Your senior team huddles around a whiteboard, planning the next few months of projects - the who, what, when, where and how of your business operations. Squeaky pen charging across the glossy surface, the bones of an epic To Do List rattle into place.
It feels so right at the time, but as you gaze at the excited scrawls on the whiteboard afterwards, you wonder how you will ever channel that enormous brain dump into a cohesive plan. Does this sound familiar?
End of the whiteboard era?
The allure of the whiteboard is still strong in many organisations, big and small, and I get that it lends itself to a satisfying process of thrashing out ideas. But this approach to planning isn’t fit for purpose when your business has hundreds or thousands of resources, from people to equipment and real estate. Even if you deposit whiteboard musings into neat Excel spreadsheets, there is a risk of producing a plan that’s far from watertight, which leaks resources through its cracks, resulting in costly inefficiencies.
If you want to know whether it’s time to upgrade from your whiteboard to resource planning software, ask yourself a few probing questions. Do you have more than 10 resources (either physical, or human)? Do you plan months or even years ahead? Are there members of your team who work remotely? If the answer’s yes to these questions, there’s no doubt that you would reap the benefits from using an interface that helps you to visualise and manage your project portfolio, while being accessible to every team player.
Next generation resource planning
If you’re reluctant to let go of the whiteboard, take heart that it can live in perfect harmony with the type of high-level resource planning software that is emerging. It is a great place to start the ideas process, before taking planning and scheduling to the next level.
Almost any industry can benefit from more effective resource planning. It enables senior managers to ensure that the whole team is on the same page, individuals are accountable for tasks, resources are being fully utilised and deadlines are being met. Of course, no organisation can plan for every eventuality, but if one system can instantly show you what’s possible and, more importantly, what’s not, efficiency will be at its prime.
Bringing order to complexity
Software development springs to mind as a setting in which this could be hugely advantageous. An effective resource planning interface could help businesses to manage and distribute the information that comes with the complex systems and the variety of services they offer. In addition, coordinating a vast quantity of resources, projects and tasks could be done in a more efficient way using a platform that allows detailed, flexible planning.
The right people could have pertinent information at their fingertips, such as: clients' deadlines and stages that need to be reached at a certain time to keep projects on course. If some tasks need to be completed before others can start, dependencies could be added, bringing accountability to all those involved in the work flow. The whole team being able to see what lies ahead, anticipating challenges, could deliver more productive meetings, saving time.
In the manufacturing industry, better resource planning could result in similar gains. Tools such as Excel are too basic for manufacturing businesses that bring together thousands of employees around the globe and whose processes involve many stages and locations, and an array of equipment and machinery.
The potential for miscommunication and resource overbooking in immense manufacturing organisations is high, but could be radically reduced by ensuring that key people all have access to a communal online planner. Concurrent projects can be viewed and utilisation graphs give them a clear understanding of how resources are divided across them.
Other examples of sectors that are seeing success in resource planning include: services, engineering, manufacturing, military, governments, creative services and NGOs.
Visualisation aids the planning process
Major benefits of some resource planning software include drag-and-drop scheduling, which means that you can create a complete lifecycle for each project, broken up with milestones to keep timing on track. This can make management a much more streamlined affair.
The best interfaces make it easy to switch between different views – either looking at single projects in detail, or taking in the ‘big picture’, with a clear perspective of all your projects at once. It’s possible to allocate and track tasks and resources, measure workload and generate a range of reports.
Imagine being able to see what your company is doing in six months’ time - where employees will be, what they’ll be doing and where. Planning ahead, accounting for all your valuable resources – including rooms, machinery and people – creates smoothly-run, time-efficient companies.
If you think you are managing fine with your trusty spreadsheets, that’s great. However, I’d suggest that a heavy weight could be lifted from your shoulders if you had a tool at your fingertips that enabled you to step back and look at the compete landscape of your business or organisation. Meanwhile, every person that’s instrumental in achieving goals can also look at the same landscape, from wherever they are in the world, which creates an environment of complete transparency and collective responsibility.
Ivar Veenpere is co-founder of Ganttic