Resource profiling

Introduction

Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4 BC–AD 65), a Roman philosopher and statesman, wrote that, “The greatest loss of time is delay and expectation, which depend upon the future.” The art of resource management can be similarly described. It is an exercise that all resource managers, as well as project managers, go through. It is dependent upon a set of expectations and a level of uncertainty from which conclusions are drawn in an effort to predict a future state—a schedule, a budget, or a set amount of scope. Determining the level of resources required to complete an effort or fulfill a need can be a daunting task with estimate variances sometimes in upwards of 50 percent.

Most resource management tools provide the capability to perform resource management at a micro level, i.e., managing each individual resource allocation and the associated duration for a defined set of tasks or needs. However, resource managers are required to efficiently manage and allocate their resources for the long term, ensuring they are effectively utilized and not just applied for a short-term requirement. This is where the concept of “resource profiling” may be able to help.

Resource profiling is a methodology that inverts the traditional process of resource management. Resource profiling begins by taking a “macro” view of an organization's or company's resource needs by aligning efforts or initiatives against a plan or roadmap. The result of this alignment can be then analyzed and dissected, providing a “micro” view of resource allocations that can then be managed individually.

Identifying Profile Types

The first step in resource profiling is to identify the various profile types that are indicative of the work that an organization performs. These profile types are a critical component in determining various resource profiles that can then be applied to the existing plan or roadmap.

A profile type is a classification of the resource need based on a given set of assumptions, a defined scope of work, a timeline for implementation, a given budget or cost, and/or an expected outcome. Upon identification of the various profile types for an organization, the next step is to further refine them into sub-types until the breakdown accounts for a significant percentage of effort or need in the organization. An example of a profile breakdown is shown in Figure 1.

Example of a Breakdown of Profile Types

Figure 1: Example of a Breakdown of Profile Types

Once a sufficient number of profile types are identified that account for the majority of efforts or needs for the organization, the next step is to define the resource needs that make up each of these profiles. Once done, they can then be applied for longer-term planning and analysis. Although similar industries may have the same profile types or a consistent breakdown of profile types, resource profiles will more than likely be unique to an organization or company.

Resource Profiling

A resource profile is a breakdown and depiction of a resource need for a defined profile type, generated at a macro level. The process of creating a resource profile can be done either empirically (drawing on past experience with an appropriate data source available) or experientially (drawing on past experience without an appropriate source of data).

Empirical Approach to Resource Profiling

An empirical approach to creating a resource profile involves leveraging an appropriate source of data that is relatively similar to the current effort to be profiled.

In this scenario, the development of the resource profile begins by identifying a suitable data source that can be utilized. The best source of data for empirical profiling is the past resource allocation information that has been applied to an effort. For example, time data obtained through an internal time tracking tool.

Upon obtaining the resource allocation data, information associated with a similar work effort needs to be extracted and plotted in the format of resource quantity versus time period (where the time period is defined by the tool from which the data was extracted). The result will be a resource profile that can now be utilized for planning needs (Figure 2).

Example of a Resource Profile for a Project Based on Historical Time Tracking Data

Figure 2: Example of a Resource Profile for a Project Based on Historical Time Tracking Data

Experiential Approach to Resource Profiling

An experiential approach to creating a resource profile draws upon past experience without leveraging past data collected on similar efforts or past experience conducting work that can be commensurate.

Starting with a base description or understanding of the work to be completed along with a high-level schedule or timeline, resource needs are drafted through interviews with resource managers. The information collected is broken down by resource with respect to time.

Following the creation of this initial view, the resource profile is enhanced over multiple iterations through follow-up interviews with resource managers that further refine resource obligations. The revised resource profile can be leveraged for future planning (Figure 3).

