We give project managers a few tips on resource planning. How not doing it, or doing it ineffectively can negatively impact your projects. And a few ways to implement a resource planning strategy into your project management process.
Resource planning is a surefire way to create the perfect project plan. Not only does it help you pin down the right resources for the right tasks and projects, but it can also help you deliver your work on time.
Taking resource planning lightly can lead to numerous problems.
If you’re just scheduling tasks without any thought of how it will affect your team, you’re creating conditions not conducive to successful project management. And we’re certain you don’t want a team that feels undervalued and overworked to be working on a project that is behind schedule and over budget. That’s why you’re reading this article on how to combat it, right?
So, while technology has helped us make the process of resource planning easier and more timely, there might be a few things you’re missing that destroy all your hard-earned efforts.
Here we’ll go what exactly resource planning is. And we’ll also go through 6 ways in which ineffective resource planning can affect your project. Plus, some tips on how to turn it instead into more effective planning.
Resource planning is the process in which tasks are allocated to resources. Its goal is to maximize resource efficiency. While providing an overview of resources’ availability and capacity.
Resources can be anything your company utilizes to get tasks done – ranging from humans to machines, and meeting rooms to computer software.
The entire aim of resource planning is to make your resources more efficient. Letting you do more with less. If you’re a project manager and you aren’t planning resources, there’s definitely a few things you’re overlooking. And these may spell disaster for your projects.
Up next we’ll provide you with some examples of how poor resource planning may undermine your efficiency. As well as how to prevent it from spiraling out of control.
Resource planning has a lot to do with matching the right tasks with the right resource. This means filling specific roles with the ideal candidate. Not only does this allow you to create your literal dream team, but it means that your resources know that some thought has gone into why they were assigned to their tasks. It’s not only about filling capacity, it’s about designing plans around your team members.
You wouldn’t want to work in a place where you felt that your skills don’t bring any added value and you were totally interchangeable, would you? Even if you do your best to make your team feel valued in other ways, yet you still don’t give them challenging tasks, you might begin to notice a higher turnover.
Start by mapping out your resources’ skill sets with a resource management tool. Then schedule tasks for them accordingly. They’ll notice when they begin to get tasks suited towards their unique skills, that more effort has gone into the planning process. Instead of feeling like an extra pair of hands, they’ll feel valued for their specific talent. And you’re more likely to see better results.
To do this, use custom data fields. With these, you can add any kind of information you’d like about your team – their location, their team leader, languages they speak, or specialized skills. Then you can filter and sort by this data. This helps you create the right balance of skills and ensures that you find the right resource for your task.
Ineffective resource planning can lead to a distorted workload. For example, some of your resources might be overwhelmed with their tasks. While others don’t have enough on their plates to keep them busy. Honestly, neither of these situations is desirable.
While overworking simply leads to bad health, not having enough challenges at work can lead to similarly bad consequences (plus see point 1).
And much of this might not even be due to a lack of resources. It might just be that your team and equipment isn’t being used in the best way. That’s where proper resource capacity planning comes in.
Resource planning tools can give you a better overview of your various utilizations. That way you’ll know how occupied your resources are with their current tasks. As well as with any other ongoing projects.
Use this number to your advantage. If you’re aware of your resources’ skills, you can move things around to optimize their workload. Or, if you don’t have enough people on your team to handle the workload, consider bringing in some extra help. Outsourcing and freelancers can alleviate some of the burden on your team. And since we’re all used to working remotely now, it shouldn’t disrupt workflow.
With some resource planners, you can even manually adjust the utilization. Why would you want to do that? Well, with this feature, you can decide how much effort your resources put into their tasks. This is especially useful if you have scheduled concurrent tasks and you want to convey the need to focus more intently on one task as opposed to another. Maybe, humans will never fully succeed at multitasking, (or will they??), but this may be the next best thing.
Imagine the feeling of relief you get when you consistently hit all your deadlines and milestones. It’s such a warm and fuzzy feeling. And so satisfying to go through and check off task after task to reach your final goal.
Now imagine the opposite. The feeling of anxiety and stress of when your project just keeps shifting further and further back. And all your tasks are getting more behind schedule.
While there are tons of reasons for project failure, there are plenty of steps to take to prevent this from happening in the first place. Most importantly is to go in with a plan.
Sit down with your team and start developing a strategic plan. Go through over the main goals you want to achieve, the time frame, and how you propose to meet those goals. Create a mockup for your plan within your desired timeline and see if you have the resources and capacity to complete it. And if not, make adjustments or seek to bring in some outside help.
Plus, by defining your goals together, you’ll be involving your whole team. Not only will they be up to date from the get-go, but they’ll be more invested in bringing those plans to fruition.
Sometimes projects fail, even with a plan. In tools like Excel, postponing tasks or moving things forward can be tedious, taxing, and scream-inducing. Spreadsheets just are not made for project management. But, with the right tools and the right features, it’s super simple to move your projects and their related tasks back or forth on your timeline. Replace Excel, shift your plans with ease, and keep your blood pressure in check.
Here’s a few alternatives to spreadsheets that are worth checking out.
