Resource management best practice – tips and strategies you can adopt now

resource management best practice, tips and strategies

Organizations are under pressure to deliver more products and projects with fewer resources. This means resources must be optimally utilized and focused on the right projects.

However, poor resource management leads to poor productivity, delays, increased costs, and missed opportunities. While the benefits of a well oiled resource management process are immense.

So how can you improve your resource management? In this article, we explain a range of easy-to-implement techniques with proven success. 

Better resource management starts here.

(And when you are ready for a deeper dive into resource management, our Ultimate Guide to Resource Management is a great place to start).

Table of contents

Don't get too detailed

All resource managers should have a resource plan that shows who is working on what and who is available (and if you don’t here is a handy resource plan template). A common mistake is to plan at too detailed a level, so the resource plan ends up looking like a project plan.

The more detailed your resource plans the more time and effort are needed to keep them up to date. The truth is, a high-level resource plan will give you 90% of the benefit with minimal effort. 

Here are some things to think about:

  • Consider planning at the project level and not the task level. Resource management is about working out how many resources you need and what projects you should be working on. Leave detailed planning to the project managers or let your teams organize their day-to-day work.
  • Try planning at the skill / role level. Only plan at the individual resource level if you have resources that are shared or critical.
  • Plan future work in less detail and near-term work in more detail.

Don't try to utilize your resources 100% of the time

As resource managers, it’s tempting to try and plan resources so their utilization levels are close to 100%. But this is unrealistic and your plans will overestimate how much work people can do.

We suggest aiming for a utilization rate of around 80% and measuring it regularly. This provides some headroom for the other things that people end up doing. Use our free resource utilization template to track and calculate resource utilization. Or check out or guidance on how to calculate resource utilization if you want a do-it-yourself approach.

Focus on the resources in short supply first

In most organizations we work with, 90% of resource constraints and delays come from 10% of the resources. Identify the resources with bottlenecks and constraints and focus on managing their utilization first.

Then look at some longer-term strategies:

  • Build better resource forecasts so you spot resource pinch points earlier.
  • Stop knowledge silos by sharing resources across projects.
  • Use capacity planning to check you have enough resources before you commit to new projects.

Take a look at the resource planner in Kelloo which lets you keep tabs on utilization and resource constraints.

Resource utilization

Identify the 10% of your resource that are causing 90% of your delays and focus your resource management effort on them first.

Manage resources shared across multiple projects

Having to share and plan resources across projects is probably a resource manager’s biggest headache. Even though studies show us resources get more done if they focus on one project at a time, unfortunately, we rarely have that luxury.

Here are some tips to help:

  • You need a consolidated and up-to-date view of your resource utilization and allocations across all projects. 
  • Consider using resource management software. This helps as you can easily adjust plans and see straight away the impact on other projects and resources. Our resource management software buyers guide is a good place to start if you are considering an investment in resource management software.
  • Have a common approach to setting work priorities. Avoid “whoever shouts loudest” gets the resource situations.

Use software to help with the heavy lifting

Organizations often rely on spreadsheets for resource management.

The attraction is obvious. Most people have spreadsheet software and on the face of it, it is quick to put together a resource management template.

But there are big problems with using spreadsheets for resource management:

  • They require complex formulas or macros to replicate the features you will find as standard in resource management software.
  • They do not scale and take a lot of effort to keep up to date.
  • Information silos develop as each team and resource manager uses its own spreadsheet.

For the sake of a few hundred dollars, invest in some resource management software. This will include features such as scenario planning, priority-based resource allocation, and what-if planning which you will not find in any spreadsheet-based resource management solution.

Kelloo's resource management tools

Resource planning, forecasting and reporting in one place. We help you get the most from your projects and people.

Have a common approach for setting priorities

This is probably the most important piece of advice I can give you.  Always allocate resources to the most important work first.

But to make this work there is another step. You need to implement a project prioritization method that is transparent, fair, and that everyone understands.

Then simply tie the prioritization process back to what is important to your organization – your strategic priorities.

Separate the capacity planning and resource planning process

Unless you run a very small number of projects with a handful of resources it’s essential that you separate the capacity planning and resource planning process. 

They are different processes with different outputs. 

  • Capacity planning determines if the organization has sufficient resources with the right skills to execute the projects it wants to do. It is used to make hiring decisions and during project selection.
  • Resource planning is the process of coordinating and allocating actual resources to projects so the project managers know who they are working with. It is used to manage resource allocation and utilization.
This is a good place to start understanding the difference between resource planning and capacity planning.

Resource management and portfolio management go hand in hand

Portfolio management and resource management are highly integrated processes that both feed into each other. So don’t neglect one over the other.

Also, make sure you use a software solution that combines both portfolio management and resource management in the same package.

Take account of different ways of working including agile

While agile is becoming increasingly popular, many teams still use waterfall / timeline / Gantt-based planning techniques. So your resource management process and tools need to accommodate whatever way your projects are run and planned.

We can see below how the Kelloo resource plan includes waterfall, agile sprints, and BAU activities.

agile and non agile projects

Resource management never stops

Once you have established a resource management process it never stops. 

The truth is, that resource plans quickly become out of date, and yet people rely on them to make decisions.

Luckily, it is possible to build a resource management process that lets you monitor and manage utilization, capacities, and new project work on a regular basis without too much hassle.

I suggest you look at the resource management tools available as these can automate a lot of the resource management activities.

I learned this the hard way, but you don’t have to.

Ensure you account for all work

Too often resource management focuses on projects and neglects non-project work and business-as-usual activities. 

Your resource management process needs to capture everything your resources work on. 

Fail to do this and you are heading for a fall.

Vacations and time off make a big dent in your resource supply. You need to have a way of accounting for these when calculating your resource supply and skills capacity.

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