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Get Back To the Future With Resource Allocations

Resource management is too often conflated with time tracking. As technical people in IT, we want to be very scientific about it. Track all the data you can, in case you might use it one day. Or maybe it will lead to some unanticipated insight. What you may not realize right away, is that this type of effort is usually incredibly time consuming, and comes at an incredible cost. At the same time, there is often far less effort put into capacity forecasting – planning what those resources are going to be doing with their time in the future.

Avoid Going Too Deep Too Quickly

Don’t get me wrong. All data is valuable. The key question is, how valuable? Is the decision-making benefit that you’re getting from that augmented data worth the effort and cost you’re putting into it?

An unforeseen consequence of going too deep too quickly is the cost of failure. If you create grand plans to acquire a commercial PPM tool and populate every field it asks for, the intended outcome is probably great – or even ideal. But what are the risks of incurring all that cost and not achieving that outcome?

I have seen too many clients make a big push with a shotgun approach to time tracking, only to have the adoption prove too difficult. You can’t change culture on a dime. And, every time you try one of these shotgun approaches that results in failure, you burn a match – decreasing morale, trust, and reducing your chances of success in the future.

Fight the Urge to Track Useless Data

The decision-making criteria that should be used to determine what data to track should be focused on whether it’s going to inform forward-looking decisions. For example, if you are tracking IT resources time in increments of 15 minutes and pegging that to a specific day of the week, that’s going to end up being a lot of granular data. If however, you are only forecasting those same resources by a percentage of their time for a quarter, what decisions is that additional data informing? Does it matter if Jake spent two hours on the “Wifi Upgrade” project on Wednesday or Thursday?

We arrived at this destination because of two primary drivers – culture and tools. Our commercial PPM vendors have been competing on features for so long that the tools have become almost too feature-rich to be useful for the average IT department. Culture in financial services has been driven by precision, detail, and granularity – which is extremely important when you are managing large sums of money. But in today’s corporate work environments, knowledge workers are often interrupted, have split focus, and have tasks that are not predictable. This leads to deep granularity being not only more labor intensive, but also inaccurate.

Balance Granularity, Leaning Towards What You Value Most

The term “resource management” doesn’t necessarily have to mean that you are directly managing the human resources involved. When managing a portfolio of projects, you should be concerned with three distinct time components:

  1. What has happened in the past, and what can we learn from it?
  2. What is happening now, and what do we need to adjust?
  3. What do we predict happening in our forecast horizon?

So where are you putting your effort? Does it align with what your priorities are? Too often we see all of the effort going into historical time tracking, and very little going into forecasted allocations.


  1. Utilize Info-Tech’s 7 Dimensions of Resource Management to create a customized and balanced approach to resource management with right-sized granularity that will be maintainable, even during a crisis.
  2. Capture data based on decision needs. Instead of tracking and forecasting data based on what you can do and what your tool asks for, find out what decisions are difficult for your leadership to make right now, and which decisions are most impactful. Then base your granularity on those needs.
  3. If you care about where you’re going more than where you’ve been, put at least as much emphasis on planning resource allocations as you do tracking historical actuals. Unless you’re re-billing for the time, the only functional purpose that time tracking serves is to better inform planning for the future.

Bottom Line

Don’t sink a bunch of time and effort into time tracking at the expense of planning out allocations for your portfolio. Take a balanced approach that will put emphasis on planning, while gradually getting more accurate through maintainable historical actuals.

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