This post is basically the intended “Part 2” that I never got around to back in February when I published “Project Management and Startups: Resource Allocation and Usage – Part 1.”
Table of Contents
- Case Study – Privately Owned Las Vegas Company
- The Issue
- The Solution
- Other Possibilities
In all of my years of Project Management, one of the most frustrating parts has been managing resources. It’s hard enough managing resources on your own project or projects, but the bigger issue is that usually, those resources are working on another project as well. And here I’m only talking about the ‘people resources.’ These are the living, breathing resources that can tell you what they’re doing and the other projects they’re working on for other PMs. At least when you hear it verbalized like that, you can do so compartmentalizing in your head of what they have going on, what their current priorities are, and what their general availability is to perform next week’s critical task for you on Project ‘Y’.
When you’re dealing with equipment resources, then you’ve brought into view an entirely different variable…and problem…that makes resource management an even more difficult task. Equipment resources can speak for themselves, don’t understand what critical tasks you have assigned to them, and certainly can’t work harder and faster to make it seem like they’re doing two tasks at once. In fact, equipment resources can never multitask.
A couple of years ago I connected with a Las Vegas company that is sort of in the entertainment industry. They supply mechanical automation and control equipment to the theatrical, themed attractions, motion pictures, and touring production markets. So there were two things different for me about this type of project management consulting work.
It wasn’t a typical IT project – in fact, it really wasn’t IT at all. The PMs were not your typical PMs…they were more like project administrators or even gatekeepers. Operations had accountability to the CEO for the projects. The PMs did not really ‘own’ the projects as we would think of PMs owning projects.
It had a strange cool factor. Their equipment was used for shows I had been to on the strip, movie stunts I had watched in theatres, and theme park rides I had been on.
At any rate, it definitely forced me to change some of my thought processes as I tried to build processes around what they were trying to do project-wise and for resource management. They lacked project templates, that’s for sure, and I helped them build those by first reviewing their open projects, then understanding the project flows, and finally understanding what a ‘typical’ project usually consists of.
The bigger issue – and the real reason they called me – was to help them figure out how to manage their resources. The great sales guy up front was the CEO and he was good at making sales…which meant he was also good at over-committing resources. They had a great reputation for supplying a great product on time and when show and movie releases depend on it your reputation can sink fast if you don’t deliver.
This may seem simple to some of the readers here, but it was news to them. First, we inventoried all of their resources – people and equipment. As you can imagine, with this type of operation most of their resources were equipment. Both the equipment for the productions and the equipment to make the equipment for the productions had to be managed - since they actually made most of their own equipment in-house.
To do this, I utilized MS Project – as I had done for their other projects and future projects as we crammed them into the templates I had created for them. I then loaded all resources, with cost rates, codes, etc. into a separate MS Project schedule to be utilized as a shared resource pool. We then linked all current projects to this pool meaning that the projects themselves did not have resources loaded – they were tracked in the separate shared resource pool MS Project file.
It worked great and it gave the PMs, the Operations Manager, and the CEO excellent insight into where their resource commitments were today and two months down the road as they were looking to had more customers and projects.
There are other solutions and I priced doing the whole MS Project Server and MS Project Professional combination for full collaboration. They’re a profitable shop, but something like that was more than they needed at the time. And web-based tools like ProjectOffice.net can offer good, cheap collaboration among PMs and personnel, but that wasn’t on my radar at that point in time either.