Before any project manager can accept an assignment or commit employees, he or she has to know what resources are available, who is working on what project and how soon they will be free.
This information is particularly useful in small companies due to a lesser number of workers and the need to use each to their maximum potential. A handful of companies have recently introduced software that can help manage the resource planning process much better. Among them is PlanView Inc. [http://www.planview.com], which offers two programs: PlanView Planner and Time Reporter. With these programs, resource planning can reduce a labor-intensive task to a database search lasting just a few seconds.
“The PlanView Planner provides a resource profile that displays total availability of resources (by individuals, groups, teams, etc.) including proposed work, already scheduled work, and administrative,” says Wendy Wheeler, marketing manager for PlanView. “Managers can drive down the detail to get information on the scheduled project or service work if needed.”
The program also tracks information input by the employees to provide regular, timely status reports, freeing up project managers from having to hunt down the information. Administrators can use this information to determine how much time a similar job would require, or allow clients to quickly and accurately see the progress of work.
Time Reporter does more than just display the week’s tasks and estimated hours. Manager approvals, batch validation and follow ups of missing or late time sheets are a few of the many tasks that Time Reporter can perform. An employee reports his hours worked and the hours estimated to completion, including any ‘on-the-fly’ tasks that were not scheduled.
Using the information that employees input, managers can easily find the best people for the next project. Searches for people can be conducted based on skills, availability, experience or any other criteria. According to Wheeler, “Plan View has one customer with over 6,000 multi-skilled resources in its database. Automating the resource search is key to building project plans,” she says.
Using time tracking software also allows managers to track the progress of employees — They can see which employees excel and those who routinely miss their deadlines.
But regardless of how helpful these programs are, they are useless if not used. If employees enter all of their information, but the manager doesn’t look at it, or denies the client access to review project status, the software can be more of a hindrance than a help.