Efficient project management is about a lot of things: excellent communication, solid estimation skills, otherworldly planning techniques, reasonable risk-reward balance, effectively wearing many hats, strategic risk assessment, quality quality assurance (pun intended), effective resource allocation, insightful analysis and assessment, keeping a positive attitude, maintaining proper client communication and a whole library of other stuff that I can list here till hell freezes over twice.
Well, as much as the list can go on and on, there is one more technique that is very important for project success, regardless of its type. As you might have already guessed, its resource tracking.
What is resource tracking?
Resource tracking is a type of analysis that is performed to understand how well you are utilizing your resources. And by how well, I mean like how well exactly, not just a rough estimate.
For example understanding how many team members need to work on a particular task and how much time they need to do complete it, can help you plan projects more efficiently and increase your capacity, so that you can handle more projects in the same amount of time.
Usually, project managers have 3 types of resources in their arsenal to tackle all kinds of projects, big and small, easy and complex, alienated and used for discovering new life in our galaxy (or whatever else pops into your imagination):
- Human resources
These three categories can have an infinite amount of breakdowns that can form a gigantic spider web under themselves that will make even Spider-Man jealous. However, the thing is that controlling, or rather trying to control (since that will be absolutely damn useless and impossible to do) every tiny breakdown and task will result in nothing but frustration. Its most useful to try and track the BIG three core resources as a whole.
Resource tracking vs micromanagement
Its important not to confuse resource tracking with micromanagement, cause these two are pretty close and its easy to make a smooth, unintended transition from resource tracking to being the most hateful person in the universe for your team members.
So by definition, micromanagement is a management style that closely controls and observes the work of team members.
In reality though, a micromanager is this psycho who watches everything you do, every minute of every day and is looking for the slightest chance to turn your life into a most miserable experience that you wouldnt wish to your worst enemy.
This is what you DONT want to happen. Resource tracking is aimed to understand and boost your companys and teams performance, not make them quit their jobs.
Whats so great about resource tracking?
While resource tracking needs some time to become really effective, when you gather a substantial amount of data, you can improve a number of aspects that will help boost the success rate (and decrease failure rate by the way) of your projects.
- Evaluating team members Now Im not suggesting to become a tyrant and fire any team member that doesnt perform well (although sadly, that might happen occasionally). Team member evaluation is important for project managers, CEOs and team members themselves. Understanding the growth patterns of different people can be useful data if you want to calculate your hiring ROI, offer bonuses to good performing employees, increase their motivation in some way or offer career advancement opportunities.
Similarly, knowing why the work of any team member is suffering or why a person takes more time to complete a task than is needed on average, will hint that there is probably some kind of a problem. You can then approach that particular person to help solve the problem or acknowledge that you are aware of something going in and understand your further steps.
- Increase planning effectiveness Some projects require a short amount of time to complete, but some of them (especially those involving routine work) can go on for years. By figuring out the exact time, budget and the number of people needed for certain tasks, you can plan such kind of projects for months and years ahead, while knowing that it wont affect any future projects.
- Artificially increase capacity Lets be real. Most project managers plan stuff according to estimates, not exact dates or numbers. While you could argue that certain types of projects cannot be planned into the future with 100% precision (and you would be true by the way), there are dozens of tasks that are common for most projects that you manage and require the exact same activities to be completed. Knowing how much time you need for those can help get rid of estimation errors and even squeeze in another small project, which will result in more revenue and profit.
- Improve client communication Clients are people that love precision in everything. When you know how much time your team needs to complete a certain number of tasks, you can be more precise in your communication with clients. For example, instead of saying that a project would take three months to deliver, you could say that the project will be ready in two months and 20 days. This kind of communication will not only add authority points to your company, but also leave less room for potential errors.
They say knowledge is power, and I couldnt agree more. The more you know about anything at all, the more ways you can find to exploit that knowledge to your advantage. Resource tracking is one of those techniques that, when mastered, can help you extract more benefits from the same source or, in other words, get more done using the same resources.
Pretty damn good, dont you agree?