“We don’t have enough capacity next month. Looks like we’ll have to reprioritize our projects.”
It’s a project manager’s nightmare having to explain to clients why something won’t be done by the deadline.
But imagine if it was more like:
“Some of us are away on a vacation next month, but we have time to move people around or adjust our schedule to meet the deadline.”
A solid resource management plan is what prepares you for such eventualities.
When done correctly, a resource management plan enables agencies to identify and solve resource gaps before they affect:
- Client relationships and timelines
- Team relationships and burnout
- Revenue and profit
And we’re here to show you that what, why, and how of a resource management plan.
Let’s dive in.
What is a resource management plan?
A resource management plan helps project managers account for, allocate, manage, and release resources needed to meet project deadlines.
It also enables project managers to identify upcoming capacity gaps and ensure there’s wiggle room for any last-minute changes or delays.
A resource management plan should clearly present the number of deliverables in the pipeline, the resources required to produce them, and the resources currently available within the team.
But that’s only part of it.
To function effectively, a resource management plan must highlight:
- Team availability
- Resource gaps or surpluses
- Task allocation
Why are project resource management plans important?
A project resource management plan is your friend because it:
- Brings visibility to the long-term project resource needs (so you’re more prepared at all stages and don’t overly depend on the short fixes)
- Avoids project failure due to over or under allocation of resources (you evenly distribute resources, so all projects and tasks are covered)
- Avoids unexpected risks and hurdles slapping your project’s face
- Helps keep your employees mentally fit, happy, and un-burned out
- Promotes transparency and open communication
- Helps you spot immediate gaps before you start so you don’t scramble for the solutions later
- Highlights opportunities to support/train employees who need it and reward those who are smashing their responsibilities and increasing capacity
- Helps you manage team workload and prevents burnout
In summary, it helps plan resource for a project and helps ensure that you have the right resource available at the right time.
How does a resource management plan help an agency?
Let’s say you run a blog writing agency. Here’s what a typical month looks like:
|Clients||Demand (blogs)||Writers||Capacity (blogs)|
|Client 1||12||Writer 1||5|
|Client 2||8||Writer 2||15|
|Client 3||10||Writer 3||10|
Since your capacity matches the client’s demands, there’s no gap. It’s a perfect month.
Unfortunately, that’s now how things work in real life.
- A client may demand more (or less) blog articles in a month
- Or a writer may need to take time off for a vacation
In such situations, Your resource management plan is the difference between “okay, time for plan B” and “balls, how will we recover?”.
At the same time, it helps you maximize your resource utilization while ensuring that no one is overworked.
For example, here are some ways you can come up with a plan B:
|Situation||Additional Capacity||Plan “B”|
|Demand > Capacity temporarily||Some||Redistribute work|
|Demand > Capacity temporarily||None||Hire a freelancer|
|Demand > Capacity permanently||None||Hire a full-time writer|
Resource management plan vs project management plan
We’ve covered what a resource management plan is. So let’s look at how it’s different than a project management plan. Here’s a quick comparison.
|Resource management plan||Project management plan|
|Helps you identify, allocate, and manage project resources||Helps you communicate the project schedule, milestones, including resource requirements|
|Requires collaboration across internal teams and external vendors||Needs collaboration between clients, project managers, and vendors|
|Determines the most efficient, effective use of the various resources needed for a project||Describes what’s in your scope and what isn’t, and what happens if changes are required later on|
|Accounts for all of your resource requirements for a project and whether you need more or less during each project phase||Determines your deliverables, when they’re due, and who’s in charge of which part of the process|
|Source, allocate, manage, and release resources||Communicates project schedule|
|Helps optimize your resource utilization to meet project goals||Helps optimize budget and resources for each project stage|
A project management plan maps out the project’s schedule on a timeline and assigns resources. On the other hand, a resource management plan helps you match demand with capacity.
In the case of our blog writing agency, a project plan describes the schedule to deliver the articles to the client by a deadline. On the other hand, a resource management plan guides you specifically on:
|Factor||What does it mean?|
|Demand||The number of blog articles your clients need|
|Capacity||The number of blog articles your team can produce|
|Availability||The number of blog articles your team can produce after considering time off|
|Resource Gap||The difference between Demand and Availability|
|Utilization||The ratio of Demand to Availability|
What’s included in a resource management plan?
Time for some details.
What exactly does project management resource planning include?
Here is your basic breakdown with some examples:
|Resource management plan component||Explanations/Examples|
|4. Estimates and constraints|
How to create a resource management plan in 5 steps
A resource management plan is rarely a single document. Often it’s a collection of documents including:
- Resource capacity planner
- Team availability tracker
- Resource allocation tracker
- Project resource planner
- Timesheet tracker
Don’t start your resource planning from a blank slate. Use these 5 handy resource management and planning templates to get started.
Keep in mind that resource plan might look different for each agency.
So instead of a step-by-step guide, here’s a high-level roadmap to help you create a resource management plan that matches your agency’s needs.
