When you’re in business, sooner or later it all comes down to one thing. Resources. If you feel that you are always short of time, capacity, people, technology, or money, you are probably making some resource scheduling mistakes. How to deal with it?
The article contains:
- Mistakes – the most common in the resource scheduling processes
- Solutions and answers that solve project managers’ challenges
- Project and resource management software comparison that includes: pros, cons, key features, price
- Meanings comparison of resource scheduling and its connection with employee scheduling and project schedule management
11.4% of all resources are wasted due to inferior project management processes.
Resource scheduling software in use by managers
Teamdeck – Resource Management & Resource Scheduling Software
Price (standard package): $3.60 / team member / monthly
- Time tracking and timesheet management
- Custom organization working time and availability.
- Employee scheduling
- Ability to assign custom fields to people and projects ie job titles, skills, technologies, etc.
- Transparent view of work schedule and availability for different departments, and positions using the calendar view
- Possibility of planning future projects
- Custom tags.
- Excel-like custom reporting
- Leave and availability management
- Automatic bank holidays for multiple localisations.
- Available in mobile version.
- Data security system.
- Integration with other systems like Google Calendar, Slack, Podio, SageHR, Zapier, and REST API.
- Free trial
- The mobile app to track hours does not allow you to see only the active projects.
- No dependencies for booking.
- No desktop start-stop time-tracker (only in the mobile app).
ResourceGuru – Resource Scheduling Software
Price (standard package): $4.16 / team member / monthly
- Free trial.
- User-friendly interface.
- Availability panel and resource capacity planning option.
- Management of conflicting events.
- Reporting and HR forecasting.
- Leave management system features.
- Project and resources scheduling.
- Conference room booking system.
- Equipment tracking.
- Integration with Slack, Gmail, Outlook. Google Calendar.
- Data security system.
- No ability to sort resources by experience level.
- No “undo” function in the booking section.
- No ability to copy resource tasks.
- No ability to search for bookings by keywords.
Float – Resource Planning and Scheduling Software
Price (standard package): $ 10 / team member / monthly
- Free trial.
- Flexible and easy-to-use project resource management panel.
- Easy navigation and filtering.
- The visual, drag-and-drop interface of resource scheduling.
- Time-tracking is pre-filled with ongoing tasks.
- Budget tracking.
- Multi-project planning.
- Reporting and forecasting.
- Integration with Jira, Teamwork, Asana, Trello.
- Uncomfortable timeline navigation.
- Some integrations don’t work as expected.
- Time-consuming updating of employee list.
- Any user can add and change data that causes clutter.
Smartsheet – Team Collaboration and Resource Scheduling Software
Price (standard package): $24.80 / team member / monthly
- User-friendly interface.
- Advanced management dashboard.
- Convenient communication and data exchange with other team members.
- Intelligent project workflow automation.
- Data security system.
- Data synchronization.
- Resource management, content management, and employee management software in one tool.
- Multi-project planning.
- Free trial.
- High price.
- Basic package for up to 25 employees.
- Some features are missing or unavailable.
- The tool is heavy and sometimes lagging.
- Unintuitive task panel.
HubPlanner – Resource Scheduling and Timesheets
Price (standard package): $ 7 / team member / monthly
- 60-day free trial.
- Real-time update.
- Easy to use Drag and Drop interface,
- Possibility to plan, schedule, and forecast resources.
- Leave management.
- Bank of global public holidays.
- Skills matching to fulfill project requirements.
- Custom fields in resource planning.
- Possibility of creating groups of employees based on skills.
- Utilization reporting.
- Inability to adjust dates on the project dashboard.
- Sometimes it is not possible to correct errors, for example in timesheets, without consulting the support department.
- In the planning section, you cannot see the whole titles of scheduled issues.
- The resource allocation feature is too inflexible.
- A tool focused mainly on resource scheduling, missing many additional features to make it universal for the whole project management.
Runn – Resource Planning and Forecasting Software
Price (standard package): $ 8 / team member / monthly
- Free trial.
