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Managing Resources with BigPicture Enterprise

Cross-project, cross-program, or cross-product resource management are the top reasons to select BigPicture Enterprise or upgrade your regular BigPicture instance. But there are more resource-related features in BigPicture Enterprise other than the ‘Show overall assignment’ view. Let’s review how BigPicture Enterprise does the resource management job.

The presence of cross-project experts, such as engineers, testers, inspectors, consultants, managers, is one of the strong indicators you are better off with BigPicture Enterprise than BigPicture as far as resource management is concerned. Other pro-Enterprise indicators are:

  • Extensive portfolios with many projects, especially when both agile and waterfall approaches are in use in your organization,
  • People hopping between delayed projects that are separated by short breaks or no breaks at all.

Why do such setups call for BigPicture Enterprise rather than the regular BigPicture?

Cross-project view

There is this somewhat hidden ‘Show overall assignment’ checkbox in BigPicture Enterprise that is grayed out in BigPicture. The checkbox turns on a cross-project resources view – so valuable when you have internal experts working on many projects at a time. And not just cross-project experts, but also cross-program, or cross-product specialists.

Why do we mix projects, programs, and products into resource management? BigPicture Enterprise has another advantage over BigPicture that complements the “Show overall assignment” view. To model your projects, programs, and products in BigPicture, you use Boxes. Boxes are universal, multifunctional, deeply customizable management spaces for tasks, deliverables, resources, risks, and… other Boxes. Box types are duplicatable prototypes of real-life Boxes. Here is the thing: BigPicture Enterprise boasts an infinite number of Box types, while the regular BigPicture has just three Box type slots. If you have experts assigned to many Boxes simultaneously, and you do resource management, then BigPicture Enterprise is definitely the right answer and not BigPicture. The Enterprise edition is just more suitable for a multi-methodology environment fueled by cross-initiative experts.

Figure 2. Enabling cross-Box view in BigPicture Enterprise
image - 2021-05-18T194350.449.png

Thanks to the ‘Show overall assignment’ feature, the resource manager in charge, can spot how the Craftsman team is being overloaded during week 10 (red bar). Also note the ‘Individuals’, ‘Teams’, and ‘Skills’ buttons in the top-left corner; you can balance resources per individual, per team, or per skill.

Who might benefit from the cross-Box resource view available in BigPicture Enterprise? Let’s have a closer look at a few scenarios:

  1. A system architect or a consultant with rare skills might be 20% loaded in project A, but once the ‘Show overall assignment’ checkbox is ticked, it turns out that the person has been assigned to five projects, and currently at 120% of his/her capacity.
  2. An electrical engineer has been assigned to 7 construction sites (seven projects) and currently is being seriously overallocated – the fact discoverable only once the cross-project checkbox is checked.
  3. A software tester is a member of a QA team and allocated properly, but occasionally he is leased out to other teams. Thanks to the cross-project resource view those teams’ leaders are updated on the actual allocation of the tester across projects.
  4. It is believed that managing a project makes ~10% of the project’s effort. Consequently, project managers typically directly supervise up to 10 people at a time. If a project manager supervises three projects of seven people each, the ‘Show overall assignment’ feature will let them know when 21 is too many ;)
  5. A car manufacturer’s country office employs five Business Development Managers, and each of them assists a dozen of dealerships. Each dealership has a BigPicture program. Dealer operators have access to the resource view of the country office with the cross-program feature enabled – the dealerships can responsibly “book” appointments by their respective BDMs.
  6. A resource manager role is normal in enterprises running dozens of projects at a time. How could the resource manager balance resources and dispatch experts to projects without the cross-project resource view?

Even if your organization’s rules state that an expert is to be assigned to one project at a time, but the preceding project catches a delay, and the following project begins, then the expert is temporarily on two projects, doesn’t he or she? The ‘Show overall assignment’ view applies.

