Project planning isn’t just about mapping tasks; it also means ensuring you have the right team available to actually complete them. You need to have the foresight to know what resources you need when, and the organization to navigate competing commitments and schedules to lock them down. Here’s why resource planning is essential to every successful project – and how to go about curating your own project dream team.
What is resource planning?
Resource planning is a systematic process to achieve the optimum use of an organization's time and people. Using a conflux of project management skills and timekeeping, they have to create and maintain stability between projects, tasks, teams, time and budget. Needless to say, it’s a careful and judicious balancing act.
It’s essential resource planners work flexibly, especially since many project variables change frequently. Some of these can include:
- Project scope creep, where new requests outgrow the original plan of work
- Introducing new, shorter deadlines driven by the clients or stakeholders, or as a result of poor project planning
- Being unable to fulfill the project due to sickness, leave, understaffing - or other issues like lack of skills or experience
- Project budget runs out earlier than expected, and tasks have to be put on hold
- Task priorities change often, or many tasks are deemed urgent all at once
A resource plan isn’t just about meeting external project demands, it also helps maintain a healthy balance with HR planning and business costs. It’s about ensuring individual projects have enough resources, while ensuring the business is still turning a profit. Pressure to get it right is high – but how do you go about planning resources for a project?
Resource planning prerequisites
Before delving into a new resource plan, a resource planner will need to gauge inputs. The first is what’s known as a work breakdown structure (WBS), which will lead to the deliverables of a project’s scope - helping a resource planner define the teams they need. If you’re launching a new app, for example, you’d at least need designers, developers and QA testers to see the project through.
Next, you’ll need to gauge the estimated duration of the tasks required to fulfil the project’s needs. The best way to do this is to predict the hours you’ll need based on past projects, reviewing the time it's taken to meet a similar project. With a comprehensive project time tracker, this process should be relatively straightforward and quick.
It’s vital resource planners forecast the hours needed based on historical data, rather than guessing. The last thing you want to do is overpromise on resource when tasks actually take way longer than expected. In addition to evaluating previous project calendars, use a project time management app to show you all the time that went into previous phases and tasks for similar projects.
Managing team resources
Resource planners also need to find team members with the right skills. Even if you have a full-time team, you will still need to navigate each individual’s commitments across all the projects and teams they are connected to. This includes checking where and when they’re available using tools to cross-reference timing schedules.
There are lots of approaches to team planning out there, but the simplest solution is just to use a purpose-made team planning tool. These help you visualize all employee schedules across all projects and teams, gauge resource availability, and quickly assign project work.
Thanks to intuitive controls, resource planners reduce scheduling to a matter of minutes – letting you allocate, edit and reassign tasks between colleagues with a simple click and drag. By seeing everyone’s schedule alongside each other, you can also ensure project work is distributing fairly across all your resources. The best also include a daily hours cap, so you don’t allocate work beyond anyone’s capacity.
The benefits of resource planning
Properly utilized, resource planning is a symptom of a well-organized internal structure, helping you lead efficient and profitable projects. Aside from something you do just at the start of a project, good resources planning can help you manage deliverables throughout project execution.
It can be used to help you identify internal efficiencies and risks that set deadlines back, track how you spend project budget across resources, and monitor a project’s billable to non-billable ratio. In addition to setting more profitable rates, all these insights are essential for helping you understand your resource needs, so you can scale them up or down as necessary for future projects.