At TeamGrid we are striving to develop the most advanced agency software on the market. The upcoming Resource Management feature for TeamGrid perfectly illustrates this goal. In this article I would like to share with you our thoughts and decisions about resource management with TeamGrid.
What does a resource management system actually do?
Personally, I am not fond of calling an employee a "resource," but in a technical sense, so-called "resource management systems" describe the employees exactly as such. In other words, every employee is available to an agency with his or her professional expertise and time available (e.g. React Developer, Monday to Friday from 9 AM to 6 PM). Resource management systems therefore concentrate on reserving the available resources with corresponding orders or projects, and thus generate a preview of the team's workload. Simply, a resource management system allows you to plan the utilization of your agency for the future.
How do most resource management systems work?
For resource management to work, you have to feed it with all kinds of data. So you create your projects, define milestones, and set deadlines. Of course, you also have to make estimates about the duration of the project.
Most resource management systems work in such a way that you define exactly which employee works on a project and for how many hours each day. In this way you can see when your employees still have free capacities in the future and prevent overbookings. Resource management systems therefore usually plan on a flat-rate basis for each project.
However, a resource management system can only provide substantial information if it works in conjunction with your task management and time recording. The system must therefore know how far a task has progressed so that it can calculate whether the project is still within the planned runtime. Only a few systems proceed at this depth and include the actual state (i.e. tasks plus time recording) in their forecast.
What does a resource management system have to look like for it to work for the agency business?
This is the question we have been most concerned about for the last 18 months, because the challenge is not to develop a modern resource management system, but to develop one that responds to the peculiarities of the agency business. For this reason, we now look at the special challenges for the timing of agency businesses.
1. Despite detailed and thorough planning, there are always unexpected tasks that come up, which can make all of your prior planning useless. We all know the moments when customers suddenly need something at short and urgent notice, which can throw off your resource planning. Due to this, we have developed a system that is flexible and allows you to better juggle your resources. A good resource management system for the agency business must therefore have highly dynamic calculating capabilities to allow for this.
Even if you carefully estimate the timelines within a project, there are always tasks that have the potential to get out of hand and upset your schedule (for current and future projects). The best idea doesn't always come at the push of a button, and the correction of a supposedly small bug sometimes takes 3 hours instead of 15 minutes. A smart resource management system for agencies must therefore be able to take such scenarios into account.
3. We as individual agency people have a unique and specialized expertise, and therefore are dependent on the skills of our ofter team members. If an employee fails with his or her technical expertise, then we must have a plan B in hand in order to lead the project to success. A clever resource management system must therefore know which projects and tasks require which skills and be able to reschedule dynamically.
Certainly there are many other factors that contribute to scheduling within an agency, but we all know these three points, and most of them are the reason why we find ourselves in challenging situations.
TeamGrid Resource Management will be the smartest system you've ever seen.
We have long considered what sort of logic a truly intelligent resource management system must follow, and have come to an exciting result. The below example illustrates the comparison between how our system works and the technology of an autonomously driven car.
An autonomously driven car has dozens of sensors such as cameras, lasers and radar systems. These sensors ensure that the software of the car can always "scan" its environment. In turn, the software can detect how far away other objects are, and at which speed they move. The software calculates the distance and speed of all objects at thousands of times per second and can use such calculations to predict how an object will continue to move and whether there may be a collision.
Now you ask yourself the question, what does this have to do with a resource management system? Well, there are actually some strong parallels.
The TeamGrid Resource Management System will also have numerous "sensors" that monitor thousands of tasks and projects at the meta level in real time and sound the alarm if problems arise. Our system not only takes into account the project deadlines, but also calculates whether the time still available is sufficient to make the deadline. TeamGrid calculates the risks at any time and informs the responsible project manager if necessary. TeamGrid Resource Management monitors thousands of meta-data and only informs employees of your agency when problems arise.
The aim is to make the work of the project manager significantly easier
We have great respect for what project managers do. They have to keep track of hundreds of tasks and always verify whether everything is within the scope of planning and costing. With TeamGrid Resource Management we want to support project managers in such a way that they always feel safe. Because at the end of the day, our resource management is all about planning security, and which is why this is the main principle of our system.
The best usability you can imagine.
Before we started developing TeamGrid resource management, we looked at dozens of solutions in this area. Our conclusion was that most systems are very complicated to operate, do not provide a sufficient overview of the actual progress of the project, and do not react enough flexibly for unpredicitable events.
We have also identified another problem that we think is not in line with the philosophy of the agency business. Most resource management systems generate fixed task lists for their employees. Example: Employee A works from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on task A and from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on task B. In practice, however, we agency people love our flexibility. In certain moments we are more creative than in others or after three hours of work on Task A you need a change and temporarily work on another task. Ultimately, in our opinion, it is wrong for resource management to generate a rigid task list. We as agency people love our flexibility and freedom of decision. We definitely want to keep that up!
TeamGrid Resource Management takes a significantly different approach. TeamGrid generates a "My Week" view where you can view all critical deadlines and related tasks. It is then up to each employee to decide in which order they want to process which tasks. TeamGrid only alerts you if complications should occur.
TeamGrid Resource Management is very active in the background by monitoring the meta data - but behaves very discreetly towards its users and only intervenes if problems arise. In our opinion, this is the smart approach.
What's the next step?
We are currently preparing the launch of our resource management addition. That means we are already developing pages for our website to introduce this new feature. In addition, our development team is working intensively to complete the final functions, and put the finishing touches with great attention to detail.
Stay tuned for more exciting news on our launch of the smartest resource management tool that the agency business has ever seen!