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Iryna Viter

Getting Serious About Tracking Resource Availability (Guide)

The availability of resources can be limiting business growth, or vice versa. Choose to track resource availability and optimize where possible with our complete guide.

Committing to new projects without knowing resource availability is a shot in the dark. People always have varying levels of availability, depending on the demand from other parts of the business. While many business leaders realize it, they don't have a clear picture of their team's schedules and bookings, which leads to resource management being a top challenge for many executives a few years in a row.

Resource planning either gets too rigorous, or is deprioritized from the list of processes to improve. But the truth is, not only do you need to get the necessary resources before taking on a new project, but you don’t want them sitting on the bench either - that costs more money.

Choosing to know the availability of resources is a path to a more robust resource management and a more efficient organization, where neither talent, nor money is wasted. Keep reading this guide if tracking resource availability has been a challenge. In the end, it's easier than you think!

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What is resource availability?

Resource availability refers to the information about what resources you can use to service projects, when, and under what conditions. This information is critical, because on every project, the ability to succeed depends on whether you have access to the essential resources and tools.

Resource availability is often mapped on a resource calendar, also known as a resource heatmap. Here’s an example from Runn, using our demo data:

resource availability tracker
If you decide to go ahead with a free trial of Runn, try to sort by availability in the People section.

This was a practical example of being able to monitor resource availability, but why do you need to do that in the first place?

McKinsey talks about resource availability as the matching of resources to priority business projects. By mapping the availability of the resources each project requires, companies can identify gaps and come up with a plan to ensure the right resources are allocated to priority projects at the right times.

Speaking of resource availability, however, we not only mean people's time. Their skills, seniority, time-off, career aspirations, and employee preferences in general should all be part of the discussion before making resource allocation decisions. Staff have weekends off, they may take annual leave, or they may be required for another project. Certain skills are required to complete tasks in a timely manner, and without those skills project managers can face time delays. At the same time, over-qualified staff may come with an extra cost that puts pressure on your budget.

The benefits of tracking resource availability

There are a number of benefits of knowing resource availability. For one, tracking resource availability can be a significant factor in empowering the business to scale its operation and get greater returns.

Post-pandemic, organizations delivering products and services have come to a point where they understand that their businesses are built on people. People are their greatest asset and resource that need to be spaced out in a way that is profitable for the business. Tapping into resource availability, businesses can optimize resources and pivot in ways that they didn’t know were possible. Not to mention the clarity resource availability brings to the project planning process.

When assessing the benefits of tracking resource availability, we’ve found a lot of issues that it can prevent:

  • Stretched resources. It’s easy to overbook staff when you don’t know their availability. Even if they are free at a certain time, they may not be productive if they’ve just finished a large piece of work.
  • Underutilized resources. All resources come with a cost, and if they’re not being productive then that’s money wasted. Resource availability planning allows you to allocate resources so that they’re utilized to their potential.
  • Resource clashes. You can face competition for resources from other business departments, competing projects or external parties. It’s important to have a project timeline that avoids these clashes so that you can progress as intended.

Tracking resources in general helps to predict resource demand and hire people who won't only commit to project assignments, but will also bring profit to the company.

How to track resource availability using Runn's People Planner

At first glance, it may seem that the best way to measure resource availability is by asking people what they're doing during their workday. People will give you a range of answers, but the ones that show up most often are "working on my project" and "busy with other things." It's important to understand how these answers can be misleading. The fact that someone is busy doing something else doesn't mean they aren't available to work on your project.

That's where tracking resource availability on an organizational level comes in. After all, everyone needs a single source of truth when it comes to resource bookings, so here’s what we suggest:

1. Create a resource heatmap

Resource heatmaps are commonly used to track the availability of resources. These are visual charts that come with a resource booking and availability calendar that you can incorporate across your whole organization. It allows all users to see when resources are being used and when they’re available, and to create project plans that you can rely on.

Runn has resource availability charts that are ready to use - they only need to be populated with your organization’s resources and projects. You can better deliver on business priorities without needing to spend hours manually updating spreadsheets.

tracking resource aailability

View how many hours each person has available on any given day with Runn's People Planner. Quickly schedule work for your project team, and instantly see how it affects your budget, revenue and capacity.

A good resource schedule will ensure the right resources are available on time, and in some cases may mean avoiding problems associated with availability. Having the entire resource pool on your screen will take the guesswork out of your operations.

2. Set up everyone’s role, default cost & team

Don’t overlook what role everyone has in the business. Each member of your team has a primary role that corresponds to their job title as defined in their contract, but they can also fill several roles based on their skills and the needs of your project.

