December 07, 2022

Portfolio resource management: theory and software

Jerzy Żurawiecki Content Specialist @BigPicture

Availability of resources is one of the defining factors of the organization’s capability to reach objectives. However, using them to their full potential is impossible without proper management. Fortunately, some portfolio resource management processes support the effective verification and allocation of assets.

Read the article to learn about managing the resources of an entire portfolio. Get familiar with the theory and a software solution that helps keep track of assets holistically.

Portfolio resource management – the basics

According to the Project Management Institute, Portfolio resource management includes the processes that allow an organization to effectively assign the appropriate resources (number and skills) to successfully execute the projects in the portfolio.

The processes help organizations allocate resources for ongoing initiatives and forecast the demand for the future. When those two goals are met, businesses have more confidence that there are enough resources to produce deliverables in projects. That, in turn, translates into the completed objectives of the portfolio. Therefore, it’s clear how important this area is.

How to evaluate Portfolio resource management in an organization?

Each business entity has its own approach to resource management. Some compartmentalize resources on a project level, while others consider the perspective of all initiatives.

In project portfolio management, there is a method of evaluating the implementation of resource management processes in an organization. It’s called the Maturity Model. The model consists of five distinct levels.

The image shows five levels of Portfolio Resource Management Maturity in an organization.

The maturity levels mention various processes regarding portfolio resource management. As such, is there a standard that outlines such processes and practices? Unfortunately, unlike portfolio management processes, in the case of resources, there isn’t one.

Every organization handles its resources a little differently. Various departments take part in the decision-making process. Also, businesses have varied internal structures, which makes a standardized approach that much more complicated.

Therefore, the Maturity Model is not about the specific processes. Instead, it investigates whether there are any repeatable resource management processes at all. Furthermore, it answers the question of how widely they are applied across the organization.

Most businesses fail to adopt them completely. It takes time and effort to create, document, and implement a process from scratch. But the consensus is that it’s worth the hassle in the long run.

Common Portfolio resource management challenges

Aligning all resources in a portfolio is not a piece of cake. Even more so when PMOs have to jump through hurdles to make it happen. Let’s take a look at the challenges that obstruct effective portfolio resource management.

Decision-making based on wrong assumptions

In many instances, Project Management Office often believes there are enough resources to go ahead with a set of initiatives. Later, it turns out that the amount of available resources is insufficient. It can also take a reverse turn. Some resources might be under-allocated, leaving unfulfilled deliverables and potential profits.

Inability to plan for future demand

Portfolios often contain long-term programs and projects. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to ascertain the extent of additional resources needed to complete them. Whether it’s hiring more people, approving the appropriate budget, or establishing the correct timeline – it’s a tall order, but an important one. Otherwise, some projects will end up delayed or scrapped altogether.

Overutilization of team members

This problem usually occurs when PMOs don’t consider the workload of employees before further allocation of tasks. After all, certain people might already be assigned to future initiatives. In this scenario, the unfortunate assignees receive too many tasks. It results in a decrease in productivity and the inability to complete all of the planned items.

Inaccurate resource allocation

The availability of people to assign to a project or program is crucial in resource management. However, it’s equally important to allocate the right human resources to the appropriate initiatives. The skills and competencies of assignees must fit the requirements. When PMOs fail to recognize that, the project may not perform to its full potential.

Some of these challenges arise because there is no cohesion in data gathering and access. More specifically, organizations lack a single source of information for all the resources in their portfolio.

There is a solution – BigPicture

Most PPM tools don’t allow their users to manage resources on the portfolio level. This can cause organization-wide problems and hinder successful capacity planning or resource allocation. Fortunately, a handful of tools support portfolio-level management of resources. BigPicture is one of them.

With BigPicture, you can manage all resources from a single place. That includes every project and program located in the portfolio. Think of it as a management command center. Combining resources from all projects and programs allows for more comprehensive and easier allocation and monitoring.

A broad range of information at your fingertips

The screenshot of the Resources module for a portfolio of initiatives in BigPicture.
Resources in BigPicture present workload, capacity, and over or under-allocation.

With the Resources module, you have access to detailed workload and capacity stats of everyone involved in the execution of your portfolio. The data is based on Jira issues and the planning done in BigPicture. Additionally, you can switch views between individuals and teams with a single click. You can even see the capacity of people who share particular skills.

The screenshot of the Resources module showing available capacity and skills of team members.
The Resources module with the skills panel in BigPicture. 

Decision-making support

The Resources module shows each task a given person or team is assigned to, along with the duration and estimated effort needed to complete it. All of that gives an insight into whether the goals of the team are achievable in a given time frame or whether some changes in resource allocation need to be made. Thanks to spotting potential bottlenecks, like critical resource overallocation, you have more information to go on. It can help avoid delays in project delivery or limit cost escalation.

The workload and estimates use color coding. That way, you can quickly spot dates when teams or individuals have too much or not enough on their plates. Moving initiatives around is effortless thanks to in-line editing and drag and drop. All these little things help make informed decisions and act on them faster.

Streamline your portfolio resource management

That’s what valuable PPM software does. Firstly, it serves as a single source of truth. When all the resources are in a single place, it’s easier to control, allocate, and verify their availability. Secondly, it provides all the necessary information to help make data-based decisions instead of guesswork. All in all, the portfolio-level view of resources makes complicated work a bit easier.

If you want to find out more about implementing portfolio Resource Management in BigPicture, download an ebook that explains this process in detail.