Project Managers are in essence, multi-tasking champions - it’s just what we do. We’re assigned to a minimum of 4 projects with the sole purpose of keeping clients happy while managing all stakeholder(s) expectations, budgets, project plans, teams, and the calendars of all personnel assigned to said projects. Not to mention, the biggest challenge, the ever changing resource allocation - CRINGE.
To provide some context, Trajectory Inc., a NetSuite ERP Implementation Shop, currently uses Wrike as it’s Project Management Tool. Every single project is managed and collaborated on within Wrike for full customer transparency and seamless team management. Given that all of the data within Wrike is what you would need to effectively allocate resources, we wanted to move away from other tools such as Excel as much as possible. Afterall, what’s the point of doing redundant work?
How the Workload Feature in Wrike Works
The main feature for resource allocation within Wrike is the “Workload” Tab; a Gantt Chart which pulls all tasks for sub projects/folders that have a date and assignee. The Gantt chart groups the tasks by assignee and displays them in a semi-neat way. However, when you have a project with say...300+ tasks, the level of granularity will make it impossible to manage for the purpose of resource allocation.
After months of pain using excel to allocate resources, SIGH, we were able to put some time toward figuring out if Wrike’s “Workload Tab” AND it’s new “Custom Fields” functionality could be molded into what we required.
The END result?- WE DID IT!
- Core Problem of Stock Workload functionality: any task that is assigned to a resource is pulled into the workload view. The view would then show employees being assigned to 20+ tasks per week, making any resource meeting ineffective.
- Solution: Allocate Resources to Task Groups, and, create a Custom Field for all project tasks which identifies whether or not the task should show up in the Resource Allocation view :)
Purpose of Resource Allocation & Resourcing Meetings
But before I get into the solution, let’s set the baseline on what we consider to be important for Resource Allocation. Most business/blog posts provide vague or generic responses as high level solutions/answers without the detail to execute. These posts often recommend the following:
- Do not over-allocate
- Use the right tools
- Don’t lose sight of the big picture
Remember that you are allocating resources, of which, are 99% of the time people. Different people work at different paces and have different working habits. Being too granular and allocating resources based on business hours in a given week will often be counterproductive. You’ll constantly be reallocating or moving timelines due to incorrect estimations. Who would have time for that?
Whether it’s a small to mid sized company who’s having weekly resource allocation meetings or a product/department manager in a bigger company allocating employees to Website Builds or ERP projects (NetSuite in our case), it’s our team’s experience that resource allocation should be done at a high level for effective project & resource decision making. In order to do that, we have created a set of rules:
- Identify Active, medium & large projects and staff accordingly
- Identify high profile projects that must be staffed
- Identify critical task groups for the next 2 weeks and allocate resources
- Internal/support work and incoming/immediate future work also need to be accounted for in order to reflect resource allocation
- these employees will be assigned to smaller initiatives which can be put on hold at any given moment so that they can support the completion of critical tasks
So what does this mean? Well in our shop, within Wrike, you would have a typical project plan consisting of at least 30 parent tasks and each parent task consisting of roughly 5-15 subtasks (yes, it’s a big range). Each parent task having several iterations of:
- Inputs: be it data from the client and/or giving context to the task assignee
- Processing: configuration/design/development/testing
- Outputs: product/feature/configuration/demo/UAT
Logic of task granularity
What’s really important is to identify all the resources required to complete a parent task of active, medium & large projects. It’s not overly important to review the subtasks because completing the parent task involves completing all of it’s respective subtasks. We would first identify the total duration (number of days) of the parent task and the team who’s responsible for delivering. For example; it’s monday morning and we could have a parent task labeled as “NetSuite Order Management - Demo & Acceptance” due on friday.
- For this task, 5 subtasks are created:
- Demo Prep
- Configuration Walkthrough
- Demo Feedback
- Configuration Revision
- Acceptance (Milestone)
If the typical Demo and Acceptance / UAT Cycle takes 5 days to complete and requires 3 resources working at 50% of their capacity, we would then know that they can be assigned to other parent tasks as well. Each Project Manager should prep and understand the complexity of the work and have a realistic timeline in mind by discussing with technical team leads prior to allocating resources.
How to Make it happen via Wrike’s Resource Allocation Feature
So we know what we’re looking for (manageable, flexible, and realistic resource allocation) but how do we make this happen in Wrike? RULES! If you introduce rules for Wrike and it’s usage for the team, you will have the visibility you need to allocate effectively. Here are our resource allocation rules that work like magic:
- Any grouping of tasks with a total duration of 10 business days or less should have a Parent Task. You’ll notice that most of your work is repetitive in process, whether it’s Logo Design, Website Launches, Mobile App Builds or NetSuite ERP Implementation...you should be creating logical groupings of tasks to prevent granularity.
- You can have multiple people assigned to the Parent Task, in fact, everyone involved in all subtasks should be included in the Parent task. The reason for this is to have full visibility into who is doing the work and when.
- In your weekly/bi-weekly resource allocation meetings (really hope you’re having those), only look at the current and following week tasks (unless you’re a Jedi and can predict priorities 10 weeks out)
- Create a new custom field at the project level - it should be a dropdown list with 3 entries:
- Active Projects
- Support or Internal Projects
- Incoming Projects
Once these rules are implemented, go to the “Table” tab and tag the important parent tasks as “Active Projects” within the newly created custom field. Finally, make your way to the “Workload” tab of Wrike and filter (using the filter icon) for the parent tasks by using your custom field. You should now see all parent tasks and who they are assigned to. The best part is, you can reallocate on the spot by simply clicking on the parent task!
Keep in mind that If a more granular approach is required, you can always assign “Support or Internal Projects” and/or “Incoming Projects” to other tasks via the “table” tab of Wrike and have the same visibility on these custom field categories as you would with “Active Projects” via the “Workload” tab.
If you have any questions and/or simply want to share your thoughts, I’d love to hear from you via the comments down below.
Best of luck,
Trajectory, Inc. NetSuite ERP Consultants