One of the biggest issues for businesses trying to become more productive is managing resources better. It can be a constant struggle to ensure things like people, tools, equipment, materials, space, money, and time are being put to the best possible use.
Resource management is a big challenge, but if you can get it right there's also a huge opportunity to become more profitable.
In fact, McKinsey research has found 83% of executives consider resource allocation as the most critical management lever for spurring growth.
One of the best ways to achieve better resource management is to use software.
Resource allocation tools, also known as resource management tools, provide the functionality to plan, allocate, and schedule resources on projects. They also flow through to project management, with the ability to plan projects, track progress, and generate reports at any stage. You can see resource utilization rates, eliminate the risk of double-booking resources and gain a whole new level of insight to manage projects, people, and other resources in real-time.
The best resource allocation tools allow project managers to plan work from beginning to end, giving them the best chance of completing work on time and on budget. It includes identifying and securing the best-suited resources for certain tasks, knowing they're available and booked in advance.
In organizations with multiple projects and a large labor force, doing all this work manually quickly becomes a nightmare. Project resource allocation tools help to automate the process, enable better decision making and ultimately take away some of the scariest aspects of that nightmare to streamline the process and eliminate issues.
Resource management is a reasonably simple term, but the practice of doing it is anything but. Project managers have dozens, or even hundreds, of individuals to plan for, each with their own skills and specialties that come together in a unique way to meet project requirements.
You may also need equipment, software, vehicles, money, or other resources, all of which need to be available for a select period of time where you need them. With so many variables, resource planning can be incredibly tricky.
Then, throw in when plans need to change. Tasks may take longer than anticipated, a critical staff member may be sick, or a resource might be needed for a higher priority project. Projects very rarely run exactly as planned, and your ability to adapt to changing circumstances will impact the disruption they cause.
Tools for resource allocation make resource scheduling and planning much easier in a number of ways:
Being able to see resource availability in real time makes project management and planning much simpler.
For example, you can plan a whole project timeline based on resource availability. If a critical staff member has a six-week holiday coming up, you can take that into consideration. You may be able to plan around their absence and schedule other tasks so the project doesn't stagnate entirely.
You also have visibility over real-time availability, which makes it much easier to deal with the unexpected. For example, if that critical staff member calls in sick, you can identify someone else with the same expertise, see what their availability is and look to allocate tasks to them.
Being able to identify resource availability at a specific point in time is one of the huge benefits of resource allocation tools. Even better, you can book, or tentatively book, resources on a universal platform that updates for other users at the same time.
Resource clashes are one of the biggest potential disruptors to a project. Clashes create bottlenecks that lead to time delays and increased costs.
When resources are scarce or in high demand, being able to avoid double-bookings is critical to ensure concurrent projects are able to progress as intended. Resource allocation software not only makes availability clear with a universal calendar, it makes double-bookings impossible.
Resources are simply unable to be booked for times and dates that they've been allocated to other tasks or projects.
A common scenario in project management is for a project manager to have go-to people for certain things. For example, they have a good relationship with someone in IT, who they like to use for all tech-related tasks.
As good as it is to have someone you can rely on, that doesn't mean they're the best person for all tech jobs. That person might be a front-end web developer who can do back-end work, but not as well as a specialist. A specialist back-end developer would complete that work quicker, to a higher standard, with less chance of needing to go back and re-do any inadequate aspect of the work.
Another scenario is using people based on their availability. The person who's free may not be the best-suited person for the task. Depending on when the best person is next available, it may be preferable to wait until they're free before doing the task. In any case, it helps to know what your options are.
Resource management tools help with both of these situations by enabling users to filter for particular skills. You can identify qualified staff and see and what their availability is, which means you can find someone with the required expertise and time available.
The value of identifying the demand for resources is in more than just avoiding resource conflicts.
In any organization, there will be greater demand for some resources than others. In order to get the best from your people, you need to be able to monitor and regulate that demand to prevent them from becoming overworked and burnt out.
The best resource allocation tools come with utilization reporting, which gives you insight into the demand placed on individuals. Managers can use this information to ease the pressure staff are under, or identify upcoming busy periods and encourage them to take leave afterward.
This helps project managers by ensuring staff are productive and efficient as much as possible, ensuring they complete work to the standard required quickly.
When you first go looking for resource allocation software, you'll find there's a lot out there. They'll probably all look the same, and you'll probably be tempted just to pick one at random, or settle for the cheapest.
However, while there are broad similarities between different tools, their differences can have a very real impact on the suitability for different uses.
Adopting any software is a significant step, and to have the best chance of good staff uptake, it's important to do your research and carefully select the best option for your particular needs.
