting information for input into the budget and forecasting process.
We know that the project schedule is a living, breathing document. Along with the weekly status report, it is what drives the project forward and gives all participants very frequent feedback on where the project status is at any given time. Changes to the project schedule (timeline, additions of tasks, etc.) ultimately will affect the use of your project resource and therefore also affect your resource forecast.
Staying on top of the project schedule on a daily and weekly basis also means staying on top of the resource forecast on at least a weekly basis. Your customer may only want to see actual $$ expended on a weekly basis, but as the Project Manager, you’ll want to have the resource and budget forecast worked out for the entire project and review it weekly as new actuals come in and you revise your financial information.
The Changing of the Guard
One thing I haven’t touched on yet is the possibility of losing (or acquiring) personnel. This can have a dramatic effect on your project as well as your resource forecast. It’s not likely that a customer will pay more for a replacement resource, though if they are getting a more ‘junior’ resource than before, they may want to pay less so downplay this fact as much as possible.
But the addition and deletion of personnel on the team can drive a Project Manager crazy when trying to keep a good handle on the resource forecast both from a budget and hours perspective as well as in the project schedule.
It’s unfortunate that IT organizations are strapped for solid talent and that resources can come and go from projects based on the need for their expertise on other engagements within the organization, but it’s just a fact.
And older projects can come back to life in the form of change orders and newly purchased software - and you know that those customers will request particular resources they’ve worked with in the past if they liked them and were successful with them.
The key as a Project Manager is to get detailed reports from your team and from Accounting on a weekly basis and to be adjusting and re-forecasting the budget and the resources on a weekly basis. If you let it go to monthly, you’ll often be sorry and may realize that you don’t have enough committed time for a resource as a critical task is looming ahead. Stay on top of it.