Creating a comprehensive plan for your project involves more than just listing tasks. It requires engaging in effective resource planning to identify the necessary resources and their availability. The resource planning process is crucial for project managers to accurately estimate the project’s timeline and budget. By establishing the project scope, deliverables, and dependencies during the kick-off phase, managers can better manage resource capacity. This approach not only ensures that resources are allocated efficiently but also allows for the optimization of resource capacity for current and future projects.

What you will learn in this article:

Resource planning is no different, helping project managers to align projects’ deliverables with available resources. Without it, you can’t really control the project’s delivery, its timeline, and the budget. In this post I will walk you through the process of resource planning, so you can find and assign only the right and available resources for your project.

What is resource planning in project management?

Project management resource planning, and the whole process? What differentiates management from project management?

Paraphrasing the Project Management Institute (PMI) characterization of project management it needs to be said is about using competencies, skills, knowledge, devices, instruments, software, methods, processes, and whatever it takes to produce “value to people”. (The PMP certification course, offered by the PMI, will also give you a good idea of what resource planning is within project management). 

The ambiguity of the phrase “value to people” provokes us to think that result of project management can aby anything. Anything which is useful for some people. And continuing this thought, it is justified to say that for the PMI project management is about using resources (both intellectual and material) to create and implement something useful (for someone). Putting simple, to use whatever we have to create whatever we need. 

Resource planning in project management is choosing relevantly skilled resources/employees and matching them with tasks for ensuring the project succeeds. Project resource planning, tool for project manager, resource capacity.

Resource planning in project management is choosing relevantly skilled resources/employees and matching them with tasks for ensuring the project succeeds. [Source: Above is a view from Teamdeck – the resource planning tool]

As you will get to know in the following paragraphs, the definition above doesn’t say anything about absolutely fundamental for project management (and resource planning as well). And nothing on the fundamentals that differ between project management and management. 

The Association for Project Management (the APM) introduced an understanding of project management that enlightens what are crucial aspects of project management.  

Project management is the application of processes, methods, skills, knowledge, and experience to achieve specific project objectives according to the project acceptance criteria within agreed parameters. Project management has final deliverables that are constrained to a finite timescale and budget.

What’s common for the PMI and AMP propositions is the part about the application of processes, using skills and methods to develop or implement a project. But what’s absolutely noteworthy are three aspects that don’t appear in the PMI’s proposition. A “project acceptance criteria”, time, and the third one – budget. 

As we know, projects are tasked, internally or externally – by someone from your company or by a client. A business demand assumes (client’s) expectations related to the project. A business demand also contains the time by which the project is to be delivered (business won’t wait) and the budget within which you must fit. During project development or at the end of this process, when a project is handed over to the client, acceptance criteria must meet client expectations. 

And here starts the main difference between project management and just management. According to the APM, the difference between the two terms comes down to time. The time when the project is ready to execute or already executed. While management is a continuous operation, project management has its final outcome provided in a finite time span. 

How does this relate to resource planning?

The role of project resource planning

As said above, project management is a process made up of pieces such as tasks, procedures, methods, and so on. This process is named the project management life cycle and assumes sometimes 3, 4, 5, or even 6 or 7 phases. The phases illustrate a step-by-step framework of the most reasonable practices used to shepherd a project from its beginning to its end. It provides managers with a structured way to create, execute, and finish a project.

Phases of the part of project management life cycle. Resource planning in the launch and execution phase

Phases of the part of project management life cycle. Resource planning in the launch and execution phase.

The picture above illustrates that resource planning is an element of the project management process. Its role is – slightly ahead of the resource planning definition given by the APM – to organize, plan, schedule, and measure people’s work. 

Thanks to the APM Body of Knowledge, we are aware that resources are understood widely. As people (and their skills), but also as money, machinery, materials, technology, and anything else needed to deliver the expected result. It also can be told a resource is everything that is demanded to complete a task or project. Of course, from the perspective of many businesses, especially services-offered companies, managing, and planning resources is all about people. People and their skill sets.

For the APM, a project resource planning or – as they like – resource management:

(...) ensures that internal and external resources are used effectively on time and to budget.

Because resource planning is part of project management so aspects such as time and budget are unavoidable as well. Good resource planning (resource management) results in the right resources being available at the right time for the right work. 

And the role of the resource manager is to identify the resources required (employees with relevant skills and experience) to deliver the work, as part of project planning, and determine when the resources will be required, through scheduling.

Similar to the proposition of the Planview company – our rival in the market of project resource planning systems – we think that resource planning (or resource management – if you like) is an approach that aims to ensure resources are used in the most efficient way. Independently we talk about a single project or portfolio of projects, when executed properly, companies achieve maximum efficiency in their use of resources, without under- or over-utilizing any one of them (an employee).

