The 6 Resource Planning Metrics That Matter

Categories: Resource Planning, Task Scheduling
Selecting resource planning metrics is not very different from selecting project management metrics. In fact, in most instances, the first is a part of the second. Thus, the same principles are often applicable. However, selecting the two type of metrics isn't quite the same. There is an overlap, but the two aren't interchangeable. 

The confusion usually stems from the fact that resource planning and project management aren't that far from each other. The most difficult part is that a lot depends on how one or the other is defined in your organization. There isn't one straightforward answer that would work in every scenario.

It's also necessary to note that not all resource planning is done to reach the same goals. Thus, selecting the right metrics might be even trickier. 

There's detailed resource planning or project staffing that aims to make sure that the project in question would have enough resources with the fitting competencies. There's also high-level resource planning that aims to keep resource utilization and resource usage in check in each and every project portfolio and across all the project portfolios.

Obviously, the two cannot use the same metrics.  

6 resource planning metrics that matter

Keeping all of that in mind, we are going to go over the most critical resource planning metrics both in the context of project management and separately.  

Selecting the resource planning metrics

Choosing the right resource planning metrics cannot be something you do just because you know you must do it or because you know that's the professional way to go around things. First and foremost, selecting the resource planning metrics should be done in collaboration with the stakeholders.

As Harold Kerzner wrote in his book about project management metrics, "Viewers and stakeholders who are expected to make decisions in support of the project want sufficient data such that they can make 'informed' decisions in a timely manner rather than just guesses."

Thus, stakeholders should be the first who are considered when selecting the metrics. However, that's also what is going to make the process more challenging. Isn't that the best when doing something the correct way is also the most painful way? 

Although you need to satisfy the stakeholders, you cannot please all the stakeholders at all times. Based on the characteristics of the project you are dealing with or the nature of the resource planning goals, you are going to need to decide which stakeholders are the most significant in the different phases of the project or the resource planning cycle.

One thing you can rely on is your (project) communications plan. Before a communications plan is agreed on, a stakeholder analysis is usually done. You can use the information gathered there to decide the most relevant stakeholders at different phases of your project or resource planning cycle.
Here's a guide to creating a project communications plan for beginners. Additionally, many of the major milestones are stated in the communications plan, and these can be taken into consideration when selecting the metrics. Still, you must remember that resource planning metrics will not and cannot replace the commitments set with the communications plan.

Another rule you must master is that more metrics do not equal better performance. Harold Kerzner warned, "Providing too many metrics and KPIs may be an invitation for stakeholders to micromanage the project."

Select the ones that serve a purpose and don't go overboard with it.

The seniority coefficient

Before getting to the actual metrics, there is a weighty aspect to consider when measuring resource planning effectiveness.

You should remember that not all your team members are at the same level of seniority or skillfulness and that should be taken into account when selecting metrics and when analyzing the results.

Since resources are almost always scarce, you are lucky if you get to assign a resource that has the exact skill set you need for the project. Rarely you have a choice between two or more resources with different seniority but the same skill set.

This creates a scenario where your metrics might show you a picture that isn't quite right. For a metric to be useful, you need to have a benchmark to measure against. You can use an industry standard for the benchmark. You can also use the data points collected from past projects.

However, when seniority is not considered, it might seem that the person or the team isn't performing as well as you have planned. When in reality you have expected the performance of a seasoned professional from someone who is not quite there yet. Similarly, a resource with higher seniority might complete the task in hand a lot quicker or might even be able to cover the workload of multiple resources.

This is why you might want to add a seniority coefficient when measuring the effectiveness of resource planning. In Ganttic, you can keep track of resources skills and seniority using resource custom data.

Metrics for projects and resources

First, I'm going to discuss the most general resource management metrics that can be useful both in the project management and high-level resource planning context. These two are essential in almost any resource planning scenario.

