The classic comedy sketch “Who’s on First?” by Abbott and Costello may hit a little too close to home for those tasked with IT resource management. With a history of operating on a “first-in, first-out” basis for support and development requests, it can seem nearly impossible to gain clear visibility on who’s on what project, when they’ll be finished and how much capacity remains untapped—much less earmark time and talent for ad-hoc projects or innovation.
If this sounds like your IT organization, you’re not alone. A recent report by Gartner (News - Alert) found that 60% of businesses surveyed were not taking effective measures for IT capacity planning and tracking. Only slightly more than one-third of the organizations had even general workforce visibility policies in place. Clearly, there’s a widespread need for better resource management across IT departments.
The good news? By taking a few proactive steps, you can boost transparency, efficiency and alignment of your IT resources with key business goals. See if you recognize any of these common resource management headaches—then get ready to solve them.
Overwhelming Requests for IT Resources
Most IT departments are juggling a high volume of requests for support from all facets of the business. From customer insights, to security crises, to long-term overhauls of legacy systems, ad hoc is the new status quo all too often. In addition, the lack of visibility of current projects and the resources dedicated to them result in costly backlogs, as initiatives take longer than expected while new requests pile up.
The solution? Start with a brutally honest inventory of your projects and resources as they stand now. Whether it’s as simple as a spreadsheet or as seamless as a cloud-based resource management system, it’s critical to get transparency on “who’s on first” today.
Identify the number of resources you have according to common job types. Be sure to account for multi-talented employees who are often in-demand on a variety of teams; these popular players can contribute to schedule problems when they’re stretched too thin.
Finally, while it sounds simple, list all current and projected projects for the next six months and connect them to resources according to skill and availability. Have an honest sense of who’s on first—and possibly where your holes in the lineup might be? Good. Now you can more proactively manage expectations around resource capacity.
Overestimating Resource Capacity
Who doesn’t want to come to the rescue when leadership taps IT to reinvigorate product lines or realize savings through simplification (which will actually require significant time to execute)? The reasons for overestimating capacity—and overpromising resources—are many, but fortunately a few are easy to address.
First, supervisors often assume that all of resources’ work time is available to be allocated to projects. Not so; administrative tasks, like filling out timesheets and responding to emails; attending virtual and in-person meetings; and even taking holidays, vacations and other scheduled time off all eat into resources’ true capacity. You may come up with an equation for an average number of hours per week that your resources are truly available, based on your company’s work environment and teams’ track records.
Second, managers also can fail to factor in how much productivity is lost in constantly switching between tasks. One Gartner study shows that when employees have to drop one project to focus on a new task, they lose anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours of productivity. When you think an employee is free to hop off of one project and immediately pitch in on another, that miscalculation can lead to an overinflated sense of resource capacity.
Instead, consider the complexity of tasks when planning resources and identifying who can make quick switches and who will require more time to shift gears. Keeping track of actual productivity on particular tasks and projects over time will reveal which initiatives require the focus of several hours at a time and which can be easily picked up during downtime.
Solutions that provide both business and IT leaders with clear visibility into how and where resources are being utilized can save IT executives time when rationalizing project schedules or building cases for investment in infrastructure, solutions or additional resources.
Ultimately, solving resource management headaches has downstream benefits for IT’s relationships with departments and leaders throughout the business. With greater transparency into the volume, prioritization and progress of IT projects, stakeholders from the executive suite to finance to marketing to H.R. become partners in ensuring that IT has the enterprise solutions—and talented resources—needed to make both top-priority projects and always-needed ongoing support a dependable reality.
Kevin Kern serves as Innotas' President and CEO, leveraging his 20 years of operational experience with high-growth software companies. Prior CEO, Kevin was Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Innotas and was instrumental to its continued growth, significantly expanding both the account base and company revenues during his tenure. Innotas is a leading provider of Cloud Portfolio Management solutions.