Effective resource management is still a huge challenge for many organizations. Questions like who and when is available for the project are only the tip of the iceberg. Because if that was not a lot already, managers also need to consider the skills of their resources. So how can they cover the demand for specific skills with the right people at the right time? Resource skills management is the answer.
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What are Jira skills?
A skill is an ability that an individual team member must have to complete work items. Depending on your project, those skills could range from the architect, bricklayer, and foreman to a software developer, QA engineer, and UX designer.
These are general skills that a project leader needs for a particular project, rather than the complete skills and competency matrix of all the people working in your organization. Therefore, you can think of Jira skills as roles that project managers assign to their resources. (Please note that skills/roles have nothing to do with Jira security permissions.)
How do I manage skills in Jira?
Skills management in Jira is not a native feature. But you can easily use BigPicture to manage the skills of your resources. BigPicture is a PPM app that builds on Jira by adding various functionalities, including resource allocation, resource management, and resource skills management.
Let’s go ahead and talk about managing the skills of your resources in Jira in more detail. You will learn to assign skills to particular Jira project team members and check whether a given skill (person) is available for a job (based on availability and capacity).
1. Define skills you need for your project
No project is the same. Therefore, each might call for a different skill set. BigPicture allows you to add any skill you deem relevant. To start adding skills, navigate to the Administration page > Resources > Skills.
Next, click on the Add new skill button and define the skill.
Currently, the “Code” field is not associated with any existing feature. Therefore, you are free to come up with your coding system. You only need to remember that the code for each skill must be unique. In the example above, we simply dropped the vowels from the skill name and used it as a code. On the other hand, the Color does not need to be unique—you may assign it however you like.
If you want to make changes to any of the Skill fields, double-click it to prompt the inline editing. For example, if you double-click the Code field, you can edit the Skill code. The same goes for the Name, Color, and Description.
And finally, to delete the skill from the list, click on the trash bin icon and confirm the action.
2. Add skills (roles) to your resources
One of the foremost goals of skill management is finding the right person for the right job. But to find that right person, you must first assign the roles to your resources. Once they have their roles, you will know who you need to allocate to the respective project phases, tasks, and stories.
From Jira, we imported all of our resources to BigPicture using the Administration page > Resources > Individuals. To add a person, select the resource (the “User” field) that already exists in Jira, and assign them a Workload plan, Holiday plan, and Skills.
Please note that the “Skills” field is optional. It means you can define a role or roles for a given person now or later.
Wait, did we say “roles”?
Correct. You can assign more than one role to a person. Not only that. You can also define start and end dates for each role. However, the end date field is optional. It means that if you leave it blank, the skill you assign to a person will not “expire” and remain visible on the skills list (even if you no longer need it in your project).
So let’s jump right into it and assign a few skills to someone. (We are still on the Administration > Individuals page). Click on the person from the list to whom you want to add a skill. Then, scroll down until you see a box labeled “Skills.” Click on the Add new button to select a skill from the drop-down list, and add the respective dates. Do it again if the person can fulfill several roles in your project.
Hint: You can also assign existing Skills to your resources using Jira labels.
3. Define Skills for your tasks
Similarly, you can define the skills you need to complete each task. Let’s say that at some point, your project will enter a phase when the drainage and electricity systems need to be installed.For that, you will primarily need plumbers and electricians. The same goes for other tasks you have defined in your project’s work breakdown structure—each task needs some skill for execution.
Furthermore, assigning the skills to the tasks will make it easier for you to track:
- Upcoming tasks regarding the roles you will need.
- Available resources at a particular point in time.
To assign the skill to a task, open the task (Jira issue) and type in the skill name in the Custom Skill Label field (the skill name must follow the “skill#” prefix). For example, “skill#Plumber.” The skill you add to each task should match the skills you have already defined in the previous step (point 1). If there is a role you want to add to a task, but you have not defined it previously, you can always go back to the Resource manager page to add more roles.
Completing this step will also help you assign tasks more efficiently and let the BigPicture suggest the best potential task assignees.
4. Match the skills with the task
By now, you have created a list of the skills you need; assigned the roles to the respective people; and defined the skills each task needs for completion. It is time to give your team members some work.
You can allocate resources to their respective tasks in three different ways. In the first method, you add a person to a Jira Assignee field during the issue creation process or on the issue details page. You can do it with Jira or BigPicture. In the second and third, you leverage the BigPicture’s Resources module. It comes with a drag-and-drop feature, which you can use to juggle tasks between your team members. Moreover, if you click on the task, a task detail dialog will pop up, allowing you to select an Assignee directly from a drop-down list.
You can also use the Find the perfect match feature, which matches the “task skills” with the “resource skills.” It will suggest the best person (or people) available for the job based on their capacity and skills. You may find it especially useful if you manage a large project and work with multiple teams with various skills.
5. Balance the skill capacity
Having the resource pool with the right skills to complete the task is one thing. Having the capacity to add more tasks to somebody’s workload is another. Luckily, these two can go hand in hand thanks to the Resources module and the Skills Panel.
The Resources module gives a holistic overview of your project resources, including their availability, capacity, and skills each week. Therefore, you will be able to see how much work one person has already on their plate in a given week; what tasks they are already committed to; and what would be the earliest time to “book” them for your project.
The Skill panel shows the skills you need for your project (based on the skills you have added to the individual tasks) and their capacities. The skill capacity threshold ranges from green (underallocation) through orange (neutral) to red (overallocation).
The problem arises if you need a skill that only a few people have and share it with other projects. In such a situation, there is a risk that a certain skill becomes quickly overallocated.
To remedy such a situation, you can adjust the person’s workload by assigning more resources or changing the task’s period (if possible). You can also utilize the Workload countouring feature to distribute the remaining workload evenly across the task period.
Working with skill capacity
Let’s say Mr. Project Manager works 40 hours per week (according to his workload plan). You estimated a task to take 50 hours to complete (which gives more than a week of work). However, the Project Manager will already be doing some work (20 hrs) for a construction project. As a result, when the periods of those two tasks overlap, this person will have more work to do than his capacity allows.
See also: Show overall assignment (documentation)
When such a situation happens, the app will indicate the overallocation with the red color. It will also tell you by how many hours you have exceeded the manager’s capacity. Your next step will be to find the solution to this problem. As suggested earlier, you can either find another PM (with or without the Find the perfect Match feature) or move the task to another date when the PM is available. It might also be possible to extend the duration of your task to distribute the total workload over a longer period.