Example of a Refined Resource Profile Depicting Man-hours for a Defined Timeframe Derived From Iterative Resource Manager Interviews

Figure 3: Example of a Refined Resource Profile Depicting Man-hours for a Defined Timeframe Derived From Iterative Resource Manager Interviews

Scaling Resource Profiles to Meet Specific Needs

Once a resource profile has been created (either empirically or experientially), it can then be scaled to fit a future need if many of the assumptions and applicability still apply. Scaling can be applied in multiple ways to adjust profiles to fit the new effort to be completed:

  • Scaling of resources: Scaling of resources is done by applying a scaling factor to all resource types equally or to each resource type individually based upon the set of criteria defined below, based upon a set of assumptions, or based solely on experience. The scaling factor can be any number greater than zero that will be applied (e.g., 0.75, 2, etc.).
  • Scaling timeline: Scaling a timeline is done by resizing the resource profile to fit a revised duration, while retaining the same profile distribution and shape.
  • Scaling timeline and resources: Scaling timeline and resources applies the scenarios defined for both scaling timeline and scaling resources to create a revised resource profile that retains the same characteristics of distribution and shape as the original resource profile.

The application of the appropriate scaling factors creates a new hybrid profile that can then be leveraged in the future for other resource estimation efforts.

Scaling Criteria

When determining the scaling factor to be applied for the resource profile, the following criteria should be evaluated:

  • Complexity
  • Quality and support level
  • Architecture/design/blueprint
  • Duration
  • Organization
  • Team dynamics

These criteria need to be evaluated more than once to refine the scaling factor to more closely reflect the resource requirements for the effort or work to be conducted.

    Existing Level of complexity decreases or low complexity factor assigned to “technology” component if the workto be conducted leverages technology that has already been developed or used in the past
  Technology New Level of complexity increases or high complexity factor assigned to “technology” component if the workto be conducted requires a technology or area that is new, foreign or different from what has bean done in the past
    known As with technology, level of complexity decreases or low complexity factor assigned to “experience” component if the team has experience on the type of work to be conducted.
Complexity Experience unknown Level of complexity increases or high complexity factor assigned to “experience” component if the team has limited or no experience with the type of work to be conducted
  Compliance Known Standards or Guidelines Level of complexity decreases or low complexity factor assigned to “compliance11 component if the work to be conducted aligns with a set of standards, guidelines or requirements that are consistent with that of anolher product or service that already complies with said standards This is based on the assumption that the processes, procedures, personnel or tools are in place to ensure compliance with the specifications
    New Standards or Guidelines Level of complexity increases or high complexity factor assigned to “compliance11 component if the work to be conducted must adhere to a new set of guidelines, standards or requirements.
Quality & Support Level

Quality levels can range from a minimal quality (back of the envelope) to an extremely high quality (most disciplined). Required quality levels of the work to be conducted could drive the number of specific best practices that will be followed during development and delivery of the work. Level of quality of the work can be considered directly proportional to the level of service and support that can be expected once the work is delivered.

Architecture/Design/Blueprint Scaling adjusted if work to be conducted is of an equivalent design and/or architecture or is of a design not tried prior.
Duration Estimating the expected duration of delivery will help in determining the scaling factor for timeline, resources and/or cost.
Organization Resource profiles vary based upon the group assigned to deliver the project; therefore, it is important to begin with a resource profile from that group.
  Team Composition Composition influences impact dynamics - usually driven by the number and type of individual contributors and their roles.
  Team Structure Dictated by organization type, for example matrix team versus dedicated team.
Team Dynamics Time Working Together Understanding, knowledge and comfort level of bolh personality and skill set between team members can affect team dynamics.
  Manager The manager of the team has a strong influence on the dynamics of the team based on their experience with running an effort or based on their specific roll-up or tracking/reporting requirements. The variance in the level of discipline orflexibility of the manager can contribute to the overall team dynamic and, therefore, the resource profile. Team dynamics can be influenced by management all the way up the chain.

Table 1: Scaling Criteria

Roadmap Alignment

Once a set of resource profiles are created that are representative of the work planned to be conducted, each resource profile can then be assigned to those roadmap entries (Figure 4).

Sample Roadmap With Associated Resource Profiles

Figure 4: Sample Roadmap With Associated Resource Profiles

Following resource profile alignment, the data from the various profiles can be extracted and aligned against the roadmap timeline to create a profile distribution depicting all resources required to complete an effort or fulfill a need. Additionally, by creating a profile that represents the baseline set of resources that are available to complete the work and associating that “baseline profile” to the roadmap, an enhanced profile distribution can be generated depicting resource availability in addition to resource need (Figure 5).