- Availability and resource calendar.
- Real-time update.
- Preview of plans for a team, role, or individual.
- Ability to plan future capacity needs.
- Advanced analytics and reporting.
- Financial metrics.
- Assigning skills and rights to employees.
- Ability to transfer project assignments to another person or placeholder.
- Project budget tracking and resource forecasting.
- Robust support department.
- Integration with Clockify, Harvest and WorkflowMax.
- Integration with other tools is time-consuming and difficult, especially for more customized needs.
- Software is focused on resource scheduling. Difficult to use for holistic project management.
- Runn is a relatively new tool and still lacks many useful features.
- No time-tracking functionality within the application.
Mistakes around resource scheduling
You’ll find dozens of articles online about how to improve your resource scheduling. This is great at the beginning when you are just implementing your project management. In a situation where your company already has a resource allocation strategy that for some reason is not working you need to take a slightly different perspective – analyze your mistakes and only then listen to good advice.
In this article, we have both for you. Below we have a list of the most common and less obvious resource scheduling mistakes and how to solve them.
Messy work schedule
“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else,” said Yogi Berra, and, well, he was right. Many business people don’t realize that their project is delayed even before it has started. Why? Because of an inaccurate, chaotic schedule. Think of it as a recipe for a dish. “Take some tomatoes, some more aubergine, half a package of pasta and olives. Add whatever spices you happen to have in the house and throw everything into a pot.
Ah, we forgot to write – the pasta has to be cooked first and the vegetables fried with garlic and sage.” If the proportions are given approximately, the individual steps swapped in places and described very briefly, then you have before you not a recipe, but a culinary experiment. And with the schedule, it is the same. Your project plan should be a detailed, structured recipe for success.
Solution: A clear, flexible, accessible project schedule prepared in an appropriate tool. A project schedule must be understandable to everyone who works on it. If you have to explain what each point is about, what the requirements are, and who is responsible for a task – your schedule is no good. Make sure that your project is divided into bigger stages, and that each stage is divided into smaller tasks and subtasks. Assign people with the right competencies to them. Make sure the plan is clear and easy to edit. A whiteboard in a conference room and an excel table is not enough – any average IT project is simply too complicated for such tools. You need good software where you can create a custom schedule to fit your workflow.
Employees are given tasks that do not match their competencies
One of the most common methods of distributing tasks within a team is to be guided by employee availability. This is only partly a good strategy – apart from availability, competencies are also a key aspect. Two employees in similar positions may have completely different skills and preferences regarding the tasks they perform. The same task may take one person a week, while the other – three weeks, so make sure that team members are given requests with which they can cope most effectively.
Solution: Detailed description of competencies of each team member and assigning the right people to the right tasks. How to find out the skills of your employees? Start with a questionnaire – ask team members about their competencies, which tasks they feel most comfortable with, and which skills they want to develop. This will allow you to create a skills matrix, get to know people’s strengths and expectations, and not only optimize work but also increase team satisfaction. A good saas resource management software or project scheduling software will allow you to assign specific competencies to each team member so that everyone gets such a task for which they are best suited. Moreover, you will be able to create custom fields with other categories if needed.
Team overload and underload
Some employees are always in the spotlight. They are active, ambitious, make their mark on the company, and are always looking for new challenges. Every project manager dreams of having such people in their team, so they give them tasks. Lots of tasks. Often too many tasks. On the other hand, some people need to be activated a little bit because their potential is wasted. Both situations are bad because they lead to some employees being overwhelmed and others simply being bored and frustrated.
Solution: Keep track of what your employees are working on and how long it takes. Use timesheets in which each team member will enter their current tasks. This way, you can keep an eye on the team’s workload and make sure that no one has too many or too few responsibilities. Remember that team overload has a negative impact on productivity, and good employee time tracking management will help you maintain a work-life balance.
