Project Scheduling Guidelines in Multi-project scenario

Well, this being the first article on Project Management related concepts, I was inclined to do a primer on Project Management. However, I thought I would share one of the real life scenarios involving multiple projects being handled simultaneously. So, though what I would mention below, would not typically or strictly fall under the PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge)  terminologies, but I believe the points below would be something the project managers handling multiple projects should be able to relate to. So this article is dedicated to all fellow PMs who have been burning their fingers with managing the schedule of their projects.

Problem Statement -
1. Allocation of resources at 100% to the projects : we all would agree   that allocation of resources at 100% leaves no leeway for any activities   other that those assigned to the resources as per the project schedule. There will always be tasks which resources will be engaged in which would eat into some part of their Project time.

2. Scheduling projects sequentially without leaving any cooling down   period between the activities of resources : We all live in a difficult world which is getting more and more competitive day by day. You do not have the luxury of cooling period between two projects any more. Hence, one or more projects are planned in either overlapping manner or sequentially for optimal resource utilization.

The above two points go hand in hand and are one of the reasons which impact the project schedules resulting in lower predictability of achieving the schedules. Any activities  other than project tasks, which resources get involved into, eats away the project time and if it impacts the critical path of the project then the project schedule is in jeopardy (unless the resource puts in additional efforts). The problem is compounded if you have already planned another project assuming that the resource would be finishing the previous project by a certain date.This in turn has a cascading effect on schedules for other projects which are scheduled back to back with the same resources.

1. Based on your organization's data, keep away a standard quota of  resource time for activities other than project. In my organization, this accounts for typically 20 - 25%.

2. Book resources in your project schedule as per the above point.

3. Target your internal milestones still at 100% allocation. The buffer available due to less than 100 %  
    allocation should be added to the end of  the project as project buffer.

1. All the project plans will have resources booked at approx 75% (can vary depending upon organization's historical data).

2. This is just a guideline. If there are resources who do not get involved into non-project activities, then they should be booked at higher %  (~90%).

3. Key resources/Team leads who spend time across concurrent projects should be booked accordingly.

4. The tasks in the project plan should be broken down to more granular level to a level which could be
     tracked efficiently in addition to the pre-defined milestones .

  Though this would bring in more predictability in the project schedule, it would involve the following

1. Project Managers should monitor the effort spent more closely (via timesheet reports) to ensure that the buffer of 20 or 25% (as per the project schedule) is being utilized judiciously.

2. Schedule overrun because of standard non-project  activities is likely to be mitigated by this approach. However, this approach will not benefit if the inherent quality of the project deliverables is poor and verification cycle reports too many defects which would require rework to be done.

By : Yogesh Dewangan

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