How To Create A Resource Plan In 7 Steps
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How To Create A Resource Plan In 7 Steps

Post Author - Jitesh Patil Jitesh Patil Last Updated:

As an agency project manager, you’ve probably experienced the agony of a project going over budget or missing deadlines because of poor project resource planning.

But let’s face it—creating a resource management plan while balancing a project’s requirements, budget, and schedule can be a real pain. Even the thought of identifying all the required resources, assigning them, and creating a detailed schedule is enough to give you a headache.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

This article will show you how to create a resource plan that addresses these pain points and sets your project team up for success. You’ll learn about the steps involved, the tools needed, and the best practices to document a resource management plan.

Ready to get started?

Let’s start by understanding what a resource plan is.

What is a resource plan?

A resource plan is a document that outlines the resources (people, tools, and materials) needed to complete a project. For an agency project, this document focuses primarily on human resources and their capacity, availability, and workload.

This plan helps a project manager manage resources and adjust the schedule.

Project managers create it in the early planning stages of project management. It’s a deliverable of an effective resource planning process.

Elements of a project resource plan

A comprehensive resource plan includes:

  • Resource requirements: A list of all the resources needed to complete the project, including their number, roles, and responsibilities
  • Project schedule: A detailed schedule including task start and end dates as well as critical milestones
  • Resource gaps and risks: An analysis of the resource needs that cannot be met internally and a plan to deal with resource risks
  • Resource management: A plan about how to monitor resource utilization and workload
  • Monitoring and control plan: A plan to share resource planning and management updates with stakeholders, team members, and management.

How to create a resource plan?

Project managers plan resource management during the project’s planning phase. This upfront project management work ensures that you have the right resources available at the right time in your project.

Let’s look at the steps involved in creating one.

Grab a copy of our free project resource plan template to follow along.

#1. Document project scope

The first step in project management is to define the project’s scope.

The scope document not only helps you plan a project’s schedule, but it’s also critical for understanding the resource requirements of a project.

You don’t need to redo the entire scope document. However, it helps to include the following:

  • Key project deliverables
  • Major activities needed to deliver them
  • And things that are out of scope

Creating a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) based on project requirements helps you identify the deliverables and tasks.

Sample project scope for a content marketing campaign
Sample project scope for a content marketing campaign

Include a brief project scope outlining the deliverables and activities needed to complete the project.

#2. Identify resource requirements

At this stage, you know the activities needed to deliver a project. Next, you can quickly identify the resources required to complete each activity.

For example, here’s how you can document the resource requirements for a content marketing project.

sample resource requirements for a content marketing project
Sample resource requirements for a content marketing project

For every resource type, note down the following:

  • Role
  • Responsibilities (you’ll need these later to identify resource gaps)
  • And the number of resources required

#3. Include the project timeline

At the end of step #2, you’ve identified the “who,” i.e., the project resources.

Next, you need the “when.”

You only need some of the resources at all times in your project’s lifecycle. It makes sense to allocate and release a valuable resource as required so they can work on multiple projects.

That’s where a project timeline helps.

At this stage, the timeline represents the baseline schedule of the project’s activities. This could change resource assignments depending on resource availability.

Toggl Plan’s drag-and-drop Project timelines make it easy to create project schedules and adjust them just as quickly when things change.

Sample project timeline in Toggl Plan
Sample project timeline in Toggl Plan

Include a link to your project timeline in this section.

#4. Allocate resources to project tasks

Resource allocation is the process of assigning and managing the available resources.

It is an essential step of the resource management process as it helps balance a project’s resource needs with an organization’s total resource capacity.

Managers need to compete for resources when an agency works on multiple projects. As a result, a manager often needs to work with other project managers to book resources for a project.

Toggl Plan’s Team timelines make it easy to see your entire team’s schedule. See who’s on vacation and who’s busy with other projects in one place. Thus making it simple to schedule resources based on their availability and capacity.

Sample team timeline in Toggl Plan
Sample team timeline in Toggl Plan

Once you’re happy with the allocation plan, add the project resource schedule to the plan document. This involves adding the name of the person, their role, allocation start and end dates, and their estimated workload in hours.

Sample resource allocation plan for a content marketing project
Sample resource allocation plan for a content marketing project

Once you’ve allocated resources, you may find some project activities without any assignees. These are called resource gaps.

You may find other project activities without room to add a buffer resulting in the risk of a project lag. This risk can occur within a project or across projects in your agency.

Once you’ve identified the gaps and risks, include them in the plan.

#5. Make a risk management plan

Agency project managers mostly need to manage human resources. As a result, the project resource planning process is full of uncertainties. All an agency manager can do is prepare for roadblocks to complete projects on time and within budget.

You’ve already identified the resource gaps and risks in the last step.

Next, make a plan to manage these risks.

