Resource Management (Part 1)

At Barrel, the process of staffing new projects and ensuring our team has an appropriate workload has been a shared responsibility by our Project Management team, Client Services team and discipline leads. While we have made decisions and moved things along over the years, we've struggled with being able to kick off projects quickly enough, having too much workload on team members at times, and also over-hiring when things felt intense.

History and Challenges

We've gone through various iterations of our process - we've dabbled in spreadsheets, the project schedule/gantt chart platform, Smartsheet, and most recently have been using Forecast, a platform integrated with our time tracking software, Harvest. Each platform has had it's own pros and cons, but we found that many of our challenges stemmed from the de-centralized nature of staffing. Here's a highlight of what were our recurring complaints:

  • Changing schedules - Shifting project schedules resulted in overlapping allocations on team members. With many people on our team updating data in Forecast, it wasn't clear which projects were changing and causing a team member's allocation to increase or decrease.
  • Budget impacts - Our team members' allocations on a project were getting increased and extended as a project timelines were extended. We didn't have a clear review process and understanding of impact of increase in timeline/resourcing to a project budget.
  • Data integrity - With variability in how often schedules were getting updated, we had challenges with accuracy of our data. A lack of clarity on internal capacity led to hiring contractors to fill new projects.
We use Harvest Forecast to map out project allocations on our team

Formalizing Resource Management

After many years of discussion, we recently brought on an experienced Senior Resource Manager named Cat to help own these activities and formally create a Resource Management discipline at Barrel. Cat's goal in her role is to ensure that team members have an appropriate amount of work and be a partner to Business Development/Client Services to get projects staffed profitably. Beyond the day-to-day resourcing activities of managing the inflow of new project requests and changes and keeping Forecast up-to-date, the outcomes we set for this role include:

  • Signing any projects should not be limited by resourcing - Through our contractor relationships, we can scale our team on-demand to support any new requests from an existing account or new business win. It will be possible to fill ad-hoc requests without straining the team.
  • Our full-time team has a full workload - A core part of this role is matching our projects and the billable utilization targets for each team member. This means that a team member doesn't have too much work or too little work and we scale up/down contractors as necessary.
  • People are working on projects that excite them and are helping them grow - As part of understanding the team's capabilities and goals, Cat is in a unique position to match projects to people's interests and goals.
  • Align on metrics for success in resourcing - We've been refining the metrics of resourcing including numbers such as past utilization, expected vs actual utilization, and future capacity.

In a short period of time, Cat has been able to clean up our historical project data and get a handle on key metrics. It's been refreshing to have someone in a dedicated role examining out project staffing and having a clear outlook on our future capacity. She's been partnering closely with our Business Development and Client Services teams to understand what projects are in the pipeline and with our Talent Acquisition Manager in understanding which candidates we're planning on bringing on our team.

I'll dive deeper into the metrics of resourcing in Part 2 of this series.