Free resource allocation tools are best for small businesses with only a few users. They often withhold some functionality and can only be used by a few people. One of the big benefits of resource allocation tools is they increase visibility across entire organizations, so don't just opt for the cheapest version if you end up not being able to share insights among everyone.
Runn is an all-around resource allocation software. It has real-time resource management capability, including availability, booking, and capacity planning built into an easy-to-use and engaging interface.
Users can get a birds-eye view of all current, past, and future projects, and easily go into specific details for individual pieces of work. Scheduling is made easy with drag and drop functionality, users can tentatively book resources or test different scenarios, and if you can't find the right resource, you can use placeholders to define your requirements and search for the best one for the job.
Runn's integration capabilities are yet another aspect that make it stand out from the rest. It integrates with tools like Harvest, WorkflowMax, and Clockify, and comes with an API that enables users to build your own integration platform with the tools you use most.
On top of all that, Runn gives users deep insight into the way resources are used with real-time data reporting. You can see resource utilization, project variance, and financial performance that all help to keep a project on time and on budget.
10,000 feet by Smartsheet comes with a suite of resource management tools to help with project management, project planning, capacity planning, forecasting and more.
In particular, Smartsheet's unique project and resource matching feature allows users to identify qualified resources based on a range of factors including skills and availability. This enables project managers to make informed decisions about which resources are best suited to progress a piece of work effectively and efficiently.
The reporting capabilities of Smartsheet provide huge value-add benefits in allowing project managers and business leaders to make informed decisions based on real data. You can see utilisation forecasts, actual vs. planned time reports, budget tracking, expense reporting and much more.
Historical data is also available, which makes for excellent resources for similar projects in the future. Some users say the data visualisation isn't as good as other resource management tools, and it can take a lot of time to get set up with all an organisation's resources.
Float is a popular resource management tool among large teams and agencies, including the likes of Deloitte, Ogilvy, and BuzzFeed. It's designed to be easy to use, which improves the uptake of your team and allows organizations to get the best from the software with minimal disruption.
The basics of project management and resource management are particularly simple. It's quick and easy to create a project and assign tasks, and a high-level overview brings clarity to real-time project tracking.
Float's HR capabilities are also impressive and have added benefits when your main resource is people. Users can set custom work hours, schedule and allow for public holidays, and feed working hours through to timesheets and payroll.
Updating or reassigning tasks is straightforward, and with integrations with the likes of Asana, Slack, Trello and Google and Outlook calendars, migrating to Float is seamless. On top of all that, it's available on a free trial for the first 30 days.
One of the best features of resource allocation tools in project management is the calendar, and this is where Resource Guru is particularly useful. Its engaging, visual calendar has custom views, fields and filters, and each individual has their own dashboard that allows them to see what they've been allocated on any given day.
Resource Guru takes a proactive approach to managing in-demand resources, with easy resource booking, clash management that prevents double-booking when two users are planning simultaneously, and a visible wait list for pre-allocated resources.
It's top-rated for its seamless user experience, and Resource Guru also sends automated daily resource summaries that give organisations greater understanding of the way they use resources.
For projects with a number of stakeholders, you'll often want to share insights and reports. Teamdeck allows users to create customised reports that provide a range of insights, including in budgeting, productivity, ROI and resource utilisation. Reports are available internally and are easily shared with the likes of clients, financiers and other external partners.
Teamdeck is another resource management tool that uses drag and drop allocation to make it nice and easy to plan projects and assign tasks.
Mosaic is a powerful resource management software that offers all manner of resource planning, forecasting, resource utilization, project budgeting and tracking, and project management. It brings transparency over resources and enables project managers to identify trends and insights that allow you to understand what's going on in your organization.
Data and reports are easily shared with executives, contributors, and stakeholders, and individual logins all have access to visual dashboards so everyone is working off the same page. Mosaic also has communication and messaging capabilities that allow people to engage within the platform.
Scheduling automation save time in the resource allocation process, while AI-powered resource management tools make the whole process intuitive.
Hub Planner is a complete resource scheduling tool, helps with all aspects of task management. Time tracking flows through to timesheets, making payroll much simpler, and enabling project managers to identify actual vs planned time worked.
The software has been built for enterprise-level businesses, giving users a birds-eye view of a range of projects, and the resources, schedules reports, and other data that sit within each one. Among its many features, Hub Planner has an interactive drag and drop scheduler that saves time and makes for user-friendly resource planning.
Not sure where to begin?
As an all-around resource management tool, Runn is a great place to start. Whatever your needs, Runn is easy to use and intuitive, which makes it ideal for all manner of resource planning, resource allocation, and project management needs.
Runn has a 14-day free trial and tiered pricing plans that include free use for small businesses. You can get a subscription that matches your needs and check it out before making a commitment to it.
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