Here are some common project resource risks and their solutions:

RiskPossible Solutions
Over-allocation• Adjust the project schedule to free up additional resources
Under-allocation• Identify alternate sources (freelancers, outsourcing, etc.)
• Negotiate additional resources
• Extend project deadline
Insufficient skills or experience• Identify alternate sources (hiring freelancers, outsourcing)
• Upskill to improve resource skillsets
Unexpected resource changes• Continuously monitor resource availability
• Negotiate additional resources
• Extend project deadline
Resource risks and possible solutions

The solutions you choose depend on the client and other project priorities.

Once you’ve identified the potential solutions, include them in your plan.

#6. Monitor and control project resources

There’s one final step before you can send the plan for approval.

You need a plan for when and how you’ll track resource availability and utilization.

A regular review meeting schedule helps you:

  • Stay on top of your project’s resource requirements.
  • Revisit specific resource assignment decisions.
  • Manage resource risks better.

Include the resource review meeting date, topic, and attendee information in the resource management plan.

Tracking utilization

Utilization indicates how effectively resources are utilized in a project compared to their estimated allocation. It clearly shows you if your project is suffering from under or over-utilization of resources.

Allocation can be estimated from previous successful lookalike projects. Using a time-tracking tool to track time is the best way to measure your project team’s utilization accurately.

You can also use a simple spreadsheet or use Toggl Track’s reports to track your team utilization rate.

#7. Get the plan approved

You are now all set to send the plan for approval.

You must get the plan approved by all the stakeholders involved in the project. This way, they understand the plan and risks in managing resources.

Critical stakeholders in an agency project include:

  • Client (or the project owner)
  • Account manager
  • People ops team (if you plan to hire additional resources or train existing resources)
  • Finance/budget team

In large agencies, these are separate teams. On the other hand, in small agencies, the agency owner is often the only one you’ll need approval from.

Do you really need a documented plan?

Some of the steps outlined above seem apparent. In fact, so evident that agencies rarely make resource plans—less than 40% of project teams invest in resource planning and management (Wellingtone, 2021).

Is it worth then investing in planning your project’s resources?

Absolutely. Here’s why:

  • Reduce project failure rate: According to the same Wellingtone report, poor resource planning is the third-most common cause of project failure.
  • Better manage resource constraints: With a clear picture of resource availability and allocation, you can make better decisions to utilize resources efficiently.
  • Effective project portfolio management: Juggling multiple client projects is never easy. A documented plan gives you a clear picture of who’s doing what and when. Thus ensuring that all projects get a fair shot at available resources.
  • Clear project communication: A documented plan means all stakeholders (including clients) know the resource needs, risks, review schedule, and mitigation plans.
  • Resource commitments: Getting signed approvals to ensure everyone has budgeted for the resource requirements—including other PMs, HR, and finance teams.

Tools for effective resource planning

Creating and documenting a plan to manage resources may feel daunting. However, templates and resource management software make it easy.

Free resource planning templates

Free resource plan template (Google Docs and MS Word)
Free resource plan template (Google Docs and MS Word)

Make a copy of this free Google Docs (or MS Word) template to document your resource plan.

Free resource management template
Free resource management template

Also, grab our free resource planning and management templates (Google sheets and Excel versions)

Resource planning software

The free templates can help you get started quickly. But if you’re serious about resource management, it pays to invest in resource management tools.

Read our detailed comparison of the top resource planning tools. Or check out our top picks below.

Toggl PlanSimple, visual, drag-and-drop project and resource planning tool
Toggl TrackThe best time-tracking tool to keep track of resource utilization and workload
FloatComprehensive resource management tool with built-in forecasting and timesheet features
Resource GuruResource management tool to manage people and materials
SmartsheetResource planning tool with time and expense tracking

Create an effective resource management plan with Toggl Plan

For agency projects, you need a simple tool to plan your projects and resources.

Project managers are hands-on and often have little time to learn and tinker with a complex project management tool.

That’s where Toggl Plan can help. It’s a simple, visual, drag-and-drop project planning tool.

Its colorful timelines make it easy to see who’s doing what and when. As a result, you can quickly make and adjust project and resource plans.

Toggl Plan's drag-and-drop timelines make it easy to create and adjust resource plans

The time-off planning feature is handy for staying on top of your team’s vacation plans and avoiding scheduling conflicts with off time and other projects.

Toggl Plan helps you plan and manage your team's time off

It also has a two-way integration with Toggl Track, a time-tracking tool. Using both tools, you and your team can stay on top of your team’s allocation, utilization, and workload.

Toggl Track Summary Report Pie Chart

Start your free Toggl Plan trial now.

Jitesh Patil

Jitesh is an SEO and content specialist. He manages content projects at Toggl and loves sharing actionable tips to deliver projects profitably.

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