Let's say Alison, your project manager, periodically jumps in to assist with regression testing prior to a new software release. Her main role on a project is Project Manager, but you can additionally assign her the Testing role (or any other role) as appropriate.

Roles are also required to construct a project budget, project timeline, and view capacity forecasts.

In addition to roles, you may also want to track availability of teams further down the line. If that’s the case, then make sure these are formed.

3. Tag people’s skills, location, and more

It’s not enough to look at everyone’s schedule. You want to go further than that and create transparency into people’s skills to be able to find the right talent for new projects.

Here are some ways you can use tags to segment your people and projects:

  • Skills - Say you require someone who is proficient in a specific skill, such as a programming language. To quickly identify and allocate someone who’s well-versed at Javascript, PHP, and InDesign, for example, you can tag them by skill.
  • Location - You can tag people and projects to discover people in a certain location if you have a global team or clients based in different countries. For example, Auckland (a specific city or region), remote (a specific work arrangement), or Office 1 are all examples of specific locations.
  • Seniority - If you want to assign someone with a specific level of experience to a project, you may use tags like "senior," "junior," "associate," or "trainee" to distinguish between people's expertise and experience.
  • Project size - Particularly useful for reporting, you can tag projects based on their size to view how different sized projects are impacting your business financially.

4. Create a project pipeline & match resources to projects

Now that you’ve added people with specific roles and tags to the resource heatmap, it’s time to match them to projects. Before project allocations, you need to make sure that you’ve added all the current projects to the pipeline. Only then you can start booking staff and creating assignments.

These four steps will pave your way to understanding the availability of people, roles, and their skills across different locations and make project management a lot easier.

When new projects come in, you can use Runn’s feature ‘Sort by Availability’ to immediately see who is the ‘most available’ at the company.

At a higher, business level, Runn's new availability chart will provide an overview of how many hours any role or project team is available on any given day, considering your current workload. As per Runn's existing capacity and workload chart, the new availability chart allows you to look at availability of your entire organization while also letting you drill into a specific team or role.

Runn's resource availability chart

Frequently asked questions about resource availability

In their career, every resource manager comes across different staffing challenges, and despite the complexity, there's always a way to deal with them. We'll go through the most common challenges when it comes to resource availability to help you out below.

No one has availability. What do I do?

More often than not, your staff will have a busy schedule. To the extent that you won't be able to find anyone available. So what do you do in this case? We've asked Christine Robinson, a former Director of Resource Management now turned consultant, and here's what she had to say:

When no one has availability, everyone has availability. The thing is, when nobody appears to be available, it's as if everyone's already accounted for, right? They're all spoken for. So, in this scenario, it becomes considerably simpler. Let's focus on identifying the ideal candidate for this opportunity, as no other clear options are emerging. We can narrow it down by examining the specifics of this opportunity and leveraging our knowledge about the organization. We've identified key performers who are actively seeking this opportunity, along with three influential leaders who have consistently advocated, since six months ago, for this individual to have this chance, either for their promotion or to mitigate any potential attrition risks.

It's not merely a matter of shuffling resources around; it's about Resource Management proactively approaching leaders with a proposal: 'You expressed a desire to see this happen for this person this year. While they're currently engaged elsewhere, here's an opportunity to make it a reality. Would you like to explore this?' This approach provides a starting point for assembling the puzzle pieces. But again, it requires someone who thrives on the challenge and uniqueness of such situations.

What if someone wants to be allocated to a specific project but the opportunity isn't there yet?

In the perfect world, strategic resource management makes sure you assign people to projects they are interested in and passionate about. But what if you can't offer an ideal opportunity every time? Christine offered a response below: 

I would love to say that in every business we have the opportunity to deliver on everyone's career aspirations, exactly when they want them. But that's not the case, right? We have to meet business needs. So sometimes it's about really being able to have a conversation with that person and say, “Look, I heard you. I know that this is the space that you really want to work in. And I have that in mind, I'm going to make sure that I look for that opportunity for you. Right now, that's not available, this is what's available,” and explain to them the broader context of what happens to be going on from a business perspective. Nobody likes to be shuffled around without seeing the reason behind it. So part of it is tying changes to their future career goals.

Final thoughts

The benefits of knowing your resource availability in project management are fairly clear. It’s important to also understand the impact it can have on overall business objectives too.

Businesses in all industries are looking to grow and scale their operations, and initiate many projects with this one goal in mind. By being able to deliver priority projects efficiently and effectively, project managers play a key role in scaling their organizations.

Start a free trial of Runn today to finally get serious about resource availability.

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