Anyone that manages a team knows that organization and an efficient workflow are critical to effectively allocating your talent, meeting deadlines, and getting everything done on time and under budget. The problem is that most employees and team members spend much of their time in meetings, answering emails, and getting stuck on various other distractions and interruptions that can strain their attention and focus, especially as different initiatives and interests fight for priority. Across a department or company, these time costs can be a severe drain on your ability as a manager to accomplish your goals, and it can frustrate employees that may feel unsupported or find that they’re spread too thin.
Enter resource planning, which can help you more efficiently allocate your team’s services and supplies at the proper time and with adequate support to get the job done. The secret is planning your project around resources instead of shoehorning resources into an arbitrary timeline that serves the interest of a quick turnaround than the realities of conflicting schedules and workloads. After all, no plan, no matter how meticulously detailed, can complete the work at hand. That’s up to your people, and the better their skills are allocated, the greater the chance your project will confidently clear the finish line and not collapse into a heap at the first conflict.
1. Identify the resources needed
Just like with any project plan, you’ll need to fully flesh out your goals, project milestones, and the measurements of success, both during and following the project. Don’t make the mistake of acknowledging your all-important resources only when conflict arises, and a deadline hangs in the balance. It’s important to talk to the relevant players before work starts to find out more about their availability and commitment level, as well as their current and upcoming workload. At this point, it also helps to get legitimate estimates and dependencies for each task, ensuring that your project plan is on point.
2. Create a resource priority list
After discussing your project with the appropriate teams and resources that will be impacted, identify your most essential participants, and hunt for potential pain points. Is one integral team member planning on being on vacation or otherwise out of the office or occupied when you’ll need them most? Is the UX department swamped with another project that supersedes yours? While it doesn’t make the job of juggling any easier, finding this out now instead of the day before a sprint can help you more effectively massage your timeline to fit your needs, rather than attempting to extinguish a last-minute fire—not to mention all the stress that goes with it.
3. Reference previous projects
In any organization, there are likely dozens of similar past projects that you can draw insights. Sure, today’s project is unique, and there are a dozen reasons why a project from last year is no longer relevant. However, until time travel is a reality, the future remains unknown, and the past is still our best indicator of the challenges we may yet face. When resource planning, it’s essential to work with your experience.
From a project management perspective, blown deadlines and missed milestones are often preceded by a resource issue. This is usually a too-aggressive timeline, a loss of adequate resources, or a conflict with another project or push. If you look at and analyze enough projects, or if your experience allows you to do this on the fly, you’ll be able to recognize patterns and better estimate where the resource pain points are. This way, it can be worked confidently into your project plan instead of as part of a last-minute scramble.
4. If scope changes, change the plan (and the resources)
All too often, a project plan, once created, doesn’t change. But if something’s taking longer than anticipated, even if your resources were adequately allocated and budgeted for, it doesn’t mean someone’s not doing their job or pulling their weight. Most times, feature creep, or the endless tweaking and time-consuming additions to your project scope, is the culprit. That simple two-week feature-add ended up ballooning into a complete redesign with a fraction of the appropriate resources. Now there’s an eight-week sinkhole in your project plan, and there’s no way you’ll meet any of the projected deliverables.
But here’s the thing: Plans can be changed, and accurately reflecting the changing nature of the project scope and its impact on your resources is an important part of resource planning and project planning in general.
5. Make use of specialty project management tools
Gone are the days of managing even the most straightforward projects in a confusing and unwieldy spreadsheet. There are too many inputs and dependencies to run a project with any efficiency from a rigid grid. Once projects are born, they change and mature, almost, hourly or daily. You need a system that helps you manage it all, accounting for not only your resources but calling your attention to potential issues and unresolved conflicts that can ruin your day, deliverable, or risk the entire project.
Here at LiquidPlanner, we make intelligent project management software that helps you increase efficiency by properly considering and allocating all your important resources. With the power of LiquidPlanner, teams can stay on track and do their best work smoothly and effectively without the common misunderstandings and rigid nature of a worksheet plan. Call or click to see how we can help you streamline your projects and resources with smart scheduling and the ability to embrace uncertainty with LiquidPlanner.