Manual workload contouring

Workload contouring allows you to specify how the effort of an assignee is distributed across a task period. The ‘Flat’, ‘Front-loaded’, and ‘Back-loaded’ modes are available both in BigPicture and BigPicture Enterprise, but the fourth one – ‘Manual’ mode – is unique to the Enterprise edition. Have a look at Figure 3.

Figure 3. Manual mode of workload contouring.
image - 2021-05-18T194352.418.png

In BigPicture Enterprise you can manually distribute effort for a given task on a per-day basis.

Who might benefit from the manual workload contouring available in the Resources module of BigPicture Enterprise? Let’s have a closer look at two scenarios:

  1. Two developers are on a five-day job (two 5-day-long Jira tasks, since Jira permits only one assignee per task). The team leader might want to assign Joshua to the job for Monday, Tuesday, and half of Friday, while Patrick preferred to work on the job on Wednesday, Thursday, and part of Friday. Couldn’t they be assigned to the job using the flat mode? Since Joshua and Patrick work on other issues, too, during the week, the flat assignment would break the daily resource planning. As a bonus, the remaining team members are being notified when the two developers are going to actively work on the job.
  2. A large organization with 100 teams decided to plan resources “to the letter”. Plenty of cross-project experts are there so the organization has to schedule resources with daily and hourly precision. BigPicture Enterprise has the automatic – flat, front-loaded, and back-loaded – workload contouring modes, but it also has the manual mode as a contingency measure.
  3. A small company with a distributed workforce elected to use manual contouring as a semi-calendar tool to perfectly synchronize the efforts of a dozen consultants they have.

What-if scenarios

What-if scenarios are available in the regular BigPicture, but there is a ‘one private + one public scenario’ per Box limit. Only BigPicture Enterprise has an unlimited number of scenarios. How do the unlimited scenarios of BigPicture Enterprise relate to resource management?

Have a look at figure 4. The BU-8 Install insulation is depleting the capacity of Mike Edison (orange boxes with 6s). We’ve created the ‘Resources load’ scenario, with its name evident within the top menu. Once we reschedule the job beyond the 15-18 June period, to include Monday and Tuesday, 21-22 of June, the resources planning pane returns 4 hours per day and green bars, giving enough of a safety margin. Now you can commit the what-if scenario to BigPicture production timeline and Jira.

Figure 4. Testing workload distribution with what-if scenarios available in the Gantt module of BigPicture.
image - 2021-05-18T194359.174.png

SoftwarePlant is working on scenarios for the Resources module. Today, the Gantt module with its bottom resources pane is where you can create, delete and commit scenarios to the production timeline. The Resources module mimics what the Gantt module is displaying, be it a test scenario or the production schedule.

Workflow

A quick reminder, there are three approaches to resource management in BigPicture:

  1. Whenever a resource manager role is present in the organization, they assign people to projects and are responsible for neither under- nor overallocation of the available resources.
  2. For those who do not employ a resource manager keeping an eye on the remaining capacity (be it per individual, per team, or per skill) is the most common approach
  3. For extremely lean organizations, having a look at the Resources module, when the schedule changes significantly, is a bare minimum.

Red means overallocation of a resource, orange – 75% to 100% allocation, green – underallocation.

Conclusion

Here is a quick overview of features influencing resource management in BigPicture vs BigPicture Enterprise. We recommend the Enterprise edition when:

  • experts are shared between projects,
  • a company has extensive portfolios of projects or products (especially hybrid project management approaches)
  • when one project ends another one begins immediately

Table 1. An overview of resource management-related features in BigPicture vs BigPicture Enterprise
image - 2021-05-18T194402.486.png

Author: Marcin Gebicz

2 comments

Wonderful article! Thanks a lot, @Anna-SoftwarePlant !😊

Like Anna-SoftwarePlant likes this
G subramanyam Community Leader Jun 02, 2021

This is much needed and timely article. Thank you so much @Anna-SoftwarePlant 

Like Anna-SoftwarePlant likes this

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