1. Resource capacity utilization

Resource capacity utilization is the most fundamental resource planning metric. It represents the percentage of business hours set for the resource are covered with tasks taking into account the utilization of the task.
Resource capacity utilization definition
Resource capacity utilization the percentage of the resource capacity or work hours that is covered with tasks. Utilization planning is the part of resource management that makes it possible to maximize resource efficiency.
Resource utilization is what makes it possible to use any other utilization-related metrics. When you add up the utilization of a certain team, you get group utilization. When you add up the utilization of all the resources that are working on a project, you can compare if the utilization is in check with the priorities in the portfolio, etc. 

But resource utilization is also important on its own. While analyzing 'used time' (addressed in the next section) will indicate the effectiveness of the planning and how correctly you have estimated the task duration after the assignments are complete, utilization percentage is a metric you can keep track of while scheduling.

In Ganttic, utilization percentage is displayed right next to the title of the resource and is updated whenever a new task is scheduled. Resource utilization is considered optimal if the utilization is between 90 and 100%.

That being said, if we are talking about human resources, it's not healthy to assume that productivity is going to be at 100% at all times.
The resource manager of our client Innopolis Engineering recommended, "I guess in resource planning many project managers make the mistake of booking people at full capacity. However, in reality, employees get sick, they have inspirational and coffee brakes, different training courses, etc. Which means that, by average, people work 6.5-7 hours per day, not the full 8 hours. Taking that into consideration, I have set the work time to 7 hours in Ganttic."While scheduling, you can sort your resources according to the utilization percentage. By doing so, you'll be able to reallocate resources if someone is overbooked and add tasks to those that lack responsibilities. If you are looking for a resource with a certain skill, you can add a filter with that skill to find out if there are unoccupied resources with the appropriate skill set.

2. Planned resources vs Resources in use

Whether you are planning resources for a project or you are keeping an eye on the general resource allocation, you'll be at a point where you are first estimating the number of resources that are going to be needed for the coming period.

After some time has passed, you'll reach a milestone or the end of the project. Then, you can compare the original and the current state of the resource schedule.

Doing so will give you an insight into your initial estimates. You can use this knowledge to evaluate the health of the project and/or your planning effectiveness.

In Ganttic, you can monitor this metric by running a report at the start of the planning period and when reaching a milestone. 

High-level resource planning metrics

Although I'm going to mention projects here as well, the metrics concern the portfolios instead of single projects. I'm discussing two utilization metrics that do not concern individual resources but rather groups and project portfolios.

1. Group utilization

One thing that is often overlooked is the utilization of particular teams. We covered the problem with that in another post but it's still important to mention here.
Here's a comprehensive post about common mistakes made regarding resource utilization. Keeping track of group utilization in addition to resource utilization will enable you to compare the utilization of different groups. Doing so, you'll find the groups that do not have to optimal utilization.

Let's say you are comparing the utilization of the different departments of your organization and you find out that the development department has a much higher average utilization than other departments. This indicates that the project portfolios you have are straining the development department or there is another resource planning related problem that needs attention.

To find the pain point, you could next analyze the utilization of different teams in the development department. The problem might be general but it can also be about a specific team. If you can single out the team that is causing the spike in the group utilization you can approach the problem. Without analyzing the group utilization, the problem might never get attention.

In Ganttic, you can build custom resource groups including department, team, location, etc. Each resource can be in multiple resource groups that can be analyzed separately by choosing the group in question.

group utilization is a resource planning metric that can be tracked using ganttic

For example, you can see on the screenshot above that the engineering department was going through some rough times from January until May. At the same time, the marketing department had no assignments. However, it's not going to be a smooth ride for them either starting from the 39. week of the year.

2. Project portfolio utilization

Even if you keep a close eye on resource group utilization, you might miss a problem with a particular project or several concurrent projects. The problem with utilization is that it adds up. In a multi-project environment, it can cause a problem where resources can be optimally utilized for each project but are overutilized when all the ongoing projects are taken into consideration.

The most debilitating part here seems to be that not all the resources are planned with the same resource planning software. If there isn't an organization-wide PMO or a resource manager whose job is to keep track of the general utilization, a lot is left for the team members to figure out between themselves.

