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...
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 regarding what tools you should 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 defining 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 usually understood as planning, organizing, managing, and measuring people’s work (human resource management).
What tools do you need?
Depending on your team’s size, company profile, and the project management methodology you follow, you can choose from a variety of resource management tools. In fact, in the beginning, you can even use a simple spreadsheet to do so (although I would advise you otherwise, as spreadsheets may become ineffective as your business grows).
Custom categories or tags are also helpful, as they make it easier to navigate to the resources you need at the moment, filter the view by specific roles or projects, etc.
The more comprehensive (yet clear) the view is, the better insights you can draw from it.
Now that 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 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 build a detailed list of all tasks, yet. Instead, you need to include:
- Goals –they give you an understanding of what has to be achieved in the project.
- Timing – helps you realize what the timeframe to deliver the project is and if it’s possible with the resources you have.
- Team – allows you to understand the 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 identify 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 may book without causing scheduling conflicts, you’re ready to allocate them to your project.
Planning future projects
Having high-level plans for all projects you run and an idea of how to use your resources at the moment, you know your capacity and the company’s pipeline.
Now, when your company wins new projects, you can quickly answer the following questions:
- Are you able to conduct these projects without, e.g., hiring more human resources (be it in-house or freelancers)?
- When can you start and how it affects your bottom line? You can check that by, e.g., calculating your project’s profitability, but also the cost of potential hiring processes.
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 the resources you have, you should then track their performance and utilization. This aspect of human resources management will help 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
Project onboarding is an important part of effective project resource management. Introduce your team members to the goals, objectives, and deliverables of the project they will work on. Such a strategy will increase project transparency and help you build trust with your team as a PM.
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 project status report.
- Assign team members to the right project in the resource management tool you use (unless you’ve already done that).
- Set up collaboration tools, communication channels, and grant team members access to the ones they will need while working on the project.
- Hold an onboarding session.
To align the project’s timeline, available resources, and the scope, use resource scheduling. It’s crucial as it tells you when exactly you will need given resources so that you can plan your bookings accordingly. Remember to keep an eye on resource availability when assigning people to projects.
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 a 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 task. Based on that information, you can estimate your project’s timeline on three 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 the dependencies between the tasks, you know which jobs require other assignments to be done beforehand. Similarly, you can list tasks that can, at least partially, overlap so that 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 a 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 modify 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 performance 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
When you collect bookings and timesheets data, 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 it will be way more convenient to use a resource management tool with reporting features.
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. Make it a part of your team’s project management process and always utilize the right resources and the right time.
You can save yourself a lot of hustle by implementing a resource management tool. Teamdeck is an example of such a solution, combining resource scheduling, time tracking, leave management and custom reports. Using this 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.