In this video, learn how to identify the bottleneck. Bottlenecks are also known as critical resources which are not available in abundance, are usually coming from human resource planning, and lead to a schedule for scarce resources.
- We need to know which of the resources is the bottleneck. Which resource is going to limit the speed of your project? We've already seen that you might choose your own department as the resource to focus on, just to check that you can keep to your part of the plan. Or you might know that, say, a laboratory is the scarcest resource that all of the projects need to be planned around. In fact, you probably already know what the bottleneck resource is for your area of work, because that's where all the hassle always is.
That's where the overtime it worked, where the lateness happens, where the pressure is always being applied. But what if you aren't sure what the bottleneck resource is? How can you know that you've correctly identified it? The first way is to add up all of the resources needed for all of the projects. You would use a spreadsheet for this, with the projects all listed down the side and the resource groups listed across the top, IT, HR, sales, the technical areas, whatever types of people you need, as well as perhaps rooms, space, equipment, and even funds.
Then you populate the spreadsheet with estimates, perhaps involving experts in each area. For example, the IT manager could relatively easily estimate how many IT hours or person days will be needed for each project. Then you can add up the spreadsheet and see how much of each resource you're going to need if you're going to do all of the projects. Finally, you need to estimate how much resource is available, how many lab days per year there are, how many trucks times the number of days, and of course how many people.
We're not worrying yet about whether they'll all be needed at the same time. We're just trying to get the total demand and the total availability. So for the people, you might do a calculation that IT people are available for projects four days a week times 50 weeks, which is about 200 days a year from each person. While a department that does less projects and has more of a process-driven day job like, say, production, could only give you one day a week per person, which is 50 days a year times the number of people in that area.
Now you can compare the number of hours or days or people that you need in total with the number that you've got. And any areas that can't cope are going to be bottlenecks, with the one that is furthest adrift being the main bottleneck. Say, if you need 300 design days and you only have enough people to give you 200, then you can only do 2/3 of your projects, and that's a fact. The organization will have to either get some more designers, another 100 design days, which will have a cost, or it'll have to move 1/3 of its projects into next year.
So you can now have that conversation with all of the stakeholders in the same room about which projects we're going to have this year and which ones we're going to push out into next year. Then once you know that, you can plan the order of those projects. And as long as you keep an eye on the IT resource availability by looking at your Gantt of Gantts for all of the other resources shown here in blue, all those resources which had more spare capacity should be fine, unless by chance one of them is really unlucky.
And although they're only working for a small amount of time on your program it just so happens that all of their input is required on all of the projects at the same time. We'll come to how to check for this and what to do about it later, but it's not usually a problem. Once you know there's a collision and that a resource has become over-committed during that time window, you just have to move one of the projects or a task within that project so that they don't overlap. So for your area, do you know what the bottleneck is? Would it be useful, do you think, to make a rough spreadsheet table of all of the projects and the total resources required for each one just to get an approximate idea of whether you have enough of each resource?
- What is program management?
- Planning from the bottom up vs. top down
- Resource planning
- Managing projects, resources, and time
- Getting the staff you need
- Self-organizing teams