1. Treating long-term planning just like short-term planning
Most companies start with short-term planning - or, specifically, planning for sprints or a few days in advance. This type of planning focuses on tasks and small objectives that take a few hours to complete. In long-term planning, such an approach is unacceptable!
What should the long-term resource planning focus on?
Long-term planning should not focus on unnecessary details; instead, it should give the managers and executives a general idea of what the work in their company will look like in a few weeks or months to come. As such, it should not pay attention to individual tasks; instead, it should include the information on:
- people’s allocations, availability, and risk of being benched,
- costs of work in existing and planned projects, as well as the incomes generated by the work,
- current and future utilization of resources - or lack thereof, in the form of employee bench,
- other key performance indicators, such as project profitability, overhead percentage, and more,
- gaps in the sales pipeline and any forecasted changes in the income in the future.
In short: long-term planning should focus on getting a bigger picture of all the operations - not the tasks that contribute to particular projects on a smaller scale!
2. Planning for a very specific period
Imagine an IT services company that always prepares its resource management plans for one subsequent month. While it may sound good at first, this company will inevitably struggle with:
- repetitive allocations - for example, for specialists who are assigned to a project for a few months,
- unknown risks in the future. Do we have enough projects for all the employees? What happens when our projects end?
- growing employee bench caused by a lack of information on specialists that are about to become idle,
- lack of flexibility. In the current IT market, projects come and go - too regular planning leaves no room for such changes.
As a result, companies planning in very regular periods may face many more problems!
What is the alternative to planning work every once in a while?
Instead, long-term planning should take place whenever it is possible to plan some work to some degree of certainty - and it also applies to draft allocations and tentative projects. By doing so, executives can:
- provide all the other managers with up-to-date information on people’s availability,
- see the availability of people they would like to include in new projects and react to their absences,
- test out different scenarios for projects and allocations and choose the best ones for their business,
- alter sales pipeline to the changes in utilization forecasts,
- see opportunities and risks for planned and prospective projects.
3. Demand planning based on roles only
Long-term planning is not only about time - it is also about money the time generates. It is also an ingredient of the most important expense in the IT industry: the wages that make up the majority of spendings in project budget.
But what if the wages are much greater than expected?
Why you should plan people instead of roles - example
That usually happens when a company plans a project using average wages for required positions. For example, if a project requires 3 developers working for 160 hours each, and an average wage for a such specialist is $30 per hour, the COO expects to spend:
3 * 160 * 30 = $14 400
on the operation. Therefore, he decides to sell the service for $25 000, with 42% profit margin.
However, if only more expensive specialists are available, the COO might be left with a much smaller profit margin than expected. For example, if the costs of the available employees will be on average $45 per hour, the wages alone will cost:
3 * 160 * 45 = $21 600
and they will consume majority of profits, bringing the profit margin down to less than 14%.
However, this situation could easily be avoided - if you assign individual specialists with specified, known wages to the project, the problem will be nonexistent. Planning based on average data or assumptions is simply not a good option here!
Do I need to calculate these values every time?
Fortunately, you do not have to resort to Excel spreadsheets to calculate all these values. Some advanced resource management tools, such as Primetric, can offer you the information right away in specialist’s profile. They can also calculate the costs of the entire allocation on the colorful allocation bar - just like shown below!
4. Planning before hiring the right people
Long-term planning based on wishful thinking is one of many problems managers can face. In some cases, they make an even greater error by assigning projects to people that have not yet joined the company - and they may put the whole project at risk by doing so…
Let’s face it: the IT industry is well-known for its flexibility. A candidate that has amazed you during an interview may not reciprocate your enthusiasm towards your company; even if he did, he might receive an even better offer from the competition. He might even decide to change his career path altogether. All these situations have the very same result: your project is left without a key employee.
But how to solve that problem? There is just one thing you can do to avoid that situation: only allocate people who are sure to be available when the project starts.
5. Inability to assign a desired person to a project
You are planning a new project, and you already have a perfect candidate for a senior specialist that would play a key role in the operation. You enthusiastically assign them to their new responsibilities…
…just to find out that they are already more than busy.
Unfortunately, such schedule conflicts are bound to happen - unless you know the exact capacity of your employees. We talked about calculating it in our article about capacity planning!
If you are already familiar with this topic, you probably know that it can also be automated. For example, in Primetric’s profiles you can see the exact utilization of employees and their availability (red bar). However, if you miss that information, the system will also inform you about any overlapping assignments, making it impossible to make a mistake.
What should long-term planning look like?
We have discussed the most common mistakes in long-term resource planning. But what should such a plan look like to be beneficial for your organization?
Primetric has the answer to that question.
People and project plan in Primetric
Primetric offers managers two perspectives they can use to oversee their allocations: project and people calendar.
By choosing the long-term planning for your specialists, you will see:
- person’s details, such as position, seniority, department, and - more importantly - scheduled utilization for a chosen period,
- allocations planned for each of your employees, with each project marked with a different color, and their phases specified on a darker bar. This field also includes the exact number of hours the employee should spend working on this project, along with the hours they already did worked on it, and the information on the costs of work.
- their time offs and absences (striped white and gray bar), indicating their availability,
- their reserved time in white bars (on the left).
Importantly, each of the allocations shown can be changed immediately either by dragging and dropping the bar or by clicking on it for more details. You can also create a new allocation by clicking on the space in each person’s section.
If you are more interested in seeing all the allocations to a certain project, you can also use project calendar to only see the people assigned to a given operation - just like shown below.
Do you want to become a master of resource planning?
Start with other resources from our blog! We recommend you to read about:
- resource planning in JIRA,
- creating a resource management plan,
- project scheduling software,
- planning and managing capacity,
- workload management process.
And, if you feel like you just need a tool that could handle the project from start to finish, simply book a demo with our advisors or start a trial with Primetric right now!