Why is project resource allocation such a common problem?

I’m not sure about you, but it seems like one of the most common challenges that I’ve seen in organizations is how to address the scarcity of resources and the insatiable demand for project work.  Of course, this is one of the core challenges that HP PPM is designed to help solve.   With robust portfolio planning tools and a comprehensive resource management capability, HP PPM can help organizations address the core problems of resource allocation (or perhaps better stated – over allocation).

But, in a recent blog post over at the Eight to Late blog, Kailash Awati reviews and summarizes a research study into this interesting and ubiquitous problem.  “The resource allocation syndrome: the prime challenge of multi-project management”  While the study doesn’t propose a solution (sorry about that), it attempts to examine why this problem is so common.   I’ll let you read the Eight to Late blog for the details.

There is one quote from The resource allocation syndrome: the prime challenge of multi-project management” study that I want to share is where they cited an approach to portfolio planning that was a great visual –

“ Clark and Wheelwright [26] call it the ‘‘canary cage approach’’ to portfolio planning, i.e. that new canaries (projects) are thrown into the cage without any analysis of the effects of the other canaries already in the cage.”

I took a look at the book “Revolutionizing Product Development” on google books, and on page 90, they describe the canary cage approach in more detail.  Just keep adding canaries to the cage and let them compete to stay alive.. 

Does that sound familiar?  
It does for me.   I remember an executive who once said “… we can’t prioritize these projects, they are all top priority.  Don’t you understand how complex our business is?”     Hogwash.

It’s important to have leadership decide what the highest priority work items are. The energy and time spent on trivial projects fighting it out for resources is unproductive, demoralizing and huge waste of the organization’s resources.  Just imagine how much they could get done under real leadership.

This is not a problem that a tool alone can solve.  It takes leadership, organizational change AND the right tools to solve the problem.   If you have a resource availability syndrome problem, you probably need help.  Look at leadership, culture, incentives and tools.  

Resource Mgt Portlet - AAL.png

HP PPM has the ability to help you bring the resource management challenges into control.   It can:

–       Track resource capacity and utilization for project and non project work

–       Forecast capacity

–       Identify resources who are the best fit based on skill, availability, role etc.

–       Optimize the portfolio around constrained resources (delaying 

Portfolio Capacity Planning.png

projects, not starting projects etc) so that you don’t have too many canaries in the cage.

–       Help you manage external and internal resources

I could go on, but I hope you get the point.   “Resource Allocation Syndrome”  is a real problem, one that HP PPM can help solve, but there is no one silver bullet.


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Ref: Clark KB, Wheelwright S. Revolutionizing product development: quantum leaps in speed, efficiency, and quality. New York: The Free Press; 1992.

Article source: HP PPM Blog

One Response

  1. Ganttic Sunday,7.April.2013

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