One crucial part of the planning phase of any project is resource allocation. In today’s project environment, there is more demand to shorten project timeframes while increasing quality. I found two articles I’d like to share on resource allocation.
In order to meet the overall project deadline, subject matter experts are often allocated less time to complete the tasks identified in the project plan. Tasks are outlined based on the minimum time required to complete which doesn’t account for other projects and work, sick days, or vacation. The article, Guarding Against SME Overload, discusses the problem of overloading SMEs and the importance of avoiding it.
Combat Overload: Speak Up!
Many SMEs are involved in more than one project or they are part of a project and they still have other work to do. The article suggests that “Employees and contractors must have a level of comfort to raise the issue of work-overload to the project manager and their direct manager as well.”  I think it is crucial for Project Managers to create this level of trust with the people working on their project.
No matter how well I think I have planned a project, I have frequently found myself in a position where resources are over allocated. Generally a project manager should be managing the work rather than completing the work. In my case I am both managing my department’s portion of the work while also acting as the main subject matter expert. The article comments, “Most project managers tend to internalize issues and keep things like this to themselves. PMs are not immune from stress and the implications of being stressed.”  I find it is easier to over allocate my own time than that of another resource, especially since the performance of the project rests on me.
Prevent Overload: Estimate Effort!
In the past, I found it difficult to adequately estimate the amount of time a project is going to take. While one task may not take long, when adding all of the other tasks that are going to be completed within the same week, your time suddenly disappears. The article, Estimating the Work, has some tips on how to better plan the time it will take to complete project tasks.
The first tip is to estimate the amount of time it’s going to take to do the task in effort hours rather than calendar days. The author uses the example of a twenty-hour task that could be completed in under three calendar days if that was the only task assigned to the resource. However, it could take longer if you have to wait for information or stay home due to illness.
The second tip is around translating the task effort hours into calendar days. He suggests tracking the time the SME can spend on the project on a daily basis and using that to translate the task into calendar days. He advises, “Typically, the effective project time is only perhaps fifty to sixty percent of the nominal time team members spend at work, far less than the assumed one hundred percent effective time on which so many project schedules are planned.” 
How do you prevent resource overload?
How do you determine the time each task in your project will take?