Resource planning is a discipline within project management that involves gathering the proper mix and quantity of resources required to complete a project. A resource can be anything from people to equipment, to materials, IT assets or funding.
Think of it this way: If the project is a recipe, resource planning is the process of assembling the requisite ingredients, kitchen utensils and chefs with the right expertise to do the cooking.
The challenge of resource management
In truth, the recipe part is only the beginning. After planning which and how many resources are required during specific time frames, a project manager must continuously monitor those resources for availability, utilization, and cost. The dilemma of resource management is this: projects have demanding requirements and deadlines, but the resources used to fulfill those requirements are finite.
Sadly, many companies fail at this challenge. In the IT industry—where companies often manage hundreds of projects at a time—failure rates are particularly high. Gartner predicts that 80 percent of IT organizations will reach “resource breaking points” this year due to time constraints and other pressures. Across all industries, the speed of innovation demands fast resource management, and without the right tools for allocating and managing resources, project managers will fail to measure up.
The software solution
The right project management software can help you minimize the duration of your projects by maximizing your use of resources—both in the planning phase and in continued optimization during the project. Many project management (PM) systems, especially those designed for project and portfolio management (PPM), provide built-in tools for planning, allocating, and managing project resources. Common features in a resource management module include:
- Visual resource planning
- Capacity planning
- Demand planning
- Real-time analytics and forecasting
- “What-if” simulations
- Skill matching and skill repositories
Some resource planning tools are available as standalone products, while others are integrated with larger PM or PPM suites. Depending on your needs and what software you may already have, either of these could be a good fit.
There are a number of ways PM software can help you better allocate and manage resources at different points during the project lifecycle. Here are three:
1. Better labor management
A project management system with resource management gives you complete, up-to-the-minute visibility into the division of your workforce on macro and micro levels. For example, visual resource planning shows where your team members are assigned and what tasks they’re working on. Most project management tools also give you the ability to drill down to the granular level, where you can assess individual skillsets and schedule availability. This helps you avoid overworking any one person or letting valuable talent fall through the cracks.
2. Intelligence-driven decisions
Some of a project manager’s toughest decisions are about how to prioritize all of the moving pieces in a project or portfolio of projects. Prioritization, of course, is directly tied to resource allocation. Allocation mistakes can be extremely costly to a company if they happen on a large scale. Project management software takes the guesswork out of resource allocation by helping you plan and prioritize based on data. Capacity and demand planning reconcile the volume of work that needs to be done with your team’s actual capacity (usually in hours). You can also test out “what-if” scenarios by plugging in variables and letting the system predict their impact (such as a material shortage, or illness). Once you’ve seen the data, you can decide how to best allocate resources to yield results instead of wasted money.
3. Real-time resource optimization
Speaking of capacity and demand planning . . . almost as soon as you define your ideal levels, you can expect them to change. This means your distribution of materials, labor and equipment will also need to change—and making this kind of end-to-end adjustment manually would be painstaking, if not impossible. Good software, on the other hand, gives you quick flexibility. With many project management solutions, you can drag and drop resource assignments with a few clicks, and if you’re using a cloud-based solution like LiquidPlanner, all of the relevant stakeholders will have access to the updated conditions, so no one gets left behind.
These are only a few of the ways project management software can improve your resource management strategy. You can also expect to see more accurate job costing, the ability to give your teams more autonomy, and a better understanding of the interdependencies between projects, resources, skills and positions.
A well-balanced portfolio is only made possible by an optimized resource pool. Project management software happens to be the most useful tool in the industry for accomplishing this.
Did this article inspire you to learn more about how to manage project resources like a pro? Download our eBook, 5 Best Practices to Manages Resources Effectively.