resource planning in project management

You want to get your projects completed on time and on budget?

Getting the right people onto the right projects at the right time is probably the most important decision you can make.

And what is the secret sauce to help you do this?

Resource planning.

What is resource planning in project management?

Resource planning ensures your projects have the right number of resources with the right skills to help you get your projects done.

Resources are limited, so you need to plan their time efficiently. 

Resource planning helps you keep track of:

  • What resources you have available.
  • Their skills.
  • What resources your projects need.
  • Which projects your resources are currently working on.

In larger organizations, resource planning is part of the resource management process and works like this:

1. Project manager needs to staff a project.

2. Project manager requests resource from a resource manager.

3. Resource manager decides which resources should work on the project and allocates the resources to the project.

In smaller organizations, resource planning may merge into the project management process. And the project manager(s) may decide which resources are working on which projects.

If you run agile projects, resource planning is still an important consideration for project management. Everything in this guide holds true. 

And we also have have a deeper dive into the agile resource planning process.

The object of resource planning is to plan resources onto projects and balance their workload across projects so they are not overallocated.

It is a high level activity.

Whereas project planning or resource scheduling is a detail level activity to decide who is working on what tasks in the projects.

Why is resource planning important?

While there are many causes for project delays and overruns.

The fact remains a recurring theme is poor resource management.

In a recent PMI survey, respondents reported that poor resource management practices contributed to nearly 25% of all projects that failed.

When juggling multiple projects, resources with different skills and ever changing priorities and deadlines, it is no surprise that poor decisions get made about resourcing projects.

In another recent report poor resource management was cited as the 4th largest challenge faced. 

Ouch.

pm challanges

Benefits of using resource planning software in project management

Hopefully we have convinced you that getting your resource planning and management working is key to delivering your projects.

But here is the thing.

Trying to do resource planning without a resource planning tool is pretty much impossible.

Can I be totally honest with you?

I started out trying to do resource planning in spreadsheets. And it took me a while to realize it was just not going to work out.

Let’s look at some of the advantages of using resource planning software.

Intelligent use of resources

Resources will probably make up the biggest cost on your projects. But some resources cost more than others.

Getting your projects completed on budget or (turning a profit) is directly related to how you allocate your resources. The right decisions about which resources to use will have a big impact on project finances.

Resource planning software lets you evaluate how using different mixes of resources on a project will impact the finances of the project.

Deal with conflicts and shortages

Project timelines and resource needs change all the time so resource and skill requirements are dynamic.

Resource planning software helps you make decisions about how resources could be re-deployed or timelines adjusted to solve these problems.

Forecast hiring and training needs

Resource planning software gives you an early heads up to hiring or training needs by giving you insight into skills gaps in your organization.

Tools like Kelloo will also let you model the impact of hiring resources on your projects.

Get the right resources onto the right projects

As the number of resources and projects grow, trying to understand who is available to work on projects becomes unmanageable. 

Resource planning gives you clear visibility into what resources you have, what they are working on and what availability they have.

PS. If you want to take a deeper dive into the topic, our Ultimate Guide to Resource Management is a good place to start.

An example of how do resource planning in project management

How would you use a resource planning tool to help with your project management?

Let’s use a real world example to show how you!

We will use our resource management tool Kelloo to demonstrate the process.

Imagine that your boss wants to start up a new project.

The kind of information they are going to need to give it the green light includes things like:

  • Are there enough resources available?
  • When is the earliest it can start based on current resources?
  • When is it likely to finish?
  • Are there are any resource hiring needs?

Oh – they also want this information in one hour.

Now let me show you how a resource planning tool can give you answers to these questions in minutes.

1. Everything starts with resources

You will probably have a bunch of resources with different skills and working patterns.

So the first thing you need to do is figure out what resources you have and how much time they have available to be scheduled onto projects.

Here is how the resource pool looks in Kelloo. 

Any changes to resources, working patterns etc. are automatically reflected into the resource supply figures.

Resource pool

2. Add the new project into the resource plan

Next add the project into the resource plan and enter estimates for the amount of work involved and the types of resources needed.

Let’s say the new project is called Project Beta and it needs 50 days of the Mobile Development Teams time over 5 weeks.

You could also enter the work required in FTE or points if you work agile.

Work can be assigned to individual resources or skills rather than teams if that works better for you.

And if you work agile you can organize your work into sprints.

Estimate work

You can also set the desired start date and end date.

Set start date

3. Prioritize your projects (optional)

Next you can prioritize your projects. 

In the example below Project Beta is pretty important so we rank it second in the order of priority.

This is an optional step but something that you may want to do.

Ranking projects helps you understand what projects you should delay or re-allocate resource from if needed. Because it normally makes sense to direct resources to the higher priority projects first.

Summary capacity plan

4. Review your resource plan

Next review your resource plan and resource heatmap to identify conflicts and resource constraints.

Hint – red numbers (or heatmap cells that are full) are bad.

 

Compare demand to capacity

Notice the red numbers below Project Beta with a warning icon. 

This tells you Project Beta will be short of Mobile Development Team resources through that period.

Also notice how Project Alpha (which also uses Mobile Development Team resources) is not short of resources. 

This is because it is a higher priority project so it gets allocated the resources first.

what is resource planning bars

And we can use the resource heat map to view this from a resource perspective. 

We can see the Mobile Development Team has 20 days per week available but they are allocated 30 days per week from December onward.

So there is a problem.

what is resource planning heatmap

5. Resolve problems

Once you have identified you have resource constraints or problems, you can take different strategies to solve your problems including:

  • Delaying projects.
  • Re-allocating resources from lower priority projects.
  • Selecting a different team or resource to do the work.
  • Etc.

6. Move work you can't do into the backlog

Simply move any work that you can’t do into the backlog for consideration in the future. This takes the work out of your resource plan.

backlog

What else Kelloo can do for you...

Let’s step through a few of the other features in Kelloo.

#1 A tool for multi project management

Planning the resources for a single project is tough enough, but once you have multiple projects and resources things get a whole lot more complicated.

The planner in Kelloo includes all projects in your portfolio meaning you can easily see the impact changes have on other projects and your resources.

#2 Agile and sprint resource planning

Kelloo supports planning any type of project. 

So whether you run agile projects, traditional waterfall projects or a mix of both – Kelloo has it covered.

Edit sprint

#3 Scenarios help understand the impact of changes

Maintain different scenarios (versions of plans) so you can evaluate different resource and project options.

Scenario planning

#4 Searching for resources or replacing resources

If you need to search for a resource or swap a resource Kelloo lets you search for candidates with the same skills and review their availability to take on the work. 

You can even analyze the impact of assigning the work to different resources before you commit.

Search for resources

Conclusion

Sometimes resource planning can feel like a game of Whac-A-Mole.

As you change the resource plan and allocations for one project this inevitably has knock on effects with other projects and resources.

And as the number of projects and resources grows so does the complexity.

Trying to run a resource planning process without a resource planning tool is near impossible.

A good resource planning tool is able to highlight these issues straight away and let you explore solutions to the problem.

Some folks start out using spreadsheets for resource planning but quickly discover they make the process error prone and over complicated.

Resource planning tools are worth the small investment for the upside you get in your resource management. They provide an out of the box template for resource planning that can be up and running in minutes.

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