I am preparing a staffing plan for the year, how can I make sure to staff right for next year projects?
Planning by nature is an estimation work, staffing plan is not an exception. Planning highly depends on inputs and conditions at the time of plan compilation which might change over time. Our main responsibility as planners is to make sure we develop a plan that as realistic as possible.
The most important factor here is the Planning Horizon, which is the amount of time in the future for which plans are generated and project are confirmed. The higher the uncertainty, the shorter the planning horizon.
In other words, you do not have to compile a staffing/resources plan for a full year if there is high level of uncertainty in the number and nature of project in the coming year. It is wise to define the Planning Horizon and communicate this to stakeholders: “Sorry, I believe I can compile a staffing plan for the first quarter only”. Believe me, the sooner you communicate this, the better.
Once the Planning Horizon is agreed, you need to start collecting the data that will help you with your estimations. The best source for such information is definitely the history. learning from experience is a very important principle in project management. If you are lucky, your Project Management Office (PMO) should give you a lot of details. Review project plans, resources assignment, risk registers, issue logs and lesson learned logs of earlier project of same size, scope and complexity.
If your PMO is lousy, or if your organization doesn’t keep historical information, your work become harder. Yet you can get a very good data to help you with your estimation. consult with Project Managers and Subject Matter Experts (SME) who worked on previous projects. Another good source of details – if you could get access to – is financial information from the accounting department. You can get details about resources allocated to each project and the time line of each project using the dates of contracts, invoices…..etc.
Once you’ve data you can start putting your plan together. How to put the plan is a different story that is outside the scope of this conversation.
Finally, learning from experience is vital here. This is actually one of the examples why we should keep records of earlier project and what we’ve learned from them. Unfortunately most organizations overlook this fact. So if your organization do not have a PMO or at least a framework for maintaining and keeping historical records of previous projects, make sure you start this now. So if you don’t get your staffing plan right this year, you’ll for sure get a better one the year after. Remember, you’ll never get it 100% right!