People management is one of the most demanding challenges for managers. According to PMI, poor project resource management is the second-most common cause of project failure.
It’s even more challenging for new managers.
With fewer people and tighter budgets, you have very little wriggle room to ensure that projects are delivered successfully.
That’s where learning and implementing resource planning practices can help.
In this article, we look at:
- What is project resource management?
- Why is it important?
- Resource management techniques
- How to manage project resources?
- Free templates
Let’s dive in.
What is project resource management?
Formally project resource management is defined as:
The process of planning, scheduling, and managing a project’s resources most efficiently.
A project resource can be people, tools, or facilities. While managing the allocation of tools and facilities is pretty straightforward, it’s people management where most project managers trip up.
As a project manager, two of your most significant stress points are when people are:
- Overbooked, which results in overworked and burned out team members
- Or underbooked, which affects your company’s bottom line
Learning resource planning skills helps you achieve a better project delivery rate, improved cost control, and gratitude from teams who know that you care about them.
Why is resource management important for small project teams?
Managing resources the right way means managers can ensure that projects are never starved of resources and delivered on time.
Here are three reasons why resource management is so important:
#1. Maximizes efficiency
Underworked team members directly affect the company’s bottom line. Not having enough work to do means employees are wasting time doing nothing.
With the right processes, you can ensure that everyone on your team is sufficiently booked.
#2. Prevents burnout
On the other side, you’ll also see overworked team members, particularly in small teams.
While no one says no to hard work, you don’t want to work your team overtime constantly. Overworked team members often burn out. If you don’t tackle this challenge upfront, you may have retention challenges in your team.
A clear resource plan ensures that you can distribute work efficiently across your entire team.
#3. Identifies resource bottlenecks
In small project teams, resources are often shared across projects. As a project manager, if you don’t have visibility into each team member’s schedule, it can lead to scheduling delays and conflicts between teams.
In enterprise companies, a resource coordinator is responsible for coordinating resource allocation across projects.
Small teams don’t have that luxury. They have to rely on resource management tools.
Project resource management techniques
Now that you understand what project resource management is and why it’s important let’s look at how to implement it within your team.
So, what is resource allocation?
Resource allocation is the process of finding the best available resources and assigning them to projects.
Basically, with resource allocation, managers look at the available skills and capacity to make allocation decisions. It follows that managers need a clear overview of every team member’s schedule across projects.
Enterprise managers have access to resource coordinators and resource allocation reports to make these decisions. However, small team managers use spreadsheets and resource capacity planning tools to get a bird’s-eye view of their team’s work allocation plans.
Visibility into your team’s long term capacity helps you:
- Identify team members who can take up more work so you can allocate them to projects.
- Identify resource bottlenecks and manage risks associated with such bottlenecks.
- Make hiring or outsourcing decisions to make up for the skills and capacity that your team lacks.
Once you’ve allocated team resources to a project, the next step is to ensure that no one in your team is over or underworked.
Workload management is the process of distributing work efficiently across your team members.
In a study, Indeed.com found that more than half of the respondents felt burned out and struggled to find work-life balance.
Workload management helps you distribute work evenly so that your team doesn’t feel overworked. Done well, it maximizes your team’s productive time while ensuring that no one is overwhelmed with work.
It helps to have a clear picture of the hours your team is putting in so that you can monitor your team’s workloads and make adjustments as necessary.
The two techniques you can use to manage your team’s allocation and workloads are:
- Resource leveling: The process of planning your work schedule according to the available resources is called resource-leveling. It gives you a clear overview of what you can achieve with the available resources.
- Resource smoothing: The process of planning your work schedule within the required time while avoiding peaks and troughs in demand is called resource smoothing. Generally, delaying non-essential tasks is the preferred way to smoothen out your resource workloads.
While it’s critical to allocate resources and keep an eye on their workloads, it’s equally important to predict requirements for the future.
Resource forecasting is the process of anticipating your organization’s resource needs over a future period.
The goal of resource forecasting is to identify bottlenecks and manage them early.
For small teams, anticipating resource requirements are often determined by the most senior manager or the CEO. However, project managers have the most visibility into their project schedules. Thus, they are best equipped to identify and forecast future demand.
Forecasting helps teams:
- Identify resource gaps and bottlenecks to make staffing decisions early to mitigate these risks.
- Manage stakeholder and customer expectations by pointing out the identified people gaps.
- Demand resources early during a project’s lifecycle so that HR has sufficient time to hire new people.
How to manage project resources?
Now that you know the techniques, let’s look at the steps involved in managing project resources.
- Estimate resource requirements: During the early stages of project planning, project managers identify the people, tools, and facilities needed for a project. For people, requirements need to be estimated for the skills and the number of team members required to complete the project.
- Create a resource plan timeline: Once you have identified the requirements, you can plan when you will need these resources during the project’s life cycle. Using a timeline tool is a fast and efficient way to create a resource plan.
- Resource allocation: Based on the resource plan, look at the existing resource and team members. Identify who’s available and who can take on work. Allocate these people and resources to the project. You may also need to initiate hiring or outsourcing requests if a resource is not available.
- Manage workloads: Once the resources are allocated to a project, the final step is to ensure that your resources are optimally utilized. You don’t want your team members to burn out because of over or under-allocation. Redistribute work across your team members by reallocating work in case workloads needs adjustment.
Project resource management templates
Like most small teams, you probably use spreadsheets to manage your work. While ready-made templates come in handy and can save you time, they also have certain disadvantages:
- Lack of data integrity: Spreadsheets are error-prone, especially if multiple people are updating them simultaneously. It’s possible that the spreadsheet data is accidentally updated or deleted.
- Lack of collaboration features: When planning work with shared resources, you have to work together with other project managers to schedule work. It’s almost impossible to work collaboratively in Excel.
- Information overload: Often spreadsheets
Nonetheless, here are three commonly used resource management templates that you can use to manage projects.
This template helps you visually track your team’s off time, including vacations and public holidays. Once you know who’s available you can easily allocate them to a project.
Using this template, you can allocate resources to projects. Plus, you can see the dates when they have the capacity to take up more work.
Track the estimated work hours of all your employees using this template. Visualize workloads to identify who’s overworked and who has the capacity to take on more projects.
Get started with Toggl Plan—a simple team management tool
Toggl Plan is a simple, visual, online work management tool for creative agencies, consultancies, and software teams.
You can use it to schedule your projects and manage people.
Its timelines make it easy to visualize your project and team schedules. When things change, you can just as easily make changes by dragging and dropping a task to another date or assigning it to another team member.
Unlike spreadsheets or complex software tools, Toggl Plan is easy to get started with, and keeping project information up to date takes even less work. As a result, you and your team can focus on more meaningful work.