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Recommended Resource Planning and Assignment Horizons

Summary

Resource assignment can take on several forms, depending on several variables. Typically, immediate future tasks should be assigned to a named resource while tasks further out should be assigned to a team, role, or skill. In any case, a long-range resource plan, combined with medium-to-short term resource planning, is essential to ensuring that the right resources are available when they are needed. This best practice examines proper methods and planning horizons for long-range resource planning and medium-to-short term resource assignments.

Planview recommends the development and deployment of a standard planning horizon for project work. This includes defining which resource roles are involved in each stage of the horizon and the purpose for each phase of the horizon. Generally, the planning horizon should be defined as a sliding time frame of one year. The premise of the sliding horizon is that resource assignments are very firm in the near future and become less firm as time moves out into the next 6 to 12 months.

It is also useful to clarify the difference between capacity planning and resource management. Capacity planning is the act of assessing available resource capacity when planning the start dates for proposed investments (e.g., projects). It does not include requesting or assigning resources, merely assessing available capacity in order to schedule the work items in the portfolio around available capacity (generally at a role or skill level).

In contrast, resource management (and specifically resource assignments), involves:

  • Requesting resources by role or skill well in advance (i.e., requirements).
  • Resource managers filling those requests with named resources, perhaps initially at a phase level and with more granularity when more is known (i.e., reserves).
  • Project managers either hard-booking those resources to specific tasks as time approaches (i.e., allocations) and having those assigned tasks appear on the resources' timesheets with estimated times -- or simply authorizing the resources at a high level to enter time as needed (i.e., authorizations). With the latter, the tasks will not automatically appear on the timesheets with estimates, nor will the resource be able to revise the estimate. Also, authorizations do not decrement availability (though reserves will, if combined with the authorizations). For more on how to decide whether to use allocations or authorizations, see the best practice Moving from Authorizations to Allocations.

Now let's look at some guidelines for recommended planning horizons for each phase.

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