Resource Management in Agile Environments

Staying on Top of Supply and Demand

Agile Project Management is becoming increasingly popular. But in this dynamic environment it is more important than ever to manage resources.

The days of the Project Manager are past, but long live Project Management! This is, in effect the rallying call of those who advocate agile project management. Everyone is a project manager, planning cycles are shorter and the project is able to evolve and adapt to changing circumstances.

It all sounds highly dynamic and in tune with 21st century thinking, but to be effective, it is more important than ever to fully utilise the resource manager software at your disposal if you want the project to stay on track and avoid sudden and unexpected roadblocks.

What do we mean by agile environments?

The traditional project lifecycle model is one that is familiar to most of us. It goes through a number of stages through planning, approval, scheduling, quality management and so on, till the required output is delivered – ideally, on time and on budget.

This is sometimes referred to as the waterfall method. Everything is planned out in advance under the watchful eye of a project manager. An agile environment involves small, dynamic steps, sometimes known as “sprints.” Each can be considered a discrete event, and the focus is on completing that sprint.

In an agile environment, there is far more scope for flexibility, deploying and redeploying resources as necessary. It is a great way of optimising efficiency, but there are inherent risks in play in that team members have limited visibility of the overriding project. There is also far less predictability.

Managing supply

Managing, predicting and adapting to supply and demand lies at the heart of every resource manager’s job. That is no different in an agile environment, but it is more important than ever to react to changing conditions.

The supply aspect is the easier side of the equation, as this is the resource manager’s “home territory.” An effective resource management system that provides a live and current database of skills and resources is key to success, but it will only be truly effective if it is embraced by all stakeholders. One of the risks in agile environments is that team managers can sometimes play their cards close to their chest. If the resource manager is not kept fully within the loop, the entire allocation system will soon collapse on itself.

Agile, not chaotic

The nature of agile environments is that demand is always difficult to predict. There is always a danger in an agile environment of resource allocation becoming a free-for-all, and a case of “who shouts loudest.” It is down to the resource manager to prevent this from happening. There is a difference between agile and chaotic, and basic project management principles still need to apply. This means everyone working from the same systems and using common language in defining what is needed.

In the days of charts, whiteboards and very basic spreadsheets, managing projects in an agile environment was next to impossible, and led more often to failure than success. Today’s resource management software solutions make anything possible. But always remember that a system is only as effective as the people who use it.

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