Effective resource planning is an important objective for different companies: small and big, working online, or operating in offline-based industries. Because of the diversity of businesses that need it, it’s borderline impossible to provide a universal recommendation for an online resource planner. In this guide, we’ll outline a series of questions that will help you to find your team’s perfect planning tool.
What is a resource planner?
A resource planner is a tool that allows you to allocate the right team members to the right projects/tasks/clients. Resource planning is an integral part of resource management, which is a process of using a company’s resources in the most efficient way possible (source). It enables you to utilize your team better and make sure that everyone is working on something they’re well equipped to do. As a result, your projects and commitments are more likely to be successful.
Note that in this blog post, we’ll focus only on online resource planners—dedicated apps for resource scheduling and management. It’s possible to utilize a spreadsheet (or another tool that works for you) for allocating your team members’ work. However, we believe that software that’s been designed for that purpose will ultimately make the process more efficient and effective. Plus, you can find resource planners at different price points (including free options, especially for small teams). You should be able to find something right for your budget and needs.
How can resource planning help your team?
Before you search for your team’s new resource planner, you must understand the benefits that resource management (and specifically effective resource scheduling and planning) can provide. Different companies will appreciate different benefits and, as such, prioritize specific features when looking for a resource planner. For instance, when you are in an organization that works on multiple projects simultaneously, it will be crucial for you to have a tool that enables you to coordinate your project portfolio and align multiple schedules.
So, what are the main upsides of planning resources with the help of a dedicated app?
The images below show the interface of Teamdeck, a resource planner we’ve built. If you have any questions about the tool, let us know!
Plan and edit project schedules with ease. Sure, it’s effortless to allocate resources to a given assignment using a schedule planning app, but so is writing it down on a piece of paper or in a spreadsheet. The real advantage of resource planners lies in their ability to help you change your team’s schedules. Flexible planning is much easier when you know that you can quickly reallocate your resources or try out different scheduling options. Many resource management apps allow you to drag and drop various assignments—it’s convenient when you have to move things around quickly.
Avoid scheduling conflicts. Resource management apps help you fix scheduling conflicts by quickly editing the schedule, but they also allow you to avoid them in the first place. It’s possible because you can see the availability of your employees (including part-timers or freelancers working for your company). This insight makes it possible for you to plan the work more successfully. After all, you won’t be surprised by unexpected vacations or other commitments.
Monitor and optimize resource utilization. Resource managers or PMs want to make sure that team members have work to do, but they’re not overwhelmed with assignments. Resource scheduling tools help you to strike the right balance here: you can monitor people’s workload and reallocate employees when needed.
Improve project transparency and visibility of your employees. When you implement a resource management app at your organization, you give everyone a better understanding of what’s going on at the company. Managers can assess the schedules of different projects, while employees see what they have in store for the upcoming days.
How to pick the best resource planner for your company?
Before you even start analyzing different resource management tools, you should take a moment to think about your company’s needs. Knowing what you’re looking for will make the decision process easier.
You can start with the following questions:
- What kind of resources do you want to schedule (e.g., people, equipment, office space)?
- What do you want to plan (e.g., projects, shifts, events)?
- Do you use any other tools?
- What is your team’s structure?
- What are your team’s habits?
Let’s take a close look at each of these questions. The first thing you have to think about is the type of resources you want to plan. You have probably noticed that we have mostly referred to people scheduling tools and processes throughout this blog post. You may as well want to create schedules for non-human resources. Say that you have just a handful of conference rooms that need to be allocated to different people every day. Or that you have some equipment that needs to be booked in advance. Most resource management apps allow you to enter both human and non-human resources to the system, but many tools have been designed for human resource planning specifically. If your primary focus is on inanimate resources, don’t worry: there’s a probably a dedicated resource planner for that purpose (e.g., equipment manager or office space planner)
Next, you need to define what you need to plan. Granted, we could generally say that every company works on some type of project. Still, you need to dig deeper into the requirements of your work. Do you want to plan long-term projects (e.g., software development)? Or perhaps you need to plan daily work shifts or one-time gigs. Different industries will have specific needs here, and you might want to look for say, a shift planner for restaurants.
The first two questions should have narrowed down your search to a particular segment of the market. Now it’s time to evaluate the features of different tools within that segment. For starters, you need to make sure that a new resource planner will fit into your team’s toolbox. It’s especially important when your team utilizes several online tools (like project management software or a chat app). You want the new planner to integrate seamlessly with your existing ecosystem. Ask whether the app you’re evaluating has sufficient integrations, extensions, or options for customizing it (with API, for example).
Then, analyze the structure of your teams (the people who will use the planner). Chances are that you will want to grant different kinds of permissions to different team members. Make sure you will be able to do it in the app.
Finally, take your employees’ habits into account. For example, if your teams spend a lot of their work time on the go, it makes sense to use a tool with a robust mobile app.
The essential step before you commit to a new team planner
It’s always useful to compare the app you’re taking into consideration with other popular tools. Many apps offer dedicated comparison pages (we’ve created such sites for people seeking alternatives for Resource Guru, Monday, and Wrike).
Even if you think that a given app ticks all the boxes upon reading a product description, it’s imperative that you try it out. This way, you’ll get a sense of user experience and test different features before rolling it out to the whole team.
How can you do that? One option will be to utilize a free trial that many products offer. Sign up and explore the app on your own before introducing your team. Alternatively, you can ask for a product demo—it’s an excellent opportunity to assess a given company’s customer support.
At Teamdeck, we offer two options:
- Sign up for a 7-day free trial. You will get full access to the app and will be able to transition to the premium membership when the trial expires seamlessly. Tip: if you want to see what it’s like to use Teamdeck in real-life scenarios, you can import sample data to your account and play around.
- Schedule a consultation with our customer success team. We will discuss your needs, show you the different capabilities of our resource planner, and help you decide whether it’s the right fit.