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...
Anyone who has ever run a team or a company will tell you that it’s extremely difficult to complete a project without planning who should do it and when it can be done.
Yet, many companies rely on ad-hoc resource allocation and “let’s hope it works out” attitude.
In fact, only 62% of organizations surveyed by Project Management Institute admitted that they always or often use resource management to estimate and allocate their resources.
It’s especially alarming as the very same study shows that insufficient resource allocation is what puts many projects at risk. When asked about the primary causes of their past projects’ failures 23% of respondents named “inadequate resource forecasting” and “resource dependency”.
Admittedly, it’s not the most common issue, but comparing to “change in organization’s priorities” (mentioned by 41% respondents), resource planning seems like a factor that’s very much in your hands.
Resource management may not be the biggest thing to concentrate on for young companies who, understandably, focus on growth.
When said growth happens, however, they have to quickly step up their scheduling game in order to thrive. It’s especially true for companies juggling multiple projects at the same time – agencies, consultancies or software houses.
Inadequate resource allocation leads to communication chaos and puts projects at risk.
I’m a big advocate of establishing resource management processes regardless of your team’s size. Actually, thoughtful team planning can accelerate your growth early on and maintain a healthy company.
Let’s cover the most important steps you need to take in order to enjoy the benefits of resource management.
Increase team visibility
Many teams struggle with limited team visibility which leads to overworked employees, project delays or miscommunications between different project managers.
A global resource calendar is a must for companies regardless of their size. Are you the sole person responsible for resource allocation at your company? You still need to see exactly whom you have on board and what’s their workload.
A list of employees is a start, but I highly recommend assigning attributes like job titles, seniority or location (if you’re working in a virtual team) so that you can filter your resources easily. Project Managers who haven’t yet worked with particular team members, may not necessarily know their skills, so such global schedule with custom tags helps them with deciding whom to assign for a given project.
Yet another thing you have to keep in mind when trying to improve your resource allocation efficiency is the workload. It’s not unusual for companies to overly depend on some employees, while omitting others who could deliver a given task. Looking at the schedule, you can spot the overworked as well as the underutilized people and then level their assignments.
Increased team visibility will also be appreciated by your sales and product teams. When negotiating new deals or deciding on more features for your app, they can make informed decisions about the timings.
Keep track of the schedule and the availability
Let’s say you have three in-house designers who have no immediate assignments and could thus work on a newly-won project. Taking just the workload schedule into account, you’re good to go or even spoiled for options. As it turns out, however, one of these designers is on sick leave, another one is on vacation and the third designer has just asked to work on a part-time basis this month.
And just like that, your project is at risk and you might need to delay it or outsource extra designers. Both options would typically affect your bottom line.
Having insight into your team’s availability is essential for successful resource allocation.
Whether your employee is taking a longer time off or it’s just a half-day absence, you and your project managers need to know who can realistically take on new tasks.
Ideally, you would display both your team’s assignments and availability data in one schedule, so that you can take both into account when planning your projects. Ask your part-time employees and freelancers you frequently work with to share their daily availability with you.
The way teamdeck works is that employees can input their availability themselves and even request days off. Their requests are then accepted or denied by the managers and the schedule is updated immediately.
Make use of the data you’re collecting
There’s something to be said for resource forecasting & allocation being part science, part experience. In order to take take full advantage of the science part of this formula, you should start using historical data.
For many companies, tracking time is something they’ve agreed on with their clients. Other think it’s a corporate relic, not quite applicable for the laid-back culture they’re building.
My stance on time tracking is that, when done correctly, it’s non-intrusive for the employees and insightful for the managers. I recommend tracking work in real time or at least filling out timesheets on the same day. It increases the accuracy of your data.
When allocating resources for a new project, analyze time tracked by your team members in their previous assignments. If they repeatedly go over the estimated time, they may be a bad fit for a tight-deadline project.
Alternatively, you can evaluate the utilization of your team (by comparing people’s bookings with their timesheets) and see which employees have been overutilized in the recent projects. Perhaps there’s a need to hire a new person with a similar skillset.
Adapt to changes
You might have checked all the boxes and figured out the best schedules for your team. Inevitably though, something will change and affect your plans: it can be the scope of your project or its timeline. People might fall ill or quit the company mid-project.
It’s critically important to be ready for change and able to act quickly when faced with it. One thing that helps my company manage several different projects at the time, is our real-time schedule. Every project manager can see everyone’s current availability and workload.
There’s one issue with spreadsheets and documents you prepare meticulously before the project’s kickoff. They go out-of-date as soon as something changes. For most projects, it’s really soon. There’s only so much you can control, so better prepare to embrace the change.
Start using resource allocation to your benefit
Focusing on proper resource allocation is a logical next step for any company that, for one reason or another, hasn’t yet tried it or relied on insufficient techniques. As you can see, you benefit from resource management the most, if you’re able to make use of the data available to you (your team’s schedule, past performance, time off etc). It’s virtually impossible to gather and analyze this data efficiently, if you’re using obsolete tools like spreadsheets. There are many resource scheduling or time tracking apps available, but not all of them will encompass your needs or fit your budget and team size.
When my own company, Apptension, was growing, I struggled to find an app that would allow me to manage my team’s bookings, time off or their tracked time in one place and, on top of that, would be straightforward to use. This is why we decided to build Teamdeck.