One of the key problems in product development is not having enough resources. Usually this means not having enough manpower to do all the projects on the list, leading to delays. The current ‘solution’ is for management to shout louder, exhort everyone to work harder and bang the table. Unsurprisingly, this is not very effective, because it does not address the root cause of the problem.
Another ‘solution’ is for management to insist on one pet project getting priority. This works for a while for that project, by people doing just that and robbing resources from every other project to feed the ‘pet’. Of course at the next meeting it is noticed that other projects are now slipping even more and a new ‘pet’ becomes flavour of the month – If a pet can be flavour of the month, but you know what I mean.
And so the cycle of changing priorities continues, with ultimately all projects running late, in an uncontrolled fashion and a demoralised workforce, whose mantra is ‘I wish they would make up their mind’, or perhaps more likely, ‘That lot could not organise a piss-up in a brewery’, because chaos reigns.
The solution is simple – to assess the resources that each project needs and when, to add them all up over time, compare them with the available resources and then decide an action plan to deal with the overloads. This might be setting priorities, i.e. deliberately delaying less important projects or tasks within projects, recruiting more staff in key areas, getting contractors in, outsourcing some activities, or cancelling some projects etc. The choice is yours.
Some projects will still not meet their original release date (especially if they have been cancelled!), but now your are dealing with planned delays, rather than unplanned ones, which means you are organised rather than disorganised and order, rather than chaos, reigns.
If you do this down to a sufficient level of resolution, e.g. to department level, or skill level, you may find that the problem comes down to 2 or 3 bottlenecks where most of the hold-ups occur. This means that in fact it is probably an easier problem to deal with than you thought, as you can focus just on those key areas. Of course when you have dealt with those, other bottlenecks will become apparent, which will then have to be dealt with.
If the problem is in specific areas then the best solution is usually to reinforce those areas, either temporarily or permanently. If the problem is more general, then the best solution is to cancel some projects, to allow the ‘good’ ones breathing space. As Steve Jobs said “It’s saying no to a 1000 things to allow you to focus on the really important ones”. In your case, perhaps it is saying no to only a few things, rather than 1000.
So the key is:-
- Do Resource Planning at a sufficiently detailed level to see the bottlenecks
- Remove those bottlenecks, by reinforcing them
- Cancel some projects completely to give space for the good ones.
- Prioritise the remaining projects
This may take some time and effort the first time that you do it, but then as each new project comes along it becomes relatively easy to see whether it will fit in from a resource point of view.
It does not matter how you do it; Excel, MS Project, or a more sophisticated tool. The key is that you make a start and do it somehow.
For further information or to discuss how we may be able to advise you with regard to your specific problems, please contact us, and we will do our best to help.