When asked about the downsides of being a project manager, some people would list long hours and substantial pressure. There’s no denying that the PM job may require you to make difficult calls or to log in…
Managing a project, you don’t only manage tasks it takes to deliver it. How you plan, organize and manage your team has a big impact on your project’s success. No wonder that following the best practices of resource management can make real difference in a workplace.
If you’re new to resource management, you can easily get confused by terms like: resource planning, allocation, scheduling. And all the tactics, techniques and methods that come with them.
You can also have questions like what tools should you use (and if they’re even necessary).
In this resource management guide for project managers, I’ll briefly discuss methods and techniques project managers use. You can read it from start to finish or jump right to the topic you’re most interested in.
Are you ready to start managing your resources more efficiently?
Before we continue, let’s start with understanding what resource management is, how it corresponds with your efforts as a project manager, and if you need tools to implement it in your everyday work.
What is resource management?
Resource management is—to put it shortly—making the most efficient use of finite resources given at your disposal. Resources can include:
- people (e.g., employees, freelancers)
- equipment (e.g., computers, specific gear like cameras, etc.)
- space (e.g., your office)
In project management (and in this article) resource management is understood as planning, organizing, managing and measuring people’s work.
What tools do you need?
Depending on your team’s size, company profile and project management methodology you follow, you can choose from a variety of resource management tools. In fact, at the beginning, you can even use a simple spreadsheet to do so (although I would advise you otherwise, as spreadsheets may not be as effective as your business grows).
Custom categories or tags are helpful too, as they make it easier to navigate to the resources you need at the moment, filter the view by a specific role or a project, etc.
Last, you may want to choose a tool with an integrated reports section, where you can easily use the data you collect to analyze resource utilization, project budgets or the ROI for the company.
The more comprehensive (yet clear) the view is, the better insights you can draw from it.
As you know what resource management is, you need to form a plan. And not just any plan – to efficiently manage resources in multiple projects you need to have a high level plan for each project.
High level planning
High level plan of a project is a manager’s view of its:
- business objectives,
- people needed to deliver it,
- timeline and budget.
In resource management, a high level plan helps to answer the question: “What roles do I need to successfully deliver a project on time and within budget?”
Creating a high level plan you don’t have to create a detailed list of all tasks, yet. Instead, you need to include:
- Goals – gives you an understanding of what has to be achieved in the project.
- Timing – helps you realize what is the timeframe to deliver the project and if it’s possible with resources you have.
- Team – allows you to understand roles you need for the project.
Having a high level plan, you get a better overview of your resources’ capacity and the project scope.
Resource planning in project management
With a high level plan you have a big picture of what it takes to deliver a project. We’ve also already said that it helps you to understand what roles you need to deliver it. But how exactly do you recognize these roles before assigning them to this new project?
According to the PMBOK®, resource planning is “determining what resources (people, equipment, materials, etc.) and what quantities of each should be used to perform project activities.”
Using a work breakdown structure, estimated duration or historical data, you can determine:
- a list of employees with skills needed to deliver a project,
- their current bookings and availability,
- their availability throughout the project.
Once you come up with a list of employees you can book without causing planning conflicts, you can allocate them to your project.
Planning future projects
Having high level plans for each project you run and a plan of how you use your resources at the moment, you know your capacity and the company’s pipeline.
Now, when your company wins new projects, you can easily check if you’re able to run them without e.g. hiring more manpower (be it in-house or freelancers), when you can start and how it affects your bottom line (e.g. by calculating not only projects budget and its profitability, but also the cost of potential hiring process).
With a list of employees already selected to join your project, you can book them in the tool of your choosing.
As resource allocation is the process of making the most of resources you have, you should then track their performance and utilization, so you avoid under or overutilization and prevent employee burnout.
Other benefits of resource allocation, include:
- improved visibility of all resources across the company
- more accurate bookings
- easier negotiations over bookings with other PMs
A part of resource allocation is project onboarding. It’s essential for project’s success to introduce team members to the goals, objectives and deliverables of the project they will work on.
In other words, by onboarding resources to the project, you share what you’ve learned about it while creating the high level plan.
This part of the process consists of 4 steps:
- Passing on project information to the team – documents you can use include a list of deliverables (e.g., Business Requirements Document), project schedule, current Statement of Work (SOW), and weekly status report.
- Assign team members to the resource management tool you use.
- Set up collaboration tools, communication channels and grant team members access to the ones they will need while working on the project.
- Hold onboarding session.
To align project’s timeline, available resources and the scope, use resource scheduling. It’s important as it tells you when exactly you will need given resources, so you can plan your bookings accordingly.
There are several project scheduling techniques you may use:
Critical Path Method
The Critical Path Method (CPM) is a technique used to determine the longest possible time the project will take to finish. By listing all the tasks and categorizing them as critical and floating, you can calculate the timeline and mark dependencies between the tasks.
To create a task flow using the CPM method, you need:
- a project’s scope,
- a list of all tasks necessary for its completion.
Program Evaluation and Review Technique
Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) is a method similar to CPM, but it uses weighted average duration rather than estimates to calculate possible timeframes.
Using PERT, you will also have to create a list of tasks with dependencies between them, include milestones and estimated duration for each tasks. Based on that information, you can estimate project’s timeline on 3 levels of confidence:
- Optimistic timing
- Most-likely timing
- Pessimistic timing
Fast tracking is a simple scheduling technique used by project managers to determine which tasks can be handled simultaneously. Knowing dependencies between the tasks, you know which ones of them require other assignments to be done beforehand. Similarly, you can list tasks which can be at least partially overlapped, so you can speed up the project’s delivery.
If using fast tracking hasn’t resulted in saving the desired amount of time, you can use the crashing technique. It comes with a cost, though, as you need to add time in order to speed up the project. The way to do so is e.g. to add paid overtime – you end up with higher project’s cost, but are still able to fit within the deadline.
If you’re able to adjust the schedule to meet the project’s deadline, you can use resource leveling. To adjust a schedule using resource leveling, divide or merge activities according to the resources’ availability, so there are no under- or overutilized team members.
Measuring & Reporting
Based on the data you collect by implementing resource management, like employee booked time, time entries and availability, you can measure their work and other business metrics.
Measuring resource utilization
Measure resource utilization by following a simple formula:
Resource utilization = Busy time / Available time
Whether you use a spreadsheet or a resource management tool, you can use it to compare bookings with availability. The resulting metric shows you if you use your employees’ time efficiently, or if they are over- or underutilized.
Similarly, you can use this metric to compare billable time with employees recorded work time. This way, you can determine whether you make productive use of your resources.
Calculating project’s budget
With bookings and timesheets you can calculate your project’s budget, too. You can even use them to track the budget throughout the project and see if you stay within the estimated cost or not.
For example, you can compare bookings with timesheets to see whether recorded work time equals your estimates or not. Then, knowing your employees’ hourly rates, you can calculate the actual cost of the time they spent on the project to determine the actual budget.
Again, you can use a spreadsheet to do so, bo you may find it way more convenient to use a resource management tool with a reports section.
Start managing your teams more efficiently today
Resource management, although it may seem complicated at a glance, is not really that hard once you get a grasp of it.
Plus, you can save yourself a lot of hustle by implementing a resource management tool. Teamdeck is one of them, combining resource scheduling, time tracking and timesheets, leave management, and custom reports. Using the tool, you can easily add bookings, record time entries, manage and adjust the calendar and calculate metrics of your choosing on top of that data.
You can try Teamdeck for free, with no credit card required and no obligations after a trial. Start your 14-day free trial, upload your resources with just a few clicks and see how easy resource management can be.