The team does not know what is required of them
“According to a McKinsey report, employees spend 1.8 hours every day searching and gathering information”. This is one of the most common mistakes in project and resource management. Your employees do not read your mind. In a well-coordinated team, it is often not necessary to explain everything so precisely, but the rule is one – everyone must understand what is going on and what is needed.
Many project managers think that if they describe a task quickly, they will save time. In fact, it is quite the opposite, because employees have to ask for details or clarify doubts among themselves. The lack of an accurate task description also means a greater risk of errors. Mistakes mean corrections. Corrections mean more time and money. It is not good for anyone.
Solution: Describe each project accurately. We guarantee you that the time you spend putting all the information into the job description will be much shorter than potential corrections due to misunderstanding. It’s a good idea to add information such as client requirements, method of completion, documentation, a contact person for questions, and of course assigning the right person to the task.
Lack of teamwork
Many project managers do not understand the difference between a boss and a leader. The former expects, blames, and orders. The leader supports inspires and protects. You cannot expect your employees to do their best if they feel unappreciated, threatened, or constantly inadequate. Criticism that has nothing to do with constructive feedback will not make your team more productive. On the contrary, temporary motivation based on fear will lead to faster burnout.
The solution: be part of a team. As a team leader or project manager, you are responsible for seeing work through to completion. And for that, you need others. Create a team atmosphere. Show that you are all responsible for quality and meeting deadlines. Be transparent, show what you are working on, and explain what the next steps in the project will be and why they are important.
Show your employees that they are important and needed and that their opinion matters. Give regular feedback to your team and give them the opportunity to share their opinion. Hold regular 1:1 meetings where you can talk honestly about needs and concerns. Also ensure that you can meet the whole team, even in short daily online meetings. It is very important to maintain the feeling of being part of a team, especially when working remotely.
Unrealistic estimation of time requirements
Time is one of the most important resources you have. Many project managers underestimate the time needed to complete a given job. They schedule a project for three months when they need at least five. What happens then? Everything shifts, the team works overtime, and in the end, you have to choose: deadline or quality.
On the other hand, too cautious time planning is also a mistake – if you price a project for a year and another competing software house proposes six months, guess who a potential client will choose.
Solution: Time tracking software is essential to monitor how long individual tasks and projects take. Thanks to this, you can continuously check the progress of work and make sure that no stage is delayed. It’s also crucial to generate time reports – an invaluable source of information that will allow you to better estimate the length of future projects and significantly improve your resource scheduling. The most important thing is to analyze and draw conclusions.
Outdated project status information.
It is impossible to allocate resources well without up-to-date information about the project. Unfortunately, in many companies, data is updated from time to time. Missing files, incomplete documentation, no information about the status of the project, employees’ holidays, or changes in the person in charge. Up-to-date information is a prerequisite for good decision-making.
Solution: Habit is the key. Regularly filling in information about the project and the team is nothing but a good practice that needs to be implemented. Let filling in timesheets, changing project status, and updating availability information every day become your routine.
Of course, if you had to update all the information yourself every time it would take an awful lot of time, especially since many decisions and processes are connected. Software that will update the most important parameters automatically will work great here. For example, if a manager accepts a holiday, the calendar will automatically show that the employee is on holiday and their availability will be reduced. Or if someone schedules a meeting that will clash with another one – the system will send a notification about such a situation on its own.
Lack of clearly defined goals
You won’t be able to plan your resources wisely if you don’t know what the goal is at the end of the road. And the goal in this context does not mean the same as the final product. Let’s explain this with an example. Imagine that you set a goal “to find a job”. Maybe such a goal is sufficient if you are 18 and looking for a job for the holidays, but probably today this goal would not tell you anything concrete about what you actually need to do.
It’s different if you set a goal “I want to find a job as a project manager”. Then you know that you need a degree or a course in management, several years of experience in the industry you want to work in, perfect English, knowledge of at least some project management software, communication skills, the ability to work under pressure and manage your time. Once you have achieved these goals – a job as a project manager is open to you.
Solution: It is the same with projects, it is not enough to “design a mobile application”. You need to answer questions about how such an app should work, who should use it, what functionalities it should have and what customer requirements it should meet. Set project milestones that will show your way from the beginning to the end of the project.