If there already is a general resource planning tool like Ganttic, it's easy to notice if a resource is already booked with another project and these conflicts rarely happen.

However, even if there is a global resource scheduling software, getting a comprehensive overview of the resource utilization across the project portfolios will give you an insight into how the projects are laid out. Keeping an eye on the project portfolio utilization will give the sales team an idea of when new projects can be taken on.

For example, in Ganttic, you'll get a pretty good idea of the portfolio utilization if you group the resources by projects and collapse the groups (please note that the utilization graphs must be turned on in the general settings).

Doing so, you'll have a utilization heatmap where the periods with the lowest utilization are marked with light grey and the periods with the highest utilization with dark grey. 

project utilization in Ganttic

Another thing that you could do is create a chart where you select resource utilization as chart values and project titles as chart data. As you can see on the screenshot below, June would have been a pretty sad month for this organization.

project portfolio utilization chart in Ganttic

You must keep in mind that this kind of high-level metrics will not tell you much about individual utilization of the resources. A single resource can still be overutilized even if there is a slot on the timeline in a more general sense.

Project management resource planning metrics

Now, let's concentrate on individual projects. 

1. The doomsday metric

This one is crucial in the project management resource planning context but isn't really a resource planning metric. Rather, it's a"when to vacate the premises" metric.

Between 30 and 40% of projects don't reach the original goals and aren't completed within the original budget or the timeframe. At the same time, not all projects that don't reach these goals are unsuccessful.

Nonetheless, when a project is too far south, bringing it back might be too costly for it to be worth it. This is the case when the costs for bringing the project back are no longer aligned with the benefits and/or when the goals of the project will not serve a purpose anymore.

Killing the project, however, can be challenging since there's often resistance from both the team and the other stakeholders. Even more so, when the project has dragged on for light-years and then some.

Keeping a project live that should be killed, is keeping valuable resources prisoned and draining the budget of funds that could be used on other projects. That is why a process should be established to make it easier to pull the kill switch. For that process to serve the purpose, you should also establish metrics that indicate when a project is in trouble.
Harold Kerzner suggested 23 early warning signs that might indicate that the project needs further attentions:
1. Business case deterioration
2. Different opinions on the project’s purpose and objectives
3. Unhappy/disinterested stakeholders and steering committee members
4. Continuous criticism by stakeholders
5. Changes in stakeholders without any warning
6. No longer a demand for the deliverables or the product
7. Invisible sponsorship
8. Delayed decisions resulting in missed deadlines
9. High-tension meetings with team and stakeholders
10. Finger-pointing and poor acceptance of responsibility
11. Lack of organizational process assets
12. Failing to close life cycle phases properly
13. High turnover of personnel, especially critical workers
14. Unrealistic expectations
15. Failure in progress reporting
16. Technical failure
17. Having to work excessive hours and with heavy workloads
18. Unclear milestones and other requirements
19. Poor morale
20. Everything is a crisis
21. Poor attendance at team meetings
22. Surprises, slow identification of problems, and constant rework
23. A poor change control process 
At this point, some organizations choose to use the help of an external consultant. This might be recommended since it will give you a perspective of someone who regularly analyzes projects that might be in trouble.

2. Planned time vs Used time

In the project management context, the project team usually has to log the time they actually used to complete a task. In Ganttic, this can be done using the used time feature.

Once the assignee starts with the tasks, they should start keeping track of the time they are spending completing the task. When they complete the assignment, they should log the time in the resource planning software.

If this process is consistent, the time that the team logs can be measured against the time initially planned. Next, you can draw up a new resource planning report or use an existing resource planning report template to analyze the two indicators against each other.

To achieve that in Ganttic, you should draw up a project-driven report and filter out the project in question. You should add the resource name into grouping level and other data you might need. For example, the resource group, task status to know if the task is complete or in progress.

Next, drag both busy time (planned time) and used time (the time that the team has logged) into details level. Adjust the calendar, and click Show report.

You'll have a report that you can you to compare the two indicators.

planned time vs used time report in ganttic

If you want to implement these resource planning metrics, try Ganttic for free!