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The 6 Most Important Resource Planning Metrics to Track

Categories: Resource Planning, Task Scheduling

Resource planning metrics let you track and evaluate the performance of your tasks and projects. 

Without measuring our projects and their results, it would be difficult to impossible to assess their success. Only by monitoring and measuring the right metrics, are we able to see our team’s effort and direct the processes in the right direction.

Business metrics are important. Fullstop. Without them, how would you know:

  • Your profits

  • How your resources are performing

  • Whether your projects are on-time

  • If you’re within budget

  • What projects you can take on next quarter.

And while it’s not advisable to blindly rely on statistics and data, they do represent an important way to get feedback and make improvements. This also means that when choosing how to measure your results there’s a lot that needs to be considered as well.

In this article we’ll go over some basics. Six of the best resource planning metrics to track and why they matter. As well as some tips on how to implement them into your organization. But first, we’ll tell you how to decide upon the indicators you’ll ultimately choose. 

Resources definition says that resources are anything you can plan from people and skills up to windmills.

Selecting Resource Planning Metrics

Before you can implement measurement indicators, you need to decide which ones are best for you. So how do you select your resource planning indicators? There are various methods.

  • You can use SMART goals to more objectively measure whether your goals can be accomplished. In this case, letters in the acronym S.M.A.R.T. can tell you whether the metric you want to use are

    • Specific enough,

    • Measureable,

    • Achievable,

    • Relevant,

    • realistically Time-bound.

  Be careful to not be overly reliant on these, however, because they tend to not be very   dynamic and can’t always account for last-minute changes.

  • You could align metrics to use with the overall strategy of your company and look to PPM.

  • You can collaborate with your stakeholders first. And with the help of a project communications plan, you can see which stakeholders are more important at different phases of the project or the resource planning cycle.

Here's a guide to creating a project communications plan for beginners.
  • You as the project manager can set a few metrics just for your team. If successful, these may even end up as the indicators used throughout your company.

However you decide which planning metric to use, heed the warning of Harold Kerzner, the author of Project Management Metrics, KPIs, and Dashboards. He wrote that, "Providing too many metrics and KPIs may be an invitation for stakeholders to micromanage the project." As such, more metrics do not equal better performance.

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

Whichever ones you do choose, though, follow them through and be sure to track them for the best results. Next, we’ll suggest a few metrics you may consider implementing as they can show you important information about your project.

Metrics for projects and resources

We’ll keep it pretty simple and limit the number of planning metrics to 6.

They will be broken down according to what exactly they measure. Our top 6 resource planning metrics to have an eye on, are:

  1. Cost Variance

  2. Resource capacity utilization

  3. Group and project portfolio utilization

  4. Planned resources vs. resources in use

  5. Planned time vs Used time

  6. The Doomsday Metric

Cost Metrics

Cost metrics are resource planning metrics that help to stay in budget

We can start with what may be considered one of the most important metrics of them all, cost. Not only is this important for stakeholders, but staying within budget can make the whole team happy as well.

1. Cost Variance

Cost variance definition: measures the budgeted amount against the actual costs that were spent on a project or task

Used in: individual project and resource management

Why use it?

  • Accuracy

There’s not much that’s more important to a company than their money. This indicator can be your first hint that your projects and plans aren’t working the way they should be. Are you over budget or under? How much more can you comfortably spend on a project before you’re in the red? If you’ve already used a third of the budget in the first few months of a year-long project, you might be in for a rough time.

  • Evaluation & predicting

Cost variance is useful when evaluating how each of the resources fit into a project and if some are more cost effective than others. It’s important when you need to reevaluate and need not only a quick indication of a project’s progress, but a resource’s worth. 

It’s also helpful when making predictions, as you’ll have a more accurate picture of what future costs will look like. Or as a way to account for certain trends throughout the years.

How to use it?

To calculate the cost variance, you only need to compare the planned budget to the actual budget. Although this sounds easy, it can get more complicated the more projects, resources, and variables you have. The more details you compare, however, the more you can get from this metric.  

With Ganttic, the software can tabulate the amount for you with just a few simple clicks in the reporting section. Or you can automatically set it so a report can be generated at any time interval that suits you. All you need to do is fill in your resource cost information, log in the actual used time and a personalized report is created for you.

A weekly report can be a quick and stress-free way to view your progress and keep track of your budget. The reports can also be shared with stakeholders, so everyone who needs to know, is in the know.

Utilization Metrics

Utilization metrics are planning metrics that show how much one or another resource is used

Utilization is generally shown as percentage (%) and is how much a resource is used. Below are some great metrics which look at resource utilization.

2. Resource capacity utilization

Resource capacity utilization definition: Resource capacity utilization is the percentage of a resource’s work hours that is occupied by projects or tasks. Utilization planning is the part of resource management that makes it possible to maximize resource efficiency.  

Used in: Project management and high-level resource planning

Why Use It?

  • Foundation for other metrics

Resource capacity utilization is the most fundamental resource planning metric. Additionally, it can be used to maximize resource efficiency in individual projects and in your project portfolio

Resource utilization is what makes it possible to use any other utilization-related metrics. Add up the utilization of a specific team to get group utilization. Or add up the utilization of all the resources that are working on a project, to compare if the utilization is in check with the priorities in the portfolio.