Too large project phases
Every project manager has made this mistake at least once in his life – he divided his project into several big phases and didn’t know where to start. So did the team. Do you know what is the problem with project phases that are too big? They seem impossible to achieve. If you need a website and you give your copywriter the task of “write content for the site” you’ll probably never see it.
Solution: Confucius said, “When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” As you can see, two and a half thousand years ago, people also had trouble setting realistic goals for themselves, and in 2022, technological companies are further trying to solve this problem. Well, we may not be smarter than Confucius but let’s give it a shot.
The philosophy to achieve more and more and more is to blame. Unattainable goals are called motivation. Impossible things – ambition. Of course, striving to grow and progress is fundamental and it’s not about giving up on the way to the top. It’s about knowing the steps that lead to it. Let’s say you want to create the most popular communication app in the world. That is your mission.
The plan, on the other hand, is all the hundreds or thousands of elements that will get you to that. Do your research, and check out the strategies of the biggest brands like Facebook, Twitter, or WhatsApp. Develop a strategy, find the right people, set milestones, divide them into tasks and tasks into smaller tasks, estimate the risks, and determine the time and resources you need. And act.
No emergency procedures
It may seem that when you have a capable team, a perfect project schedule, a smartly planned budget, plenty of time, and a great idea, nothing can go wrong. And that is precisely the mistake. ALWAYS something can go wrong. Remember, Murphy’s Law works in project management and it’s not about ruling out the possibility of a crisis. It is about knowing how to prepare for it.
Solution: Emergency procedures are the basis of resource scheduling. The project plan itself assumes that... everything will go according to plan. Meanwhile, the thing is to prepare a risk management strategy and be ready when something goes wrong. A key employee suddenly had to take a month off? No problem – you have documentation and a process in place to deploy someone to replace him. An error occurs and the project is delayed? Not a problem either – after all, you’ve already saved two weeks at the scheduling stage just for this situation. In resource managament and project management, you must always have a plan B – you never know when it will become plan A.
Not thinking about the future
Ahh, living in the moment. It’s a beautiful thought... when you’re on holiday and you don’t have a project on your mind to complete! If things are good here and now, you have enough resource capacity, and projects are on time, it doesn’t mean it will be like this all the time. What if suddenly half the team goes on holiday for two weeks? Or you win a big tender and find that you are short 10 new people? Of course, in the world of technology, you have to be flexible. But you also need to think about the future.
Solution: Plan your resource allocation in advance. If you know that the big project starts in a few months and you’ll need more people, start the recruitment process now, because finding the perfect candidate and onboarding process takes time. If you want to implement a new growth strategy from the new year, start planning it in June – holidays are always a quieter time, and there’s usually plenty of work to do at the end of the year. If you start working with a new client in two months, start preparing the initial project plan and team composition now.
Ignorance of your team’s availability
Many project managers plan their work as if they always had a full team of full-time employees on board. However, this is not always the case. In the world of multinational remote companies, some people work 4 hours a day from 12 to 4 pm, others 8 hours a day from 10 am to 6 pm, and others only 4 days a week. Add to this the different time zones, holidays, and redundancies, and you have spectacular chaos. Unless you prepare for it.
Solution: Leave and absence management is a must-have for every software house. A calendar with the availability of your employees will ensure that whenever you plan a project, you can accurately assess what resources you have at your disposal and how much time your people can devote to tasks.
No work quality control
When thinking about resources, you probably mention time, capacity, budget, availability, and technology. However, this group rarely includes one of the most important resources that a good software house has. Quality. Quality is the value that makes you stay on the market, that makes your clients and employees want to work with you. Every project plan and resource scheduling must always include maintaining the highest quality of development. Without this, you will be lost.
Solution: Performance management is a process that will allow you to monitor and evaluate the quality of work done. It will allow you to decide how to allocate your resources, for example, allocate extra support, extend a deadline or increase the scope.
