Our previous blog covered the essence of Resource Management, its benefits when done correctly, and the implications of not having this discipline in place. In response to the primary challenge of implementing Resource Management (RM) in Project and Portfolio Management (PPM)—which is the amount of time it takes to enter and maintain this information—we’ve introduced the Excel Interface (XLI) add-on as an elegant solution to this challenge. This add-on was created by Micro Focus partner PPMetrics. In this post, we will expand on this solution to see how it can be best utilized in support of effective RM processes.
The first thing to keep in mind with respect to the XLI is that organizations implementing it may still use the core Micro Focus UI in parallel, as they normally would, without any changes to the tool or its processes. Therefore, the XLI is merely another “trick in the bag” for PPM users, who have the option of using their tool of choice for each task at hand. This is somewhat similar to the option of sending an email from your PC versus your phone – depending on the situation you’re in, one may be more convenient than the other.
When it comes to the XLI, it is usually the most effective in situations where:
Large quantities of data need to be updated,
The data needs to be integrated with other sources
The data needs to be worked on offline
The data needs to be filtered or updated in ways not supported through the core Micro Focus UI
Let’s expand on each one of these. The Micro Focus UI was largely designed to have users update one object at a time (e.g. a single staffing profile). If you are a project manager of a single small project and already have it open on the dashboard, then you simply perform your updates there.
However, if you’re a project manager of a large project, or of more than one project, or even a resource pool manager of large pool(s) than it’s a different story. In this situation you will probably find it very convenient to be able to download all your relevant data into Excel/XLI, apply your updates while utilizing the familiar and powerful built-in features of Excel, and then propagate these updates back to PPM all at once. The more data and the more sophisticated the Excel user is, the greater the productivity and data quality gains with this process. Now the speed of updates becomes dependent on the speed of the user’s hand eye coordination rather than the user interface!
Other than the speed of updates, let’s look at the source of the data. Often times, the real source of data for objects such as staffing profiles and resource pools is none other than Microsoft Excel. Different individuals and business units maintain their own templates and detailed calculations in various spreadsheets that ultimately need to feed the system of record, PPM.
In those cases, XLI users find it highly convenient to copy/paste data into PPM while leveraging the XLI as “middleware”. Furthermore, some of the more sophisticated XLI users utilize Excel formulas, functions etc. to automatically tie data in from those spreadsheets to PPM via the XLI. Finally, in many cases, this source data that ultimately needs to feed PPM resides in other systems that have “export to excel” capabilities, thus enabling them to use the XLI as the vital bridge to PPM.
Managing your data offline
Yet another solid and unique use case for the XLI relates to its offline data management capabilities. While XLI users must be connected to the network while downloading and uploading data to PPM, there is no need to maintain network connectivity while the data is updated in Excel. For example, a resource pool manager who needs to process multiple incoming resource requests or update resource pool participation of multiple resources may download all the relevant data for these tasks, work on it on the train, and then reflect his updates back to PPM when he is connected to the network again. To address risks related to data versioning, the XLI comes with a series of safeguards and conflict resolution capabilities aimed at prevention and mitigation.
In this blog, (and the previous ones) we’ve talked about productivity gains, integration options, and offline data update capabilities of the XLI. But how about the data update logic itself? For example, the way the data may be filtered or the processed. The XLI contains a set of unique capabilities in those areas that make certain use cases particularly more attractive to be executed within the XLI and we will cover a few examples.
First, the XLI comes with a set of OOTB and potentially custom staffing profile filtering capabilities. These include position-level filtering that enable download and updates to a specific set of rows across all relevant profiles which the user needs to work on. An example of this capability is if a manager has a resource about to leave the firm. The manager is tasked with finding all of the current resource’s active assignments across and replacing him with another resource. In this situation, he may easily instruct the XLI to pull all those positions assigned to his resource across the entire system and apply his updates at once.
Another XLI capability includes the ability to make certain fields mandatory, including fields which may not be made mandatory through the core Micro Focus interface, thus enforcing desired business logic not possible otherwise.