1. Map out your project timeline
If you don’t know your new design client is your biggest project ever and requires a whole fleet to be done on time, you might quickly find yourself under-staffed and ill-equipped for the job.
So start by defining the scope and creating a timeline:
Make sure you’re clear on when deliverables are due, as well as what a finished one looks like and who’s in charge of it.
Break it into tasks and estimate how long each one will take.
Then, you can see what it will take to get it done.
2. Identify needed project resources
Think about all it takes to complete the project successfully and comfortably.
- What resources do you need to complete each task?
- How many people do you need on the task?
- Do you need any specific tools or equipment?
- Do you already have these resources or would you acquire them?
- What about employee training?
Keep in mind: surprises and risks are inevitable along the way. Make plans considering these hurdles.
Now stack it up against your current resources.
3. Find the availability and capacity of existing resources
It helps if you can visualize your team’s schedule to identify any imbalances or scheduling conflicts ahead of time.
Considering your team’s current capacity, other projects, and preferences, how much work can they each take on?
Do you have enough manpower for the project?
Are you missing any skills or just more people on the team?
Is it just the short-term situation or will you need backup on an ongoing basis?
This is where you figure out how to fill the gaps.
For example, if you have 30 tasks to complete by the end of each month, but your team can only cover 25 at full capacity, your resource management plan will instantly underline that you need reinforcements.
4. Plan for hiring more resources (if necessary)
Hiring is in itself a process you need to plan out to avoid wasting your time and money.
So don’t rush into interviewing.
It’s better to sit down and think it through:
- What skill/task/role are you hiring for?
- How long do you need help?
- How will you evaluate a great hire?
- Who’s in charge of interviewing the candidates?
- How much can you spend on testing and onboarding?
- What’s your onboarding plan? Do you have all the documentation ready?
- When can you start and finish the process, and who’s going to do it?
5. Map resources to project tasks
Finally, once you have all the resources, you need to connect the dots.
And this doesn’t mean just putting people on tasks at random.
You need to evaluate:
- Who’s best suited for which job and what their preferences are (for best utilization)
- What type of support they might need to deliver the product/task
- Who will do the quality control/help them along the way if needed
For example, a writer will be creating a blog, the editor is there for quality control, and then you’ll be overseeing the general timeline and making sure everything falls into place.
In Toggl Plan, you can start by adding tasks to a timeline. Then you can add assignees. If needed you can also assign multiple people to a task.
This way, everyone who’s collaborating on the task is always up to date with its status. They can communicate on the spot, and you can have an easy overview of the big picture.
In theory, that’s your preparation for everything to go right.
Now, not meaning to sound grim, but things still probably won’t go 100% according to plan… so how can you prepare yourself for potential problems?
How to mitigate resource planning risks
The best way to build resilience against project failure is to visualize everything that could go wrong, then build a contingency plan.
So, hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
Below are some examples.
Common resource planning risks
In web design, projects are usually once and done.
Imagine you planned for 10 projects of varying scales. But then—oh no—the biggest client has canceled!
Now you have to figure out what to do with the contractors or employees you had organized to do the job.
There are two great ways to mitigate this risk:
- Include cancellation clauses in your contracts (meaning clients are less likely to drop out, and you still get paid if they do)
- Keep internal tasks in the backlog (you could re-allocate those resources to working on your own site, for example)
Changes in resource availability
An employee could get sick.
Or a contractors could go on holiday and would not be available.
Changes like these happen all the time, which is why resource management planning needs to be a monthly/regular thing.
For example, a client might take longer than usual to approve something, and this means that the project kickoff is pushed to the next month.
So, you still have the project, but the delay might mean you have to lose certain time-bound resources.
Who’s going to jump in and save the day?
Strong project and timeline management skills are the key to mitigating this risk.
Resource management planning tips to reduce risks
Here are a few other helpful ways to fend off the attacks and keep your project on the right track:
- Get a project scope sign-off—scope creep could plague your project otherwise
- Adapt an agile approach to delivering incrementally (the plan is your foundation but the reality rarely turns out exactly like the theory)
- Avoid over or under-allocating resources—open communication can help you get the real feel of how your team is doing
- Keep an eye on employee availability (other projects, time off, public holidays) and workloads
- Monitor project progress and flag off any delays—don’t wait and see what happens
- Don’t become reliant on short term fixes—like having people do things that aren’t their job or preference
- Prepare for the worst—rehearse for any project disaster you can imagine
- Over-communicate—it’s better to double-check that everyone understands the situation, so there are fewer errors. Plus, you might have volunteers to help when shit hits the fan
Turn your resource management plan into a repeatable process
Resource management and planning templates can help you start planning quickly.
But your resource management plan is the sort of document you’ll be tweaking every month.
Ideally, that should be a smooth, standardized, sustainable process—otherwise, you’ll be wasting a lot of time on it.
So here are some better resource management tools that could help cover your bases instead.