  • Track your planning

Resource utilization is also important on its own. Analyzing 'used time' 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 should keep track of while scheduling.

How to Use it?

There’s two calculations to find out your resource’s capacity utilization:

  - Scheduled or Forecasted Utilization:

  Scheduled Utilization = Scheduled time/ resource capacity

 - Actual or Reported Utilization:

  Actual Utilization = Reported time/ resource capacity

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.

TIP: 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, or they have inspirational coffee breaks, trainings, or different courses. This means that on 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.

3. Group utilization and Project portfolio utilization

Group utilization definition:  Group and project portfolio is how well groups of projects or your project portfolio is utilized. Much like resource capacity utilization, it is measured as a percentage.

Used in: High-level planning, groups of projects or project portfolios

Why use it?

  • Tool for comparison

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. 

Here's a comprehensive post about common mistakes made regarding resource utilization.

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.

Let's say you are comparing the utilization of the different departments of your organization. You find out that the development department has a much higher average utilization than other departments. 

To find the pain point, you could next analyze the utilization of different teams in the development department. If you can single out the team that is causing the spike in the group utilization, you can approach the problem. Either way, without analyzing the group utilization, the problem might never get attention.

  • Never miss a detail

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. This is made easier if resource management software is used which helps with transparency and keeping everyone on the same page.

TIP: 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.

How to use it?

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 easily 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 either of them starting from the 39th week of the year.

If there is a global resource scheduling software, getting a comprehensive overview of the resource utilization across the project portfolios will give you 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.

Project Utilization Graph in Ganttic

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.

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

PROTIP: 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.

Resource Metrics

Resource metrics are the planning metrics that are connected with resources.

Here we’ll take a look at metrics for resources.

4. Planned resources vs Resources in use

Planned vs used resources definition: Planned resources are the estimated number of resources you will use in a given task, project, or strategy. Resources in use are the actual resources being used.

Used in: Project management and high-level resource planning

Why use it?

  • Track your resources

Whether you are planning resources for a project or you are keeping an eye on the general resource allocation, you'll need to first estimate 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. You’ll also know where your resources are in relation to where they are supposed to be. This allows you to keep an eye on what everyone and everything is doing.

  • Better long-term planning

Once you have a better idea of how your resources are actually used, you can employ this knowledge in more strategic long-term planning. This metric gives you a more accurate picture of your actual resource utilization; so when preparing for next quarter’s projects, you’ll be equipped with a better understanding and a more reliable prediction for what to expect.

How to Use it?

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

Time metrics

These metrics use “time” to measure the success or failure of a project, task, or goal.

Time metrics are resource planning metrics to follow

5. Planned time vs Used time

Planned vs used time definition: Planned time is the estimated timeframe of your task, project, or strategy. Used time is the actual timeframe in which your task was accomplished.

Used in: individual project and resource management

Why use it?

  • More accurate forecasting

This metric helps with your long-term planning and forecasting. In order to know the number of projects your team will be tackling or when looking ahead at meeting future capacity, it’s important to know how long a task will take. When you have more accurate time tracking, you can make better estimates.

With this planning metric you can help your team to not be overburdened by taking on too many projects at once. If you can get a better understanding of how long projects and tasks actually take, then you can stagger your projects in a way that most efficient. This will ultimately help optimize your resources’ productivity and get a better output.

  • Grow your company

Also, if you are looking to grow your company, it’s beneficial to compare what you think can be accomplished versus what you can accomplish. While optimism never hurts, wouldn’t you sleep better knowing you have the most accurate prediction available to you? I bet you would!

How to Use it?

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. Below we’ll give you a step-by-step on how to achieve this:

  • 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.

6. If All Else Fails...The Doomsday Metric

Doomstay metric definition: Not really a resource planning metric per se, but a measurement of when to call it quits on a project. And a "when to vacate the premises" metric.

Used in: individual project and resource management

Why Use it?

  • Cut off dead weight

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

Nevertheless, 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.

Keeping a project live that should be killed, is keeping valuable resources imprisoned 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.

How to Use it?

There’s no standard process for killing a project. However, Harold Kerzner suggested 23 early warning signs that might indicate that the project requires further attention.

These warning signs are: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 any of these points, some organizations might choose to bring in 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.

But software can also help. Resource planning tools like Ganttic can generate automatic reports that allow you to research a number of these warning signs. You can track who shows up to meetings. The percentage of missed deadlines. The turnover of employees. Or check on the amount of overtime.

Planning metrics- use them wisely!

It’s up to you and your company what planning metrics and KPIs you decide to use. This list of 6 is by no means comprehensive, but should give you some good ideas about what you can, and perhaps even SHOULD measure. Keep in mind that although these indicators are important, there’s a human factor that goes into running a company, so use them wisely.

It’s also helpful if you pair these metrics with some great planning software. Programs such as Ganttic can do some of the hard parts, so actually putting these metrics into practice can be a breeze.

If you want to implement these resource planning metrics, 

try Ganttic for free!