The family of the resource scheduling
1. From resource management to resource scheduling
Among managers, there’s no strong consensus about the rigorous understanding of terms belonging to the – let’s say – project management or resource management family. When thinking about resource scheduling or resource management – terms describing aspects of project management processes – the situation isn’t better. From this point, some steps that enlighten the meaning and the role of the most interesting for the article term are quite justified.
When searching for information about resource management on the internet, we will discover sometimes strange connections between the terms. What’s striking is resource scheduling is the same as resource management – which isn’t quite true. Besides, you will find quotations where the term resource scheduling is used in alternation with resource allocation. Even resource planning – often taken as an alternative word to resource management – can be found as one of many elements of the last one. For others, resource management means the same as resource planning and is a big process that contains resource scheduling and resource allocation as well.
As we know, resource scheduling is part of the resource management process. And resource management (or resource planning) is part of the project management process. Thus, before we will get to know about the first term, we must take the trouble to explain to the reader what resource scheduling is part of – resource management.
On the website of the Association for Project Management we read:
Resource management is acquiring, allocating and managing the resources, such as individuals and their skills, finances, technology, materials, machinery and natural resources required for a project. Resource management ensures that internal and external resources are used effectively on time and to budget. (The APM Body of Knowledge, 7th Edition)
This perspective is pretty large and may be less helpful than indicated below, but contain all aspects of what persons responsible for the project finishing are fighting with. Firstly, the APM’s definition indicates who or what belongs to the family of resources. Depending on the industry – resources can be people and their skills (either employees or contractors), gears, machines, devices (especially in the manufacturing and construction businesses), rooms, fleets, etc.
The second aspect of this definition is paying to, is the role of the project manager – “acquiring, allocating”. The third, ensuring – which in practice means paying attention, analyzing, and optimizing). Using effectively – which in practice means knowing the employees’ advantages and disadvantages, including their utilization, workload, performance, schedule, skills, etc. – is the fourth. Time and budget – are the last ones that need no explanation.
But resource management can be defined more smoothly by paying attention to the project or finishing the project – when the project determines who, and when will be matched to it. According to the projectmanager.com:
Resource management is the process of planning, scheduling and allocating resources to complete a project.
Of course, it cannot be forgotten – when thinking about a project – about the expectations with this project connected. Your customer pays, your customer demands. So better watch out whether the leaded project is finished with requirements (another challenge that needs its solution but not with the article)
Nevertheless, it’s time for crucial for this chapter term – resource scheduling. Without any introduction, let’s take a look for meaning represented by a competent referent. As Projectmanager.com informs, resource scheduling is the identification of the resources and of course coordination.
If we compare this to the proposal presented by our competitor in the resource scheduling software market (the Saviom company), we notice something striking. Paraphrasing their understanding, resource allocation is equated with resource scheduling, and its role is to recognize and assign sufficient resources (employees or subcontractors) for a specific period of time to specific project activities.
Both highlight something that has not appeared in the definitions given so far. Resource scheduling or employee planning (getting a little ahead of the quandary in the next section) requires skills and maturity that help to accurately identify, and recognize the competencies of an employee (including soft skills) that push them to make the decision to assign that particular employee a particular task.
2. From resource scheduling to employee scheduling
Resource scheduling is a term that appeared in the 90s. The idea behind this term is that projects have limited capacity and resources (and time, and budget as well). Thus, these factors must be included when planning for a project’s implementation.
How does resource scheduling connect with employee scheduling?
An employee scheduling meaning is absolutely close to staffing or workforce scheduling. We’re aware that those terms sometimes are in use in the particular industries or vice versa – in the particular industries more common is to use workforce scheduling in place an employee scheduling. Anyway, each of them says about an employee or worker and with mastery expected by the company, project, or task.
Workforce scheduling is defined as the process of establishing the schedules of hourly workers to meet the current and future demands in a workplace.
