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The Forecast Calls for Gain: How PR Professionals Can Benefit From Better Resource Management

This is a guest post by Daniel Gabis, senior account executive at Communiqué PR

As any project manager can attest, resource management is the name of the game. Knowing the real-time and forecasted availability of team members who can contribute to a project—especially a deadline-driven one—at any given time is a vital key to success.

Seeing Ahead

In planning and deploying complex PR plans for her clients, Jennifer Gehrt, co-founder of Seattle-based boutique firm Communiqué Public Relations, lives and dies by the deadline. Knowing which of her staffers has available bandwidth when a project comes in the door is critical to meeting her clients’ exacting PR needs.

“We’ve always used project sheets for our clients,” says Gehrt, who founded Communiqué PR with her business partner Colleen Moffitt in 2004. “They allow us to chart staff assignments and easily see deadlines and timing forecasts. But our bottom line is directly impacted by how productive our staff is—without a real-time view of our team members’ workloads, forecasting out our utilization is difficult. We aim for a tight utilization rate, but you can’t always project ahead with enough accuracy or assure that we are all working on target.”

Managers know that effective time management and staff availability is critical for success: Some 97 percent of respondents to a recent TechValidate survey said that the management of their team’s time commitments and availability is a key component to the success of their projects.

“If you don’t have a tool to do this and you’re making assumptions about your staffs’ bandwidth, there’s no real insight into what people are working on and when,” Gehrt says.

She outlines two scenarios of guessing at allocation, both of which can be deleterious to the project. “One,” she says, “is that staffers are already too busy and cannot get to the project. They’re oversubscribed and maybe working at 120 percent. Or two, they’re underutilized, and have the bandwidth to contribute. Without a mechanism to track, as a manager I have no accurate way of knowing. It’s all about the forward look.”

Finding the right tools

With a host of online and cloud-based project-management software options in the marketplace–including Clarizen, Genius Project, AtTask, Wrike and others–Gehrt and her team found a solution with Smartsheet*, a Software as a Service (SaaS) company that provides an enterprise-ready cloud app for project management and collaboration, and for its most recent enhancement: resource management.

The resource-management functionality provides Communiqué a clear view of its staffers’ availability. “We are able to use that information to make business decisions,” Gehrt says. “Team allocation information is immediately available—in real time—which allows us to make adjustments quickly and enables us to better utilize our resources.”

It works by pulling allocation information from Communiqué PR’s existing project sheets, compiling it to determine who is allocated to what tasks and for how long, and displaying that info in an easy-to-view-and-use dashboard across all projects. This allows Communiqué’s management team to see at a glance the percentage of its staff’s time being utilized, and to drill-down to see which projects are taking up the most time.

Resource management in Smartsheet lets Communiqué PR’s team add allocation data to existing projects and tasks. This information is then compiled into a central sheet, where account managers can easily see all staffers’ project loads in one place.

For example, looking at one team member’s entry in the resource-management view, Gehrt can easily see that 12 percent of her time is being used up by administrative tasks, 25 percent is devoted to work for one client, 33 percent to another, and 20 percent of her time is being put toward business development.

“It helps us answer a lot of important questions: How can we staff our projects more efficiently? Do we need to devote more time to business development? Do we need to bring more staff members on board?” Gehrt says. “Resource management has transformed our use of Smartsheet from strictly a project-management tool to a business-intelligence tool as well.”

By better management of people’s time, Communiqué is able to work more efficiently and nimbly—a critical asset for the firm’s clients. Forecasting workflows in advance removes the guesswork from time management, a pain point for many PR agencies. If you are looking for ways to help your team collaboratively and efficiently, and want to help managers easily see where time is being spent, do not overlook the impact that simple tools like Smartsheet can have.

*Disclosure: Smartsheet is a client of Communiqué PR.

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