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Challenges in Resource Planning and Assignment: A Viewpoint of an Administrative Assistant

Difficulties in a Project Resource Planning and Assignment

Resources are assigned in every place of work for both ongoing operations as well as projects. Describe problems, challenges, or difficulties you have personally observed in resource planning and assignment in your place of work. Also, point out any differences in resource assignment and planning that you have noticed between projects as described in the readings and ongoing operations.
Respond to the 3 posts below from my classmates, share where you have seen similar problems or challenges, or comment on recommendations for how to handle the situation. Respond from my position an Administrative Assistant viewpoint. Respond to each post separately with 75 to 125 words no more no less.  

A project that comes to mind when I think of when I think of difficulties or challenges in resource planning or assignments, I think of one I had about a year ago. The project was assigned by our project management team to my direct who then delegated my team to work the project. The project to prepare an up-to-date P&P (policy & procedure) Manuel for insurance as a guide for a third party that was going to be hired within the coming months. My team and I began to work on this project gathering the needed information to make necessary adjustments and getting details on when the projected due date was. My director stated the project due date was no later than a month because the third party would be starting in a month and we needed that material for them. As we continued into the project reaching out to other departments as necessary such as education, IT, and insurance billing we realized that none of these other teams were notified that this was being done and that we only had 30 days to get this project completed. Mind you these departments are detrimental to completing the project and responding to the needed information in a timely manner. In fact, the education department are the ones that hold the P&P templates and update them as needed. So, once we gathered all the information, they were going to have to format all this information for our direct to get back to the project management team. At this point we stopped the project for a few days while my manager and some of the other managers met to get on the same page since the director not the project manager contacted any of the stakeholders in this project. The project was completed on time, but it created chaos and confusion which could have led to a delay in project completion. The Project manager has since been replaced and we have not had the same issues, although I am not on the same team any more working under them I work more on my own projects.

For myself, I work at Blue Cross Blue Shield in a call center environment. Every week we have our production planning meeting where we go over how many calls we are projected to have vs. how many customer service representatives we will have servicing our customers. The biggest challenge with this has definitely been the uncertainty of covid-19. Time and time again we plan to have an adequate amount of CSRs onsite to service but with covid-19, there are instances where we have had to quarantine people and have them stay home. This then creates an issue of longer hold times for our customers. We have a service level agreement that we as a department need to make in order to receive additional funding from upper management.

Uncertainty of COVID-19 in Call Center Environment

For projects on the other hand, those have been much different. No matter the project, it has always been a bit easier to adjust and adapt since we are not under the pressure of service operations. Projects allow us Team Leaders to take a step back from the operations to create documents and initiatives that ultimately improve service operations. When it comes to projects we are able to focus solely on those and not have to actively coach our reps or monitor their productivity throughout the day. We are able to take turns monitoring and coaching so that the others can remove themselves and focus on the task at hand.

In the restaurant industry we are continually forecasting guest counts, projecting sales, and budgeting to account for the cost of goods and labor for ongoing operations and special projects. The profit margins in the restaurant industry are slim compared to other industries so accuracy is key.

For this query, I immediately went back to a particularly challenging time entering the pandemic when we had to pivot quickly and embrace a 100% carryout model of doing business. We entered this with little to no historical data for reference during the planning stage. We found ourselves continually missing the mark with resource planning and assignment. We overstaffed one week then we were understaffed the next due to fluctuations in sales levels. Product including food and non-perishable item like carryout containers were in high demand and we found ourselves, unfortunately, running out on a regular basis. The good news is that we eventually adjusted and streamlined our operation. We go really good at executing this business model as a region.

Carryout business for the brand I work with was never very impactful until the demand increase during the pandemic. As we improved we began implementing improved technology, software, and an online platform  that allowed guests to place orders on their own. Our operation was efficient and we decided to open up the on-line ordering capabilities on Mothers Day to help with the extra business. This is were the real gaps in resource planning and assignment revealed themselves. To say this was a catastrophe would be a huge understatement. We missed the mark by a mile forecasting business. The planning stages for opening on-line orders on Mothers Day did not account for such a surge in business and we also failed to set perimeters for how many on-line orders we would allow to enter the system per hour. Each location had at least 500 pre-orders waiting for them when they walked in the door.  We were completely underwater. The resources were not available to handle this much volume, including our human resources. We were understaffed, unprepared, and we collectively made several fatal errors. This resulted in a system failure of epic proportions. Simply put, it was nightmare that I will not soon forget.

Since then we have made adjustment and set perimeters on the frequency of orders that are allowed to come through the system. We have also collected historical data to help us forecast business and staffing levels to meet demand and operate efficiently. We are spending more of our time and focus acquiring resource management knowledge to develop comprehensive plans on a weekly basis while simultaneously focusing on the future of this business model. 

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