During this process of allocating tasks to team members scheduling and matching with particular tasks is based on their capacity and availability, and – obvious thing – on their skill sets that fit to project or task requirements in the best possible way.

For most creative and service-based companies the resources are people, so resource planning is a process you can use to identify team members you need to allocate for your project, and when you’re going to need them.

What’s important, resource plans may change and should be adjusted regularly to reflect changes in the scope, employees’ availability, etc, so that your schedule project is always up-to-date.

Resource planning done right

In order to better explain how to manage resources at your organization, let’s talk about prerequisites you need to prepare upfront, techniques to plan resources for a project, and project planning tools that will make it way easier.

Conditions for resource planning

Before you can create a surefire resource plan, you need some input. The first one of these prerequisites is a work breakdown structure (WBS), which is a deliverable-oriented structure of your project scope. It helps to illustrate the project with manageable sections, so it’s already easier for you to figure out what kinds of teams you will need.

Assigning and scheduling necessary resources/team members required to complete a project while taking into account resource availability

Assigning and scheduling necessary resources/team members required to complete a project while taking into account resource availability

In software development, for example, you will most probably need UI/UX designers first to create wireframes and then design your product. Then, depending on the project specification, you may need developers and QA specialists.

Now, you will need an estimated duration of the project and tasks, so you can schedule resources for the project. One of the resource scheduling techniques to use is the critical path method (CPM), which illustrates project structure, but also includes project tasks’ dependencies, milestones, and duration. Using CPM you can calculate the total estimated time for the project.

Last, as you know the scope, it’s time to find employees with skills corresponding to the tasks they will be assigned to. An important thing to do is to make sure that these employees are available for the estimated period for each task.

To make your plans more reliable, use historical data from past projects. It might come from schedules, estimates, or the performance of team members you consider (e.g., based on their timesheets). Data from projects you’ve delivered gives you a baseline for setting up a new project, reducing “guesstimates”.

Internal hourly rate report contains project resources – team members and projects they’re assigned to. It helps with comparison bookings with timesheets, and of course, project costs

Internal hourly rate report contains project resources – team members and projects they’re assigned to. It helps with comparison bookings with timesheets, and of course, project costs

Techniques – non-negotiable element of project and resource planning for project managers

As you now have all the required inputs for resource planning, here’s how to get down to it. Expert judgment comes from your professional experience and valuable insights that may come from your senior colleagues or consultants hired by your organization. As it may sound obvious, it’s really important for your project’s success.

Next comes the identification of the alternative. As projects may change during their lifetime, you need to take different scenarios into consideration. This way, you can come up with solutions to use as changes occur. Two methods you may use are:

Bottom-up estimating, which is the next method you can use while planning resources, is a simple concept based on involving people who are going to work on the project in estimating it. In this approach your team estimates tasks based on their knowledge and experience, resulting in a more detailed project schedule, but it’s also more time-consuming.

Tools dedicated to resource planning

Dedicated project management tools, resource planning or time management software might not be necessary for resource planning, as you may still use a spreadsheet for that and do great work. (Even for IT resource planning).

But it’s way more convenient to use resource planning software, especially as it gives you instant access to all the data you’ve collected so far, including a list of your employees, their availability, existing bookings, and previously filled timesheets.

Note: This part of the article is shamelessly based on resource planner features, as we do believe it helps any project manager plan their work more efficiently.

Let’s take checking employees’ availability as an example. Having a resource management calendar, you can just filter all your employees and team members by their job titles and see when they are available, and what projects they are assigned to currently.

Resource planning assumes checking employees’ availability to avoid scheduling conflicts.

Thanks for the resource utilization reports project managers visualize future steps such as the team’s workload planning

Having resource management software help with using data from past projects, too. Utilization reports, for example, give you access to information on how a given team member performed in the past, or his impact on a whole project team could be a baseline for assumptions you make for a new project.

Resolving project scheduling and resource planning conflicts

Planning conflicts may occur when one employee is being considered for multiple projects at the same time. This situation can be avoided, but it requires you to have a better overview of your employees’ availability and the company’s project pipeline.

Resource planning assumes checking employees’ availability to avoid scheduling conflicts.

Resource planning assumes checking employees’ availability to avoid scheduling conflicts. Availability management as a feature doesn’t appear in any project management tools

When conflicts occur, consult your plans with a PM who’s also made plans for the same resources and try to negotiate. For example, you can both find a way to plan for the same employee by comparing the critical paths of your projects. This way you can figure out if some tasks may float, making it possible to move some work. Then, adjust your project plan to these changes.

To avoid planning conflicts in the first place, remember to:

Resource planning and cost management

Knowing how to plan your resources properly will not only make it easier for you to find and assign the best resources for the project. It will also help you manage the costs.

