At Teamdeck, we regularly talk with people working at different software development companies. When demoing our resource management app and onboarding new clients, we learn about their typical processes and issues. We've noticed that many software houses...
When planning a project, you always have to think about resources that are needed to complete it. Creating a list of roles and skills that are required for the project’s delivery, looking for appropriate people in your company, managing their schedule and workload – all of these are involved in resource management. How to do it successfully? This blog post will provide you with some best practices of managing resources within a project-based environment.
Note: A resource could be a person with certain qualifications, a piece of equipment, or even some amount of time or money. In this article, however, we will focus exclusively on resource management understood as project team management.
What is resource management in project management?
The latest PMBOK® guide states it nicely, saying that Project Resource Management includes the processes to identify, acquire, and manage the resources needed for the successful completion of the project. These processes help ensure that the right resources will be available to the project manager and project team at the right time and place.
As such, project resources management requires you to navigate different processes: from defining project needs and obtaining appropriate resources to managing your team throughout the project and measuring their performance.
Effective resource management entails that the project is delivered successfully: on time, within budget, and according to the requirements. That’s not an easy feat to accomplish. Luckily, there are several steps you can take on different stages of the project lifecycle in order to increase the chances of completing the job. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the best practices of successful resource management.
1. Know the project inside out
As a Project Manager, you need to be quite curious about the project itself. What’s the business goal behind it? Which user needs are you trying to fulfill? What’s the ultimate goal for the client? Having answered these questions, you’ll have a better understanding of the project beyond just knowing its scope (which is necessary as well, of course). The extra effort you put into preparing at this stage may pay off later: for starters, you’ll have more arguments when discussing different scenarios with the client, but keep in mind that a well-informed PM is also extremely helpful for the team.
Try to gain a lot of intel about the clients/stakeholders as well. Perhaps some of your colleagues have already collaborated with them? The more you know about what to expect in terms of preferred processes, tools, work ethics, the better equipped you are to handle challenges in the future.
Finally, inquire about potential constraints as well. Being aware of timeline or budget considerations will help you make better decisions along the way.
2. Understand who and what is needed to complete your project
Once you have a good idea of what the project is about, you’re ready to start creating project estimates. You have to come up with a list of resources (e.g., roles) needed to deliver project tasks. Then, you’ll need to estimate the capacity in which they’re needed.
Granted, you’ll be able to benefit from your PM experience here and contribute to creating the estimates. However, don’t be afraid to ask other people to participate in this process and provide their expert judgment.
3. Get a good visibility into your pool of resources
This is where things may get a little bit overwhelming. Why? Well, depending on the size and structure of your company, you might need to explore a pool of hundreds or thousands of employees.
Fortunately, this part of the process is also relatively easy to handle using resource management software. Imagine having a list of resources, together with their capacity, availability, and competences. All you have to do is book these resources that fit your project’s demands. Resource scheduling tools, our own Teamdeck being one of them, do just that. You get to filter your organization’s resources by skills/office locations/seniority or any other custom dimensions you need. From the pool of appropriate people, you just pick the ones that are available during the period you have in mind for the project. Done deal!
Teamdeck allows you to filter available resources by job titles or project rates. It dramatically simplifies resource allocation.
When deciding on whom to assign to the project, you might want to take the following considerations into account:
- The budget – run some calculations and see which resources make the most sense budget-wise. It may be the case, for instance, that you’re better off working with a more experienced person with higher rates because their expertise is likely to cut some costs anyway. An opposite scenario is also possible; this is why you need to estimate different routes carefully.
- Past experiences of potential team members (again, resource management software may come in handy here with all the historical data collected there) – have they worked on a similar project before? If so, this could be an asset – they’re likely to do well under similar conditions. On the other hand, however, it might be more engaging to the employee themselves to get a chance to work on something different and potentially more exciting.
- Potential changes – try to account for some shifts in terms of e.g., length of the project. With that in mind, it’s probably not a great idea to heavily rely on a teammate that’s available for the planned period of the project but goes on long vacation just days after the estimated wrap-up. If your timeline changes, you’ll have a significant challenge on your hands.