What’s the point of a plan if your team isn’t aware of it? Or they aren’t updated on the changes? Or they can’t see the progress, and aren’t invested in the upcoming deadlines?
As PM, your plans are meant to be shared, that’s why you spent all that hard-earned time on them. So if you use the wrong planning tool, you may begin to notice how difficult it is to keep everyone connected.
You may really start to notice this disconnect when you use free planning templates and programs like Excel. Not only can plans get messy spread out on different sheets, but it’s difficult to keep track of the latest iteration. Plus, sharing them requires multiple (expensive) licenses and has to be done the old fashioned way, via an attachment in Slack or email.
This is especially true for remote teams and organizations that utilize virtual working. Distance may make the heart grow fonder, but it’s a killer for communicating plans and keeping people on task. And if you’re still using Excel for your remote team project management, then you might be aware firsthand why 46% of projects don’t get completed on time.
Whether you are working together across time zones, or merely across the office, putting your plans into software which can be automatically shared can be a real lifesaver. Cloud-based software is not only more secure than your Excel sheets, but it can be edited and viewed from anywhere. This means as soon as a change happens, your team will be able to see it in real time.
Share your plans with anyone who needs them. Ganttic allows for an unlimited number of users, who you can control via different permissions in access and editing rights. And you can decide who will be automatically alerted when the plans change. Or you can share the plans with your bosses, stakeholders, or third parties, with only their email address. No need to create separate accounts.
Pure Technologies Ltd. is an international asset management technology and services company. They were on the lookout for a more efficient solution to their human resource and equipment scheduling problems, especially as it was spread out over offices across the country.
Once they began resource planning in Ganttic, they found the solution they were searching for. As Manager Allison Stroebele told us:
“We needed a better way to schedule a project so that we could see who would be involved and what equipment would be in use. Especially when teams were coming from three different offices nationwide and equipment was being shipped from anywhere in the country. We can track at least 80 pieces of equipment now as well, which wasn’t practical previously…. it gives everybody better visibility on where equipment and technicians are and what they’re doing. ”
Another useful aspect that’s great for dispersed teams is the cloud-based software which gives instant insight on all new changes. As Alison says:
“We use it every day and all 8 managers use it at the same time. Sometimes we’re on the phone together and we giggle, because somebody changes something and it changes on my end instantly, and everybody loves that.”
Instantly seeing those changes leads to more immediate results. And keeping your team up-to-date, no matter where they are, can contribute to battling any disconnect they may be experiencing.
We have some bad news for you. The plan you made is never what’s really going to happen. There will be changes. Robert is going to schedule a vacation in the middle of it, and Anny will be overwhelmed with something that’s more pressing. And you will probably need to reallocate additional resources during the course of the project.
In project management, this is a common story. But it’s important to be realistic when planning, as well as cognizant of any roadblocks you might encounter. But you can’t just sit back and wait for the problems to come to you.
Take a step back, and review the way you are planning and optimizing your plans. Are your reports solid, and do they paint an accurate picture of your projects’ course? Is your team tracking how much time it really takes to complete their scheduled tasks?
Better planning requires a better understanding of every aspect. By getting an overview, you can optimize how you plan and learn how to make adjustments that help.
When you use Gantt chart software, you can choose to connect your project’s tasks, by creating task dependencies. This makes it easier for your team to know that one task needs to be finished, before going on to the next task. And can help you discover more about the time it actually takes your team to complete their tasks.
A handy feature about dependencies is the ability to add a “lag time,” giving your tasks some space in between when one ends and one begins. This also means you can plan ahead for some potential obstacles which might delay the wrap up of a task. And saves you from needing to make changes in the moment.
And finally the most dreaded monster of project management – increased costs. Who needs scary movies when PMs are experiencing this fright every time they check their reports and schedules?
No matter how well you plan the budget of your project, if it’s not accompanied by effective resource planning, the project will be in danger. Delays, late fees, the cost of extra workers, the price of repairs, overtime, they all go towards eating up your budget. A project with an undervalued project team that’s behind schedule can’t really be within the budget, can it?
To prevent your project from going over budget there’s two things to remember: review and re-forecast. Take a look at the state of your resources, the time before completion, and how much of your budget you have left. Of course with software, it’s super simple to get an overview of all of this information.
Then once you know what you have to work with, re-forecast. Engage in some resource leveling and push some projects back. Or if that’s not possible, use resource smoothing and move things around. If you do this regularly and vigilantly, then you won’t have to experience going over budget. Take the right steps now, and fix your budget before it becomes a problem down the road.
Remember those custom data fields which swooped into save the day? Well, here they are again for some more friendly uses.
Add custom information regarding different numbers to your resources. For example, add in the price of a piece of machinery. Or the salary of a hired contractor. Or the hourly rates of the freelancers on your team. You can even use this information in report calculations, so once you schedule them, you’ll know exactly how much they cost within your project’s time frame, how much of the budget they account for, and what you have left to work with.
The point of using resource planning software, is to make it easier on you, your team, and meet your goals. So don’t let some stupid oversights ruin everything. Keep these lessons in mind the next time you sit down and engage in some resource planning. Turn ineffective planing into effective planning. And you’ll be guaranteed a planned win.
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