Knowing the Work – Starting the Road Map for Better Work Management



Previously, I provided a high-level overview of a formula for successful work and resource management. Taking the right data to generate the right feedback is key to knowing the work, and knowing the work is key to placing the right resources, in the right place, at the right time. This post will get into a little more detail of what “Knowing the work” means. It’s important to note that the principles and definitions discussed here are not restricted to construction or maintenance activities. They are easily transferred to virtually any activity that requires labor or materials, from environmental impact review to records management..

Every plan must start somewhere, and a great place to start is defining exactly what kind of data is needed to take the first steps in developing a solid work plan. What are the key factors that influence work and need to be considered to successfully manage resources? At a basic level, your company must have a solid understanding of:

Scope: Exactly what is the deliverable that will result from executing the work.

Resource needs: Definition of the type and volume of resources required – labor, materials, equipment, product, funding

Location: Where is the work to be performed?

Priority: The level of importance that the work is executed. This is often closely related to where the work falls in the following categories:

  1. Beneficial work is work that will have an economic or other positive benefit to your organization. Things such as system upgrades, revenue-generating infrastructure or new capacity fall into this area. In the utility industry, this is typically capital expenditure work, and it can be planned for in advance.
  2. Mandatory work is work that must be completed as part of maintaining business continuity and compliance. Things such as system maintenance, compliance work and replacement of infrastructure are generally in this category. It is typically expense work, and it can be planned for in advance.
  3. Emergent work is work that has not been defined yet. It is frequently driven by new regulations, funding changes or customer requests. It can be either beneficial or mandatory. It may be anticipated, but cannot be planned.issed inspections


It can be challenging to compile this information for each individual item of work or task. It is even more challenging to avoid the slippery slope of too much data. Consider that this data is the beginning of a roadmap, and the first step in making a map is a rough sketch. Start at a high level and keep the system basic. If you are managing a portfolio with multiple lines of work that are interdependent, ensure that these dependencies are defined so the entire portfolio can be evaluated. Remember that map isn’t very useful if you can’t stop, look up, and tell where you are.

Once your company has developed a strong foundation and is confident that the high-level data is functional, take incremental steps to increase the level of detail that goes into the planning. Start adding more detail to the map. Future posts will expand on how feedback on the results of these iterations can be used to analyze how well, or poorly, these iterations are performing in the resource management system.