Project and resource management in service organizations – anarchy versus bureaucracy!


Service organizations that make a living out of doing projects and invoicing hours often tend to find Microsoft Project Server very attractive. This is due to the fact that it provides a complete tool for Project Managers doing project- and resource management as well as Project Team-Members being able to register time spent on their personal activities and thereby providing both invoicing details as well as the actual progress of the tasks. However, as perfect as this may sound, reality is that these organizations rarely get what they expect out of implementing the solution – and why is that?

One of the reasons could be that all service organizations have a very simple goal which consists of invoicing as much time as possible or, to put it in other words; having the highest resource utilization possible. To do this a resource booking overview with full flexibility is needed making it possible to quickly move the various tasks around in order for all free timeslots to be booked. For this reason these organizations often use Microsoft Excel spreadsheets with resources on one axis, time on the other axis and customer bookings in the cells. The advantage with this type of tool is that no rules, formulas or other workflow controlled actions are required, as everyone can move the tasks around by simply opening the spreadsheet and edit it. It is of course also very simple to do reporting and get an overview of the actual booking situation, which for the resource managers make it the perfect tool.

However, as customers expect more control in the way their projects are handled, a need for hiring Project Managers is in place for all service organizations. These roles need a tool for planning and doing resource allocations as well as gathering time spent directly from the consultants. They tell this to the general management, who then look into finding an IT solution to do the trick, which they often choose to implement without further thoughts.

So what is the problem? On one hand you have resource managers running the business in total spreadsheet anarchy, without any respect for activity sequences or deadlines. On the other hand you also have Project Managers trying to create and control linked activity plans, resource assignments and change requests in a bureaucratic way like all customers would expect you to do it.

For this reason either the Project Managers or the Resource Managers will be disappointed with the implementation of a shared IT tool regardless of the choice. For instance Microsoft Project Server 2010 provides you with all the functions needed by each user role. The problem with bureaucracy (respect for the customer) versus anarchy (full booking flexibility) still remains to be solved and if not addressed before the actual implementation hits the business, or you are bound to get unsatisfied and unmotivated users.

So to sum it up, service organizations invoicing consultancy hours need to figure out what is most important, and to find an “in-between” solution, which satisfies both the booking managers and the project managers best way possible. Once this is out in the clear you are much closer to a project success where you don’t have to blame your IT tool for not fulfilling your business needs in regards to missing functionality!

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