Managing projects comes with its fair share of challenges. From difficult stakeholders to resource shortages, a project manager must know how to navigate tricky situations. What makes it even more challenging is the fact that project managers...
Having a plan for your project doesn’t mean you should only have listed the tasks it takes to deliver it. Planning your project also includes knowing what resources you’re going to need, and when.
Resource planning is no different, helping project managers to align projects’ deliverables with available resources. Without it, you can’t really control 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?
First, let’s unravel what is resource planning in project management.
According to PMBOK®, it’s “determining what resources (people, equipment, materials, etc.) and what quantities of each should be used to perform project activities.”
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 is always up-to-date.
Looking for a tool that will help you plan all your resources? With Teamdeck you can quickly find and plan only resources you need for a given project. Try Teamdeck’s with a 14-day free trial today.
Resource planning done right
In order to better explain how to plan resources at your organization, let’s talk about prerequisites you need to prepare upfront, techniques to plan resources for a project and tools that will make it way easier.
Before you can create a surefire resource plan, you need some inputs. 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.
In software development, for example, you will most probably need UI/UX designers first to create wireframes and then design of 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 scheduling techniques to use is the critical path method (CPM), which illustrates project structure, but also includes 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 with 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 the past projects. It might come from schedules, estimates or 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”.
As you now have all required inputs for resource planning, here’s how to get down to it. Expert judgment comes from your professional experience, 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 alternatives identification. 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:
- Pattern thinking – this method involves pattern recognition, which is useful while refining or improving, based on past experiences.
- Lateral thinking – this approach requires creative thinking and solving problems with ideas that may not be obvious at first.
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 schedule, but it’s also more time consuming.
Dedicated tools might not be necessary for resource planning, as you may still use a spreadsheet for that and do great work.
But it’s way more convenient to use resource management 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.
This part of the article is shamelessly based on Teamdeck’s features, as we do believe it helps project managers 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 by their job titles and see when they are available, and what projects they are assigned to currently.
Having resource management software helps with using data from past projects, too. Utilization reports, for example, give you the access to information on how a given team member performed in the past, which could be a baseline for assumptions you make for a new project.
3. Resolving 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 company’s project pipeline.
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 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:
- Double-check whether resources you make plans for are available.
- Consult with other PMs at your organization, if they don’t need the same resources during your project’s duration.
- Monitor the workload and company’s pipeline during the project, to make sure that your plan fits current bookings and project development.
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.