Resource management is an abstract skillset used by a variety of different positions and business leaders. For example, entrepreneurs need to manage both investment capital and human resources wisely if they want to succeed, and project managers need to keep their employees, contractors, vendors, and budgets in order if they want the client to be satisfied. Few positions require resource management quite as much as project portfolio management (PPM), however, as project portfolio managers need to think about resources on every level, from high-level enterprise planning to the individual workers executing tasks to accomplish the vision.
Unfortunately, newcomers to PPM (and most positions that require some degree of resource management) often make mistakes that hinder their success and growth.
Most Common Resource Management Mistakes
These are some of the most common resource management mistakes made—especially by newbies:
- Assuming too much. Resource management depends on knowledge. You need to know how much of a certain resource you have, how much of a resource a project needs, and dozens of other variables. You won’t always have direct access to all this data at once, but you should spend some time gathering as much information as you can before proceeding. Unfortunately, many newcomers end up making snap judgments and assumptions, which don’t always reflect reality. Try to be as objective as possible when making decisions.
- Failing to communicate expectations. If you want your resource management plan to work, the parties involved need to have a clear understanding of what you expect from them. If you fail to communicate those expectations early on, they may make assumptions of their own, potentially deviating from the course you imagined and ruining your chances of a successful project. If you’re in doubt about how something could be interpreted and/or executed, clarify it with a proactive message.
- Over- or under-estimating time. There are two quantitative estimates you’ll need to make in resource management: time and money. Most of us aren’t very good at estimating how long it takes to do something, and we’re even worse at estimating how long it takes other people to do it. The end result is we usually over-estimate time (leading to mismanaged priorities and resources), or under-estimate it (leading to missed deadlines and insufficient resources). Both are bad, but it’s usually better to err on the side of over-estimating.
- Failing to accurately estimate costs. Costs can be sneaky, especially if you’re inexperienced. Your initial cost outlines will likely account for all the major costs associated with a project, but may neglect to consider unexpected changes, surprises, and emergencies. If you can’t accurately estimate the costs, you can’t hope to stay within a budget. Again, it’s better to over-estimate than under-estimate here.
- Choosing the wrong sub-managers. As a PPM, you won’t be managing the day-to-day tasks responsible for shaping the execution of your top projects; instead, you’ll be selecting the managers responsible for that level of supervision. Accordingly, your choices of supervisors and managers are the most important choices you’ll make—and too many newcomers fail to assess just how important they are.
- Having no clear system of prioritization. You’ll also need to have a clear system of prioritization in place; otherwise, every decision you make will be based on a different set of standards, and you’ll never learn which decision-making rubrics are best to rely on. Try to be consistent in your evaluations, at least during your first several months.
- Repeating what you’ve done in the past. Our method of learning anything relies on a system of positive reinforcement; if you do something, and it works, then you should probably do it again to see the same result. However, using the same attitude and the same decision making rubrics for each project in your portfolio can be devastating. Each project is unique, and requires a slightly different frame of reference. Sometimes, it pays to take some time off, or otherwise “zoom out” so you can get a fresh perspective.
Overcoming These Limitations
Resource management becomes far less elusive when you realize how much of a numbers game it is. With the right equations in place, and a few years of experience under your belt, you’ll start to see the big picture much more clearly—and you might even develop a kind of intuition for determining the best course of action. Until you develop that experience organically, rely on your knowledge of these common mistakes to avoid them at all costs.