Resource planning, along with the right tools, are key aspects of project management. It doesn’t matter how well you define and plan tasks if you don’t have the right resources when needed.
This gets even a bit more complicated when teams share resources. Take for example: developers or copywriters for design and marketing teams. It’s crucial that team tasks assignments do not overlap.
Given the importance of resource planning, we’ve put together an article to help. We’ve covered:
- What is resource planning?
- Why is resource planning for project management?
- Why should project managers use resource management tools?
- Top 8 resource management tools
What is resource planning?
Resource planning is a specific area in project management that deals with gathering and making use of all the necessary resources required to deliver a project. In this respect, anything can be viewed as a resource: people, IT equipments, materials, facilities. Generally, for knowledge and creative work, the most important resource is people – whether they’re full time employees, freelancers or contractors.
Resource planning is also about managing available talent. It allows project managers to make sure that one person will be working on one thing, at one time, for a specific project. Managing resources is also about matching skill level to task difficulty level. This way, team members get to do challenging work and stay motivated.
Why is resource planning important in project management?
Resources can make or break your project. Like we mentioned earlier, it doesn’t matter how well tasks are planned. Without the right resources, they won’t turn into reality. What’s more, projects come with difficult requirements and deadlines, but the resources project managers get are finite. Strategic use of resources allow project managers to ship on time, respecting deadlines and costs. To this end, resource planning is an essential step.
Additionally, priorities can change on the fly. In order to accommodate changes, project managers need to keep an eye on resource availability and utilization so they can shift resources when needed.
Resource planning also keeps an eye on utilization rates. This is very important if you charge clients according to the number of hours.
Last but not least, resource planning can help project managers create balance and a good mood inside their team. Matching tasks and skill set will keep team members happy and engaged. Also, by constantly managing individual availability, project managers make sure that work is divided equally and that no one gets overworked.
Why should project managers use resource management tools?
Although important, resource management can be difficult. However, there are a lot of tools that can help.
Spreadsheets can be a temporary solution for resource planning. Even if they seem helpful at first, in the long run, they become complicated. For starters, spreadsheets require manual data input, which leaves plenty of room for error. Then there’s the risk of file overwrites and multiple versioning. (We’ve covered why you should ditch Excel for project management here).
The right tools, on the other hand, will make any project manager’s job easier. A lot of project management tools come with resource planning modules embedded. There are also stand-alone, dedicated resource management tools. Both provide useful features such as visual resource planning, capacity planning and real-time analytics and forecasting.
Also, both will help project managers create a better use of resources. Visual resource planning shows what task team members are assigned to and working on. This makes it harder for task to overlap. Given the reporting capabilities, resource management tools allow project managers to keep an eye on utilization rates.
Additionally, project managers get a better view of team members’ availability. They get to see when they complete work on a project and when they can reassign them to other tasks.
Resource management tools also allow teams to collaborate and can be used as a communication tool. The initial plan can be shared with stakeholders and clients so they get to see who is working on what and when.
Top 5 resource planning and management tools
1. Toggl Plan
Toggl Plan is a browser-based, beautiful, easy to use visual resource planning and management tool. Even if it looks simple, it comes packed with powerful features that enable any project manager to properly plan and manage resources. Some of its cool features include intuitive drag and drop resource assignment, allocated hours so no one gets overbooked and smart reporting.
Toggl Plan also allows task import from a variety of third party apps such as Trello or Github. Compared to other tools, it comes with a lot of integrations (Slack, for example) that enable teams to communicate and collaborate. It’s used by both small and large companies such as Spotify, BuzzFeed or the National Geographic. Toggl Plan comes with a free plan that allows users to add up 5 team members. For teams that need more, premium plans start at $8/month per user. Check out Toggl Plan!
Resource Guru is one of the oldest resource scheduling and management tools on the market. However, it’s pretty powerful and is a favourite with agencies and companies working with multiple clients. It comes packed with features such as filtering, checking team availability, easy resource allocation, reporting, time zone support and other customization options.
Resource Guru also allows leave management and sick days so project managers can get a better overview of available resources. Each user gets his/her own dashboard. Standard users get to manage their availability and see what they should be working on next. Project managers get a bird’s eye view of resources’ availability, bookings, clients and projects.
Resource Guru alse prevents resource clash allocation by setting availability for each resource and through waiting lists. It also supports multiple users so more Project managers can use it at the same time without stepping on anyone else’s toes. Resource Guru offers a 30 day free trial. Once the trial is over, pricing plans start at $2.50/user/month. Check out Resource Guru!
10,000 ft plans is a resource management tool popular for marketing, advertising and architecture companies. It’s also used by design, management and consulting businesses. 10,000 ft plans comes with standard resource planning features such as drag and drop assignment, powerful dashboards that give an overview of current status, task management and reporting.
What makes 10,000 plans different is the project and resource matching feature, which allows project managers to always find the right skills for a specific task. 10,000ft also provides time tracking and expense tracking. What’s more, project managers can create comprehensive reports with data such as utilization for projects, teams, clients or more. Like Resource Guru, 10,000ft plans offers a 30 day free trial. Also, pricing starts at $10/user/month. Check out 10,000ft plans!
Float is a popular resource management tool for many advertising agencies. With clients such as R/GA, Ogilvy and Razorfish, Float has also become popular with other creative companies such as Vice or BuzzFeed. This tool provides all the necessary features a project manager needs to plan resources smoothly: easy assignment, fast editing, live updates, holiday management. Float also allows users to set recurring tasks.
Additionally, it comes with powerful reporting that can be customized according for insight into departments, projects, tasks and resources. What’s different about Float is the live update system that sends email notifications with weekly schedules and updates so users don’t need to log in. It also comes with a Zapier integration, making it easier to connect with other apps. Anyone can test-drive Float for 30 days for free. Afterwards, premium plans start at $5/user/month. Check out Float!
Mavenlink is a full fledged project management tool that also allows for resource planning. However, it covers all the standard resource planning features: resource assignment, allocation, quick editing. What’s more, it also provides real-time availability forecasting. What sets Mavenlink apart is its resource shaping tool. This feature allows users to define a resource’s workweek and to automatically book availability so that workload is distributed evenly.
Mavenlink also comes with file sharing, task dependencies, built-in timesheets and powerful reporting that can be customized. Additionally, it has an API, so it can be integrated with other services or with custom solutions. Pricing starts at $19/month for teams up to 5 members. Check out Mavenlink!