4. Start on the right foot
Saying that you only have one chance to make a good first impression might be a cliché, but in resource management, the project kickoff phase is absolutely crucial. This is when you get to know your team and establish your presence. Make sure to cover the following points:
- communicate the scope and the desired outcome of the project to your team,
- set expectations regarding their roles: you want everyone to be perfectly clear on what they need to do within the project,
- come up with a plan for communicating with your team and the client (e.g., daily stand-ups and weekly sprint reviews),
- ensure everyone on your team has access to all the necessary tools (both online and offline).
Take a look at this list of resources you may find helpful throughout the project lifecycle, but especially at the beginning of a new project:
- Learn how to be more honest with your team: project transparency
- Create a great online working environment with these Slack Apps that boost productivity.
- Your resource plan involves freelancers or part-time contributors? Learn how to manage them effectively.
- What if you need to assign additional people to your team? This is how to onboard new team members to your project team.
5. Embrace change
If you’re operating in an agile project management methodology, you’re probably not afraid of project changes. A healthy dose of flexibility is an integral part of the job and reacting to, say, incoming user feedback is what ultimately influences the success of the project.
However, other changes are certainly not as welcomed: resource capacity would be a good example here. People get sick, change jobs, break their legs, etc. You have to be prepared for allocating new resources to your team or changing the capacity in which the current team members are involved.
Flexible project planning will also be of use here: if you’re creating generous estimates based on the worst/best-case scenarios, you probably have the much-needed wiggle room when change occurs.
6. Measure your team’s performance
Data-driven project management will probably be getting much traction in the near future, for the simple reason that it makes PMs more effective in what they do. Data is the source of information and patterns about your team. It may also confirm or debunk your hunches. Finally, there is no better argument when trying to make a point. If you’re able to support your decisions with data, you’ll feel much more comfortable executing it.
On the other hand, collecting data without knowing what to measure and how puts you at risk of getting lost in the noise. For starters, you may want to gather data that allows you to measure the performance of your project resources (BTW all of these reports can be easily built with Teamdeck):
- Measure team utilization. You can track two different aspects of team utilization. First, compare your resources’ total availability with the project schedule. This will show you what the planned utilization of your team is. This calculation should be done as early as possible, because it may help you uncover areas that should be improved (e.g., tasks switched from one employee to another because of potential overutilization). Once your team is working on the project and logging their time, you can use their timesheets to calculate the actual team utilization. Compare tracked time with your team’s availability to see if the workload is divided evenly.
With the height of bars signifying the level of utilization, you can quickly spot people who could be better utilized.
- Compare estimates with actuals. Putting estimated working hours next to the actual hours logged by your team will show you the accuracy of your project plan. You shouldn’t expect estimates and actuals to match perfectly; the point of this exercise is not to prove that your initial plans were off. We’re more interested in learning where and when these discrepancies occur. Perhaps there is a specific part of the project that was grossly underestimated? Measuring this allows you to pinpoint the weak spots and optimize them early.
- Track the budget of your project. Every hour of work your team puts into the project counts into the budget, so you may also want also to check the actual spendings against the estimated budget. This is a very similar calculation to the previous one (estimates vs. actuals). The difference here is that you need to assign a monetary value to the hours spent by your team on the project.
Effective resource planning and management involve understanding the project really well and actively monitoring the progress, not just in terms of tasks getting done, but also maintaining optimal workload and team utilization. It’s a multi-faceted process, but you can navigate that complexity successfully with the right technology.
Teamdeck’s mission is to make resource management a whole lot easier for teams of different sizes. We’re extremely proud that our app is used to put together teams that work on ambitious construction projects, pushing the boundaries of creativity or literally changing the world for the better with impactful non-profit campaigns.
If you want to streamline your resource allocation and scheduling efforts, Teamdeck might just be the right tool for you – sign up today. We’ll be more than happy to welcome you into our roster of clients.