“We’re on time, right? Any delays expected?”
“We have a deadline to meet! What may hold us back? Need more resources?”
“Ok, you do, who exactly do you need to finish on time?”
These are questions a software manager answers regularly. To a customer, to a supervisor or to himself. How often can you answer objectively?
Experienced managers have their experience to estimate with a reasonable degree of certainty. Yet, surveys show when a project grows and/or when managing separate projects at the same time, even seasoned managers have less confidence in their ability to get all the details right, all the time. There is simply so much to track in order to minimize the risk of a project going off track.
Skills for Jira addresses this complexity by bringing Tasks and People into the same coordinate system. Measuring both Tasks and People in skill/hours (or skill/story points for that matter) gives you the ability to compare apples with apples. This provides for a wide range of applications in analytics, assisting resource planning, knowledge gap or scarcity detection, team training or hiring.
In this blog post we will focus on Resource Planning and Risk Management, the most common applications among the Skills for Jira users.
In Totem Dev we tend to periodically survey our customers in order to better understand their needs and pain points and to make sure that our solution is relevant.
One of the major pains according to our customers is project planning. Not in simple cases — experienced project managers don’t have a problem with estimating familiar types of projects with a familiar team. In more complex settings, however, when the company operates multiple projects and needs to frequently allocate and reallocate resources, efficiency becomes a major challenge.
While working on a single product it usually is a straightforward process the challenge is finding the right people with the right skills, once you become responsible for more than one product it becomes a very challenging task as it becomes subjective to many variables, such as timeline/budget and you will need to adjust and reallocate resources as needed.
We don’t have a certain method that measures our efficiency, I tend to leave it to budget/time constraints. If we are meeting them then it is efficient, we tend to hit 80% of our targets.
Here is a typical response that we get when asking about their traditional planning methodology:
Resource estimation is done based on:
1) WBS of the project
2) Resources identified to work on the project
3) Estimation provided by the workers to complete the respective work items .
Also cue is taken from previous projects to have a baseline of work v/s resource requirement for similar sized and scoped projects . Generally we keep a buffer of 10% for the effort estimation but the actual success rate varies between 75–80%
That is a solid traditional approach that yields a respectable 80% success rate. The major weak point, however, is tailoring estimation to a pre-selected team, which defeats the goal of efficiency. Ideally, you would want to staff your project with minimally required resources, while also respecting the needs of your other upcoming projects, right? Practically all our customers agree that it is nigh impossible to do efficiently as between complex Tasks and complex People, resource allocation has to be a manual effort.
Well, that’s the first of the core analytics problems solved by Skills for Jira:
- Measure your Demand/Supply. Skills for Jira will break down the overall project demand per skill involved, giving you a clear picture of what skills are required, in what capacity and how this matches with your existing team.
- Optimize resource allocations (coming soon…). Skills for Jira will evaluate your demand against the available human resources and recommend the most efficient team compositions for every project, making sure that teams are minimal but sufficient to meet your deadlines. Analytics will respect dependencies between tasks and optimize allocations across projects.
Being able to quantify supply and demand, Skills for Jira also points out any mismatch between what the project requires and your team’s capabilities. If you have a shortfall, you can see just what it is, letting you tightly specify the search for staff or contractors.
- Find your Bottleneck. Which resource will be in shortest supply? How will you plan around that scarcity? Often, the bottleneck will be a particular skill in short supply. Once you identify it, objectively, you can quantify it. Once you do that, you can then make good decisions on how to address the constraint.
- Adjust Planning after the Unexpected. A key programmer leaves the team. The customer adds a major new requirement. A team member earns a new certification, adding skills. These things happen. The bigger the project, the more you expect the unexpected. Skills for Jira gives you tools to make adjustments in real time.
- Train your next rock star! It’s easy and common to assign the critical tasks to your top performers. However, this impacts the entire team’s morale and growth. What can you do, though, right? The task is critical and needs to be done fast and well. Skills for Jira recommended approach is to go ahead and assign to your rock star. But don’t hack the system and don’t do it directly. Identify the skill that your rock-star has that others don’t due to which he is better equipped for the task. Do that consistently and your analytics will start revealing these gaps between top performers and the rest of the team, facilitating team improvement and improving morale with a clear path to excellence!
- Create training plans for staff. Engage your staff by explaining to them the specific skills you need. Then plan for their training and certifications to meet those skills. Create a conversation with your team based on real data to help them advance their careers. This can go a long way towards retaining hard-to-find talent. A stable team lowers your risks tremendously.
- See the Big Picture. It’s so easy to be optimistic about the future when the last couple of days have gone well; the opposite is also true. Skills for Jiras’ analytics keep you grounded, closer to reality.
Risk management is a major concern, particularly in industries where compliance concerns are high, quality is paramount and software is mission-critical. But does this work in the real world?
Great value I would say since Managers can then focus on fixing the bottlenecks instead of trying to find them manually. Using Analytics provides valuable insights that can be used to ensure the tasks scale smoothly. Insights like people bottleneck due to skill can then be mitigated as required.
Knowing about scarce skills will help the managers to have a mitigation plan instead of reaching a dead end which will then impact the budget and schedule of the deliverables . Corrective actions (Like getting resources trained, subcontracts etc.) can be taken to ensure we are GREEN
Though Skills for Jira only helps you identify scarcity and doesn’t help in fixing it, out of pure curiosity we asked our users what they do once they locate a bottleneck:
I learned to always look for such cases in the beginning of the project and of course I learned that the hard way, for me the best way to approach it is by either knowledge transfer sessions or documentation of one’s work. There are also other project where I can have one person for a certain skill but if I can afford the downtime then I don’t need to worry about it as much.
Instead of explicitly identifying the bits of knowledge that need to be transferred we simply operate in a way that ensures that all knowledge is redundant. We identify and rank the specific skills for which we are short. Then we offer training to his entire team for those exact skills. Only if this doesn’t work does we think about hiring. This gives the team more confidence and knowledge, and also helps us on future projects.
Understanding project bottlenecks is crucial to this manager. The analytics helps our customers plan objectively, anticipating problems before they happen and know what back up plans they would need. They can thus answer their own questions, and those others would ask, with more data, more confidence, more clarity and less stress.
Planning and leading a software project is difficult. When you use Skills for Jira to match up the skills of your team with the tasks required, however, you generate data efficiently which will inform your experienced eye, revealing opportunities for improvement. Let Skills for Jira do the analysis to shape your decision making. Find out more at Skills for Jira.