In this definition found on the Toolbox website that associates an expert’s insights, demand as a term isn’t quite clear and pushes us to imagine what the author was thinking. But in a justified way, we can take into consideration that the time to complete a project or job is part of it as well as the project’s requirements, or budget.
Staffing and scheduling are human resource allocations that select and assign employees to tasks within an organization, and specify when and for how long those tasks should be performed. (Workplacetesting.com)
When you compare this definition with the above-mentioned resource scheduling meanings the similarities are hard to hide. Selecting who, when, and how long will be matched with; assigning, defining, and analyzing the performance to achieve the main goal – complete the project. Each of them is explicit or assumed.
If we add something obvious – but something that has to be told – that employee skills, availability, and productivity also determine the process of scheduling, the connection between employee scheduling and resource scheduling will not be longer makes any doubts.
You already know how to improve your resource scheduling. But do you know why?
If you have reached this point in the article you surely know that mastering resource scheduling is not such a simple matter. You need good practices, avoiding mistakes, and a solid work management program to get the results you want. But, no one would be writing all these articles and guides on project resource management if competency in this area wasn’t worth it. And the benefits are plentiful.
- You save time and money. This argument is so strong that it is actually enough. If you plan your resources well, you do not waste your budget on inefficient activities, and by assigning the right tasks to the right people, you can make progress much faster.
- You avoid the risk of error and bottlenecks. By dividing resources wisely and carefully, you prevent a situation in which your work is suddenly blocked because something is missing.
- You have full insight into the project. Nothing happens without your knowledge and hardly anything can surprise you because you have all the important information about your current work right in front of you in the right system.
- You are prepared for anything. Risk management is your protection in case of emergencies, so where another project manager would have had a crisis long ago, you have a solution.
- Your team is happy. And that is very important. People like to work in an environment where they know what to expect and that everything is under control. Resource scheduling avoids overwork and overtime, and a well-rested employee is a productive and satisfied employee.
- You make the most of your team’s potential. You have great, talented people in your team. After all, that’s why you hired them. Resource allocation based on their skills is an opportunity to develop the potential of each of your employees and make the most of their competencies.
- The quality of your work is improved. Is it possible to work under time pressure, when the client is pissed off, the team is tired and you are running out of time and money? You can. But why should you? Smart resource management gives you peace of mind and control. When you don’t have to worry about basic things like deadlines and sufficient capacity, you can focus fully on quality.
- You learn. Everyone knows that practice makes perfect. And what else? Information! Resource scheduling is a source of invaluable data and reports that you can analyze to draw conclusions and get better with every project.
Additional features the resource scheduling software should have (based on the project management life cycle)
As you already get to know thanks to this article, the main role of resource scheduling software is...to help in allocating, planning, and coordinating resources (employees’ work) to achieve project requirements. It’s not important to do we talk about marketing resource management, IT resource management, or IT project planning – the role is the same.
The second note – before we show you additional features worth considering – refers to terms. By resource scheduling software, project scheduling software, resource management or resource planning software, capacity planning software, planning tools, resource management tools, and so on – we understand the same. They are all about managing and solving challenges with the human capital and schedule of an organization.
From this perspective, we can imagine what they have in common. Now it’s time to what is worth taking into account during the search for appropriate resource scheduling software. As we know, resource management (and resource scheduling as part of resource management) is a big piece of the project management process (also called the project management life cycle).
Can your ideal resource scheduling software also support:
- Workload management
- Project planning and budgeting
- Capacity planning
- Team roles assigning and skills-based resource allocation
- Performance management – employee time tracking
- Resource availability, PTO tracking – in the one phrase, leave management system features
- Reports, especially customizable ones
- Resource utilization
- Task management
- Communication, collaboration, file sharing (if you’re willing to do this via Slack, try to find a resource scheduling tool that is able to do that in an untroublesome way)
Will resource scheduling software solve all your company’s problems?
Well, probably not. But the thing is when you implement bulletproof resource scheduling software most of them just become manageable. But, if need more time or just compare project resource management tools or project planning tools – you know what to do.
Looking for the best resource scheduling software?