Sample Profile Distribution Created From a Roadmap With Associated Resource Profiles and a Baseline Profile

Figure 5: Sample Profile Distribution Created From a Roadmap With Associated Resource Profiles and a Baseline Profile

Utilization Mapping

The process of moving from a “macro” to a “micro” level is completed with the development of a utilization map. A utilization map is a detailed breakdown of the individual resource allocations based on the results of profile alignment. The resulting output from profile alignment can be extracted into a report that details an individual resource's allocation against a specific effort over time (Figure 6).

Sample Utilization Map for Resource Groups Derived From Resource Profiling and Profile Management

Figure 6: Sample Utilization Map for Resource Groups Derived From Resource Profiling and Profile Management

The utilization map can depict resources that are either over-allocated or underutilized. It provides a level of detail that resource managers need in order to realign resources as necessary or make critical decisions that can help them drive efforts to a successful outcome.

Application

Creating these profile distributions can facilitate various types of resource management efforts in addition to roadmap planning. This methodology can also facilitate these areas:

  • Product planning
  • Commitment management
  • What-if analysis
  • Cost analysis
  • Risk assessment

Product Planning

The method of resource profiling can be used to aid product managers in defining and delivering on their overall product needs. Each initiative that is undertaken for a given product will have a defined scope, an allocated budget and a set timeline for completion. If each initiative can then be aligned to an associated resource profile, the resulting profile distribution can help product managers in determining their ability to successfully achieve commitments or identify areas for further investigation or revision.

Commitment Management

This method can also assist in the area of commitment management. By identifying resource efforts or resource need as either committed or uncommitted and applying the profiling and distribution methodology, the result is a tool that can provide the ability to determine resource need if commitments change. These commitments can be depicted in line with existing efforts or needs or separately to highlight their classification.

Cost Analysis

Treating cost as a resource, profiles can be created using a given set of resource rates to create a cost. These cost profiles can then be aligned to an expected spending plan to create a cost distribution. This distribution can be leveraged to predict cost variances or support future budget planning.

Risk Assessment

The methodology of resource profiling and profile distribution can also aid in the identification of risks. Peaks and valleys depicted in a given profile distribution can indicate potential upcoming issues with respect to resource requirements. A peak can indicate an increase in resource need that may exceed existing availability or capability. Based on the definition of a resource, this increase could also depict a spike in load or changes in scope. In contrast, a valley could indicate an opportunity to insert additional expectations of a team or a given timeframe to support shifts in baseline resources.

Additionally, profile distributions can support analysis in the area of business continuity. By injecting a “disaster” profile into a given plan or roadmap, impacts to existing resources, commitments and deliverables can be analyzed.

What-If Analysis

Finally, resource profiling and profile distribution can be leveraged to conduct “what-if analyses.” By modifying various inputs and assumptions, multiple profile distributions can be generated that can support decision making and align resources more effectively for successful outcomes.

Conclusion

The art of resource management will always have its challenges and a level of uncertainty. However, resource profiling can help to minimize these. By analyzing the “forest” instead of the “trees,” resource managers can gain additional insight into their resource requirements and take the appropriate actions to plan for variances, freeing up valuable time for other activities.

Finally, when considering the definition of what is considered a “resource,” the process defined within this white paper is not limited to just staff power. It can be applied to any type of resource in any industry, including hardware, bandwidth, transaction load, or even cement.

About Verisign

Verisign powers the invisible navigation that takes people to where they want to go on the Internet. The company operates the infrastructure for a portfolio of top-level domains, including .com and .net, and offers a suite of infrastructure assurance services—including Managed DNS, DDoS Protection and iDefense® Security Intelligence Services. Additional news and information is available at VerisignInc.com.

©2013 VeriSign, Inc.

All rights reserved. VERISIGN, the VERISIGN logo, and other trademarks, service marks, and designs are registered or unregistered trademarks of VeriSign, Inc. and its subsidiaries in the United States and in foreign countries. All other trademarks are property of their respective owners.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI or any listed author.

© 2013 VeriSign, Inc.
Published as a part of 2013 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – New Orleans, Louisiana

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