As stated by the PMBOK®, resource planning is—next to cost estimating, budgeting, and control—a part of project cost management. How? Remember that project’s profitability is based on a simple equation:

project’s profitability = project’s budget – (hours spent on the project * hourly rates
of your employees)

Keeping track of your resources and utilizing them according to the project plan will therefore not only improve your project’s delivery but also secure a margin for your company.


In summarizing the exploration of strategic resource planning within project management, several key points emerge as crucial for the successful execution of a project. Resource planning stands at the core of this process, requiring a strategic approach to the identification, allocation, and management of resources to align with project deliverables and timelines. This involves:

Strategic Resource Planning for Identification and Allocation: The cornerstone of effective project management is strategic resource planning, which involves identifying the necessary resources and ensuring their optimal allocation and availability throughout the project lifecycle.

Leveraging Resource Planning Software: Utilizing resource planning software twice in the project lifecycle streamlines the process, enabling project managers to avoid common allocation challenges and enhance their resource planning efforts.

Understanding the Role of Resource Planning: Recognizing that resource planning, mentioned four times throughout this discussion, is essential for controlling project delivery, timelines, and budgets. It facilitates the alignment of project deliverables with available resources, underscoring its critical role.

Application of Resource Planning Principles: Applying the competencies, skills, knowledge, and tools—including resource planning software—to produce value through effective resource management, as outlined by leading project management institutions.

Distinguishing Strategic Resource Planning Dynamics: Differentiating between project management and general management with a focus on time, scope, and budget constraints highlights how strategic resource planning fits within this broader context.

Implementing Techniques within Resource Planning: Adopting techniques such as work breakdown structures (WBS) and the critical path method (CPM) ensures that resources are planned, scheduled, and utilized efficiently, reflecting the importance of resource planning efforts.

Continuous Adjustment in Resource Planning: Regularly adjusting resource plans to reflect changes in project scope, employee availability, and other factors ensures that the project remains on track, showcasing the adaptive nature of resource planning.

Through the implementation of resource planning and strategic resource planning practices, including the effective use of resource planning software, projects can achieve their objectives within the stipulated time and budget constraints. This not only ensures the efficient use of resources but also supports the overall strategic goals of the organization through meticulous resource planning efforts.


Project Scope A detailed outline of the project’s goals, deliverables, features, functions, tasks, deadlines, and costs for project managers.

Deliverables Any unique and verifiable product, result, or capability to perform a service that must be produced to complete a process, phase, or project.

Dependencies: The relationships between tasks that determine the order in which activities need to be performed.

Resource Planning: The process of determining the necessary resources (people, equipment, materials) needed to complete a project.

Project Management Institute (PMI): A professional organization for project management specializing in developing standards, research, education, publication, and professional certification programs.

PMP Certification: A globally recognized professional certification offered by the PMI that validates a project managers experience and education in project management.

Association for Project Management (APM): A professional body in the field of project management that provides membership, qualifications, events, and publications for project professionals.

Project Acceptance Criteria: The set of conditions that must be met before project deliverables are accepted.

Work Breakdown Structure (WBS): A hierarchical decomposition of the total scope of work to be carried out by the project team to accomplish the project objectives and create the required deliverables.

Critical Path Method (CPM): A project modeling technique used to estimate the duration of a project by identifying the longest sequence of dependent tasks and measuring the time it takes to complete them.

Resource Management Software: Tools used by project managers designed to help with planning, allocating, and managing resources effectively, including scheduling, budgeting, and workload management.

Resource Utilization Reports: Documents that provide insights into how effectively resources are being used on a project, helping with planning and cost management of future projects.

Cost Management: The process of planning and controlling the budget of a project or business. It includes activities such as cost estimation, allocation, and control.

Project Lifecycle: The series of phases that a project goes through from its initiation to its closure.

Resource Allocation: The process of assigning and managing assets in a way that supports the organization’s strategic goals.

Scheduling: The action of planning when and how to use resources over the project duration, ensuring that resources are optimally utilized.

Budgeting: The process of forecasting the financial resources needed for a project, including the estimation and allocation of funds.

Task Dependencies: The relationship between tasks that dictates the sequence in which they must be performed.

Milestone: A significant point or event in a project, used to monitor progress towards the goal.

Risk Management: The process of identifying, assessing, and controlling threats to an organization’s capital and earnings.

Stakeholder Engagement: The process of involving individuals, groups, or organizations who may be affected by a project or have an interest in its outcome.

Performance Metrics: Standards of measurement by which efficiency, performance, progress, or quality of a project, process, or product can be assessed.

Change Management: The approach to transitioning individuals, teams, and organizations to a desired future state to achieve and realize project outcomes and benefits.

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