Project proposals come to the PMO in many ways: as a phone call, text message, email, or initiated on the project server. In all cases, the governance for capturing resource estimate needs to be defined, published, and followed. Streamlining the resource demand process will make estimating demand easier and more manageable. Project server provides several ways to capture resource demand, each with its own merits and complexities. Let us take a look at the following methods:
Hybrid: Project Schedule using Proposal task line.
The resource plan works well when estimating resource skills, timeframes, and the number of hours for a proposal. The resource estimates are stored in tables within the project server database and not included in the project schedule. The resource plan represents a high order estimate, and is created by an experienced project or resource manager. Other costs are captured in the project detail pages but they are not in the resource plan itself. In my personal experience, I haven’t seen them in use – however it’s a great tool for gathering and storing resource estimates and determining if resource as available in the future.
Let’s take a quick look at the resource plan above. This resource plan is an estimate for a small software development project. We can quickly observe several things: (1) even a small project can easily take six months and about two thousand hours to complete, (2) many other roles are required to help with this project, and (3) many of these people are already working a full day in supporting their function.
The resource plan provides the organization a relatively easy, top-down approach to estimating how much resource demand may be required for future projects. It is also important to remember that in a resource plan, the scope, deliverables, and costs are not considered in proposal stage and project selection.
In contrast to a resource plan, a more bottom-up approach is forecasting resource load using a project schedule. This approach captures the general overhead required for planning much more easily. You can also assume a high-level scope before detail requirements determined. In the software development project schedule below, we can easily see that the planning effort and getting the project approved can quickly push the cost of small project into six months and two thousand hours of effort.
A project schedule offers a more accurate estimate than the resource plan simply because it uses more details and fact lessons learned to create a project template with general estimates. You can use more or less detail to modify the schedule.
Although the planning phase has been collapsed in the example above in order to keep the diagram short, you can still see that roughly 320 hours are used in this phase. You can also notice that the deliverable called “Project Management” has included general work effort for all those little things that PMO, project managers, and team members do that may not be specifically for one deliverable.
Hybrid: Project Schedule using Proposal task line
The final method that can be used is a hybrid between the resource plan and the project schedule. This project template removes all of the generic resources from tasks and features only one single task line on the top for forecasting resources. The task labeled “Resource Load and Cost Work Area” is a placeholder for adding the generic resources. The hybrid works much like the resource plan; the PMO analyst adds generic resources to task along with an estimate on work effort. However, the hybrid also allows you to include additional fixed costs to the task line. This provides more details about costs than the resource plan, and it may be easier for project and resource managers to understand. Project and resource managers are typically more comfortable with project schedules than resource plans.
Once a proposal is approved and a project manager has been assigned, the project manager will move hours out of the “Resource Load and Cost Work Area” task and into the tasks in the template. Once all of the hours are moved into the project plan, the “Resource load and Cost Work Area” can be deleted because it is no longer needed.
The example above shows the resource load for each generic on the task line 1. There are many other ways the load can be planned. For example, the resource load could be loaded using the Resource Usage or Task Usage view.
One other note is that creating a task on the top line in a project schedule can be either manual or automatic. I prefer the manual option, because it’s still in planning and a dynamic schedule task isn’t need at this point. The purpose of the temporary proposal task is to simply create a place holder to assign resources to and to maintain fixed or proposal costs.
In summary, the PMO governance needs to define a strategy for estimating the resource workload. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages, but the best way to determine what is best for your organization is to try each one and then decide as a group. After all, it’s the PMO governance decision that provides the organization direction and efficiency.