Resourcing at Archer, Part 1

Project Management
Resourcing at Archer, Part 1: Generating the weekly resource report

Meredith Greer

Project Manager


"This three-part series will outline the holistic process we’ve set around resourcing, in the hope readers will find insights they can put to good use in their own workplaces."

About the series

Resourcing is a widely discussed, and frequently cursed, topic among project managers and operational folks. Its complexity raises numerous questions. How do we stay ahead? How do we keep up? How do we absorb change, anticipate the unanticipatable, track what’s happening, then communicate it to all relevant parties?

In short: How?

In Resourcing at Archer, we’ll attempt to address these questions. This three-part series will outline the holistic process we’ve set around resourcing, in the hope readers will find insights they can put to good use in their own workplaces. (Though some organizations call this process “tasking” or “trafficking,” here at Archer we prefer “resourcing” and will refer to it as such throughout this series).

We’ve employed – and fine-tuned – our process for the past four years, and executed on it with a team of 10 project managers. It’s the infrastructure that allows us to, at any given time, resource for 70 people across 12 departments and, give or take, 130 projects.

In Part 1 of our series, we’ll discuss the resource report we send out to the company each Monday morning. Subsequent articles will go into greater depth on the tools we use to execute this process and the steps we take to ensure its health.

Part 1: The Weekly Resource Report

The most important aspect of resourcing is ensuring your resources (referred to in more sentimental circles as “people”) are aware of, and aligned with, what’s expected of them. We facilitate this, in part, with a weekly report that is sent to every employee at Archer every Monday morning.

Our resourcing document is an auto-generated, manually cleaned-up pivot table exported to Excel that outlines our best guess, as of Monday morning, on what we’ll each work on, and for how long, in the new week. We import the data from Workamajig and validate it against real-time conversation from our complementary project management tools, such as Basecamp, Invision, and the Atlassian suite.

Here is an example of the structure we use (The names have been changed, in case you couldn’t tell):

example of resources doc

Take Rhino, for example, a QA Analyst at The Archer Group. You can see she is slated to work on seven projects over the next week and on eight different tasks. It’s a short week – the office is closed on Friday in recognition of a holiday – but she has some extra bandwidth – seven hours to be precise.

Rhino can also see when her task is likely to start, and when it is targeted to wrap up. Shortly after she receives the report, she meets with her functional lead – and the rest of her team – to ask questions, share concerns, and get clarification.

It’s important to note here that this report isn’t Rhino’s only barometer of her week ahead: she can also consult Basecamp, JIRA, or email to get more details on her assignments, all of which should align with what’s listed in her weekly report.

Project management reviews the report on Thursday and Friday, using two different views, before the final version is sent on Monday.

Account Resourcing Meetings - Thursday

At Archer, every project that comes in is manned by a project manager and an account manager. In short, the account manager represents the interests of the client, while the project manager advocates for the success of the project. Together, they partner to determine the best path forward.

Each Thursday, project managers and account managers meet to review an early version of the resource doc and validate that projects are tracking according to client expectations for the next week.

example of thursday resources document

During that meeting, the notes that are shown in yellow are added based on discussion. In general, yellow indicates a note or a change. The red zeroes indicate that a task should close out, meaning it’s complete and will not be worked on next week.

In addition to updating the hours for tasks that we’re expecting to roll in from previous weeks, the account manager and project manager run through the following questions:

  1. What tasks need resources?
  2. Are any SOWs being written?
  3. Should any new business be accounted for? Are any of these requests for the following week?
  4. What projects have highest priority?
  5. What timelines are tight? What timelines have changed?
  6. How should resources be prioritized?

As you can see in the example document above, the project manager noted that test case creation for the site redesign project may take up to ten hours, and that we need to add two hours next week for PDF Tool Research on the Enhancements and Discovery project.

Coming out of Thursday’s account management resource meeting, project management updates the project(s) in Workamajig to match the notes.

Department Resource Meetings - Fridays

On Friday, project management sits with department leads and runs through what’s on tap for the following week, organized by department and person.

Here’s an example:

example of friday resources document

You might notice it’s the same pivot table we deliver on Monday mornings. We do this so our department leads consistently see the same style resource document.

Department resource meetings result in many notes, as this is often the department leads’ first exposure to the full resources for the following week. The conversation is focused on the following areas:

  1. Updates to go over during the meeting:
    1. Discuss priority items as highlighted by the project manager.
    2. Evaluate if tasks can be reassigned or if a contractor may need to be brought in.
    3. Determine who is available to handle midweek resource requests should they occur. (hah, they always do)
    4. Flag upcoming work that is expected to hit in the next few weeks.
  2. Questions that should be answered during this meeting also include:
    1. Is there consistently a department that has a lot of work?
    2. Is there a resource being over worked?
    3. Who is coming up on vacation? What changes need to be made to resources?

You’ll notice that Giraffe, Rhino’s manager, asked to have some app testing work reassigned to herself, since she noticed her team was a little out of balance. (Giraffe had about 19 hours, but her direct report Rhino had 31.5.) She also noted that test cases likely wouldn’t take her the full eight hours that project management estimated.

Sometimes we revise upward. During FED’s resourcing meeting, Zebra mentioned that he will likely need about four hours for research – a bit more than the original estimate.

After the meeting, project management makes their updates in the relevant project(s) in Workamajig.

Final Resourcing Check-In - Monday Morning

When the new week begins, the resources report is generated again, and our project management team comes together for a final review. Here we discuss and implement last minute changes and send the final version. (The changes we outlined from Thursday and Friday’s meetings are highlighted below for the reader’s reference, but would not appear in an actual Monday morning report.)

example of monday's report

Summary

Effectively tracking tasks, and communicating to teams, is the foundation of sound project management. It ensures the work moves forward, deadlines are met, and high quality is achieved. Ongoing collaboration between client service, project management, and department leads is crucial to that process.

In part two of our series, we’ll take a deep dive into Excel. We’ll cover the types of data we import and how it’s organized and connected across eight different worksheets.

Upcoming editions of Resourcing at Archer:

  • Part 2: Resourcing with Excel
  • Part 3: Resource data with integrity
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