Starting a new project management job may be stressful: whether you're a seasoned PM or a person just starting their project manager career, you're likely to encounter some new challenges. The good news is that you got...
Resource allocation helps you to choose the best available resources for your projects and manage them throughout the work, so you can avoid under or overutilization of your employees. Sadly, not all project managers use it to their advantage.
How do we know that?
Only 26% of companies always use resource management to estimate and allocate resources, and 36% of them do it often, according to last year’s PMI’s survey.
At the same time, less than 60% of projects meet the original budget and barely 50% of them are being completed on time, the same study says.
If this is the case with you or your company, you should definitely learn more about resource allocation and resource planning. Especially, as the very same study says that resource dependencies, inadequate resource forecasting and limited resources account for many projects’ failures.
From this article you will learn:
- what is resource allocation,
- how to implement it at your organization,
- how it helps project managers in their work.
Disclaimer: Teamdeck is a resource management tool that helps project managers handle scheduling, time tracking and leave management with no hassle.
To give you an even better explanation of the subject, we’ve included some examples from our app, so you can see how you can implement the insights from this article. Sign up for free to set up your account.
Resource allocation definition
Resource allocation—part art, part science as some call it—is recognizing the best available resources for the project, assigning them to your team and monitoring their workload throughout the work, and re-assigning resources if needed.
“In project management, resource allocation or resource management is the scheduling of activities and the resources required by those activities while taking into consideration both the resource availability and the project time” – Wikipedia
Proper allocation of resources increases the effective use of resources available across the company to maximise their utility.
Sounds simple, right? And it is!
Gone are the days of using Excel spreadsheets to manage resources. Today, there are many tools meant specifically to improve resource allocation with calendars, time trackers and custom reports.
Manage employee bookings, timesheets, availability and days off in one place.
But, as always, there are some pitfalls to avoid. Let’s take a look at them now, before we move any further.
Common challenges of resource allocation
Resource management is prone to several challenges that you need to be aware of to properly allocate resources and manage them throughout the project.
1. Client changes
As a project manager you might have already experienced how changes to the scope, timeline or budget can affect project delivery. With resource allocation it’s actually the same – having an up-to-date resource calendar will help you to smoothly adjust resources once the changes appear.
2. Availability of resources
Starting off a new project, ideally you could use any resources you need that are available at your company. But what if your agency is running multiple projects and you have to negotiate over the same resources with another PMs? Or what if a given team member is out on their sick leave? Availability changes and you have to monitor it all the time to spot threats to your project’s delivery.
3. Project dependencies
Allocating resources you need to include project dependencies, which are a form of a relationship between the tasks or activities in the project. For example in IT projects there are tasks that can only be done after some other ones are completed, so there’s no point to hog resources early on.
4. Project uncertainties
Even if you’ve checked all the boxes when starting off a project, agreed on the timeline, the budget and the scope, there’re always things you can’t predict. Resource management requires you to be able to respond to project uncertainties, e.g. by shifting resources from other projects or re-assigning them.
5. Priorities across the company
If your company runs multiple projects simultaneously, you and your peers may have to share limited resources, very often in a similar timeframe. But even if you manage to negotiate over resources you both need, there may be a change in priorities regarding one of the projects.
Resource allocation is way easier with the right tool. Teamdeck helps you allocate resources with just a few clicks, offering a better overview of your employees and projects they work at. Try Teamdeck for free.
Resource allocation in project management: how to allocate resources
Let’s take a look at how to effectively use resources at your disposal.
1. Know the project and the team
Only knowing the scope and resources available at your company, you can properly assign team members to your project.
Start by creating a high level plan of the project, consisting of its requirements and deliverables. Then, as you know exactly whom you will need to complete the project, you can use a skills matrix to discover which employees at your company to involve.
Or, if you’re a Teamdeck user, you can simply filter your employees by their skills, spotting relevant employees and their existing bookings in no-time:
As you’re filtering by the people you’d like to book for your project, check their availability to see if they are actually free to join your project. Simple availability bar helps a lot:
In Teamdeck you can compare availability with one’s bookings or timesheets.
At this point, the rule of thumb is to not get carried away and over-allocate resources for the project. Actually, resource hogging is considered a mistake projects managers make to protect themselves from uncertainties. But, in turn, it makes project estimates and long-term plans inaccurate, affecting the company’s bottom line.
Always think of the big picture while allocating resources. Check the bookings already made by other PMs to spot resources you may both need, in case you should adjust your schedule to that.
Knowing when your team members have their days off helps, too. See the yellow entries below? You need to include them in your estimate, as that’s exactly when these employees will be unavailable. Similarly, you can spot national holidays taking place during your project.
Days off are color-coded in yellow once accepted.
2. Uncover risks early on
We’ve talked about it a bit in the challenges section. As a project manager you are well aware of risks like client reviews, delays, personal emergencies, competing projects, etc. They interfere with allocation of resources, too.
Once one of the above-mentioned challenges occur, you need to adjust your bookings. Having a high-level overview of resources at your organization will help you find other resources more quickly, re-allocate resources, extend or cut existing bookings, or even delete some if needed.
You can drag-and-drop bookings or time entries to extend them.
3. Keep track of the project
Remember how resource allocation is about improving the effectiveness of your team’s utility? Now is the time to check how you’re team is doing. You can do it by measuring resource utilization.
Start with tracking the time and workload. In Teamdeck, you can easily spot employees with too much or too little (which can also be an issue) to do. Remember the availability bar? Overtime is marked with red color, while the unutilized time is white.
Measuring resource utilization, you can also use a simple formula:
Resource utilization = Busy time / Available time
This way you can quickly find out whether your team is booked to their full potential, or not.
During the project it’s also recommended to compare estimates with actuals once in a while, and re-allocate resources if you need to. Chances are that because of some changes you need to adjust bookings to avoid under or overutilization of your resources, and to meet project’s requirements.
Setting up regular check-ins with your team will help you to spot these threats, too.
As a project manager, you may also be responsible for tracking your project’s budget. You can do it based on your team’s timesheets, multiplying the number of hours they’ve spent on the project by the rate you charge your client per hour. Again, by comparing estimates with actuals, you can see if you’re on the budget, or not.
4. Analyze the project
Using the data you’d gathered during past projects will give you a huge advantage. Based on that data, you will be able to better plan and manage your future projects. Having a tool with custom reports helps a lot, as you can then organize that data to calculate different metrics, like employee payroll or sales KPIs.
In Teamdeck you can also share your reports with your team, the executives or your client.
Benefits of resource allocation
As you can see, following the right processes and using a complete resource management tool, you can make resource allocation easier and benefit from it in many ways:
- It improves visibility of all resources across the company
- You can avoid under and over-utilization easier
- It helps to keep bookings more accurate
- It’s easier to negotiate bookings with other PMs