Many organizations struggle to manage resource capacity. If they are following the OPRA Resource Capacity model, the need to track recurring operations work immediately becomes necessary. This article is based on real world experiences while managing large Project Implementations. Current tracking methods will be examined and some suggested approaches will be presented.

The old way of tracking Operations has issues.

In the past, the primary method used to track recurring operations work is to create a project that contains a yearlong task with all members of a support team. The theory is you can track all operations easily for the fiscal year, which many companies use as boundaries.

However, this approach makes three core assumptions, which causes numerous headaches for the operations manager.

  • Operations work is just like Project work
  • You will always use the same amount of operations work every week
  • No one will join or leave your operations team during the year

Myth #1: Operations work is like Project work

Project work is scheduled for a given week, team members do the work and status is reported. This is where the similarities between Project and Operations work ends.

If you do less work than scheduled in true Project, the incomplete work is typically moved forward into the following week. If you do more work than scheduled, the finish date should come in.

Operations work, however, is about reserving resource capacity for a type of activity. Thus, the difference in how we treat time variation is where the treatment of Project work and Operations work diverges.

If you go over or under time on a given week for an Operations task, it has no impact on the future of the task. You don’t move unutilized operations time forward as you don’t get that unutilized capacity back. You don’t move the end date in if you use more than planned. You simply record what was used, usually for a given week.

Therefore, each reporting period for Operations work should be treated as discrete tracking entities that have no forward schedule impact and preferably, can be closed.

Myth #2: Level of effort never varies

The reality is that the level of operations work varies week to week, sometimes greatly. There are times during the year where you know there’s more operations time. For example, a year end close process might be extremely taxing for the Finance support team. The ability to capture this seasonality would improve the ability to manage capacity for project work tremendously.

Also, if you are using planned hours on Operations work faster than originally planned, using the one long task will result in support calls. You may enter October with no remaining time left, resulting in the task disappearing from timesheets.

This again points to a need for discrete tracking entities that can be managed individually for a given time frame.

Myth #3: Teams never change

The year long task has a serious user management issue when it comes to tracking team composition. Adding and subtracting team members to the task requires Project Pro and a fair bit of Project knowledge to do properly.

When Heather joins the team in August and the operations task started in January, how easy is it to add Heather in a way that doesn’t mess up the current team tracking? The same is true if Sanjay leaves the team in April. How do you easily remove his remaining time?

This process is typically beyond the training of most Operations Managers. They shouldn’t need to be a tool expert to simply manage their team as this creates a situation that detracts value from the data.

The one long task also doesn’t lend itself to adjusting operations assignments so that you can easily reflect greater project demands in key weeks.

All of these usability questions lead us to a requirement that the solution should be usable by a user in Project Web App and doesn’t require a PMP to execute.

Requirements synopsis

Our desired Operations management solution should be:

  • Discretely managed, such that variances in time entered do not impact the overall timeline
  • Ability to individually adjust the time and team composition of tracking periods
  • Straightforward to manage, using only PWA

In our next post, a suggested solution that meets these three requirements will be presented. You’ll also see examples how it can be used in real-world settings. If you have a question or comment, feel free to post it below.

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