From the introduction of Gantt charts in the 1900s, CPM (Critical Path Method) in the 1950s, Waterfall techniques in the 1960s, to the Agile revolution of the late 1990s- efficient use of resources has been a standard component of all the most significant advances in project management.
Resource management itself has gone through several phases of transformation and is now nothing close to what it used to be a couple of decades ago. From increasing competition, thinning margins, to improving technologies, several factors have contributed to making resource management a highly dynamic and responsive process.
Here is a list of some of the most significant changes that resource management has witnessed in the last 20 years.
The Waterfall techniques developed in the 1960s gave the idea of a project execution process that we now know as WBS (Work Breakdown Structure). Established by the Project Management Institute in 1987, it is known as one of the most critical milestones in project management.
The WBS technique divides complex and extensive projects into smaller tasks. Accurate project organization, improved resource allocation, and better estimation of time and budget- have contributed to making WBS a popular resource management strategy in the last couple of decades.
There are now improved versions of WBS where the tasks are further divided into smaller chunks and then micro-managed.
Manual resource planning, with the help of traditional tools like spreadsheets, was always cumbersome and highly prone to errors. Resource scheduling tools were first introduced in the early 2000s and are now very commonly used across industries. Over time, these solutions have improved by leaps and bounds and have made resource management more effective.
For instance, some popular resource scheduling softwares eResource Scheduler, Harvest, Team Deck have a simple drag-and-drop interface for hassle-free resource allocations. It provides a centralized pool of all the projects and resources to allow project managers to make smart decisions.
Such scheduling solutions are growing in popularity, especially among larger organizations working on multiple projects.
One of the most vital responsibilities of modern-day human resource managers is to ensure that the employees have an excellent work-life balance.
Work-from-home, limited working hours, increased vacation time, maternity/paternity leave, etc. -are different tactics aimed to help employees live a rewarding personal life.
Parallelly, businesses across industries are struggling due to competition and most countries do not have a highly impressive financial outlook.
This complexity has made resource allocation very challenging for project managers.
They now need to be prepared for unexpected unavailability of human resources. Further, they are now required to have robust reallocation strategies which can be implemented if the need arises.
The increasing popularity of project management techniques like WBS has also made skill hyperspecialization a talking point, especially in the services delivery industry. As the projects are broken down into smaller assignments, individuals with unique expertise in such tasks are in demand.
Several organizations now look for individuals to have skills and expertise that is different from the requirements of the past. But this can be a complex issue with organizations that have slim margins and idle human resources on the bench. At the same time, overlooking this trend could mean losing out on highly profitable business opportunities.
This dilemma has resulted in the creation of specialized resource management strategies where project managers can independently tap into their trusted networks. This method is flexible and scalability and leads to considerable improvement in the margins.
An increasing number of organizations now hire part-time employees and freelancers to tap into the growing popularity of hyperspecialization. But while this might help improve the margins of a business, it can result in some difficulties for project managers and their resource management plans.
The irregular working hours and contribution of part-time workers and freelancers make managing them a complex task for the project managers. Establishing strict ground rules, thoroughly understanding their role and schedule, and maintaining an optimal workload can help in better management of freelancers.
Finding ways to track their workload effectively is crucial as they are not physically present in the office.
With organizations always looking for innovative ways in which they can improve resource management, developments like the ones discussed above are expected to continue in the future too. The project managers must stay on top of the latest trends and make more use of modern technologies and management solutions.
To keep up with the changing resource management requirements, more and more organizations, including SMBs, now rely on resource scheduling solutions. These solutions help managers plan their resource management in a simple yet effective manner.
The instant visibility across projects and resources helps with reallocation and ensures that all organization's resources utilization is optimal.