Having a resource calendar will help you better understand the availability of your resources, plan ahead for upcoming projects, and prevent overloads.
When you are working on projects, it is important to schedule your resources. One way that you can do this is by creating a resource calendar that shows when people are available and what they will be up to weeks or months in advance.
It happens way too often that people get overbooked with work. Agencies, for instance, are often struggling to manage the time and workload for their teams, because they lack visibility into who’s doing what and the demand is huge. And if you ask consultants why they jump ships so often, you might pretty well hear that resource management is not the forte of consulting firms, as people are often assigned only based on their availability (not even including their skills!).
But no judgment, with so many things going on, it can be easy for some of the smaller details to slip through the cracks. A resource calendar is a great way to stay organized and ensure you don't miss any inefficiencies!
So whether you’re a team leader, a project manager, or the resource manager of your company, a resource calendar is an indispensable tool. We'll walk you through everything you need to know about building your own resource calendar from scratch!
A resource calendar is the most straightforward way to help project managers understand their team’s schedules. It often has a view of a heatmap where you can track who’s over- or underallocated with assignments on any given day, week, or month. It also reminds a timetable that shows each worker’s booking at a given time, and displays how resources are utilized. Mind that it’s best when the workloads are balanced and don’t jump from one extreme to another.
The purpose of resource calendars is to centralize your resource pool in one place and provide a bird’s eye view of everyone’s bookings. The ultimate goal is to make sure people don’t bite more than they can chew and their assignments are evenly distributed.
At its best, a resource calendar should contains the following information:
Among other things, a well-built resource calendar should factor in people’s skills, seniority, and even career goals. This is often achieved with tags for people in different solutions.
Here is an example of what your resource calendar might look like if it was built with Runn.
Runn’s People Planner gives you real-time access to your pool of employees and contractors. At a glance, you can see everyone’s workload, holidays, time off, and availability for work. Switch between days, hours, or FTEs to see the effort.
Before we dive deeper, it’s important we clear that project and resource calendars aren’t the same.
Sure, they are both created in the project planning phase. But they’re different in the way they are used, who makes them, and what’s included in them.
Essentially, resource calendars are used to manage employee availability. You use them to review who is available and when. Their primary aim is managing and scheduling resources — regardless of the project.
On the other hand, a project calendar is used to manage specific project dates and progress. You use them to see who is assigned which task(s) and when it’s due. Put this way, a project calendar is used to track a particular project’s planned tasks and milestones.
Use both of these calendars to ensure projects run on their tracks without burning out employees with work overload. Project managers create both these calendars with resource managers often coordinating on creating a resource calendar.
Here’s a summary of the difference between resource and project calendars.
We’ve touched upon the benefits of having a resource calendar in the introduction, but let’s look at the full picture. The thing is, having a well-built resource calendar is the best way to avoid poor resource scheduling practices. Resource calendars may look complex at first, but they play a crucial role in project management. Here are five reasons why.
Human resource availability is one of the topmost factors that affects project management. Using a resource calendar can help you plan your team’s work more effectively. You can do this by assessing each team member’s vacation time, availability, and national holidays. Sometimes the employees you need may be booked for a different project. Since you know how long they will be unavailable, you can reschedule your project’s timeline or negotiate with other team leaders over shared resources.
It is essential to select people with the right skills for the timely completion of your project. Underqualified personnel may cause you time delays, while overqualified staff are overpaid for the role, which creates more pressure on your budget.
You can use Runn resource availability charts to track your resources easily. The charts are ready to use and only require you to insert your company's resources and projects. The charts are easier to manage than updating manual spreadsheets.
You may know you need resources on current or future projects, but struggle to visualize the placeholders for specific roles and eventually transfer the work to people. Using a resource management calendar with placeholder functionality will relieve the stress of resource demand planning.
Placeholders are used when you have a project to plan out but don't yet know who to assign to it. You can even add skills and proficiency levels to your placeholders so you know what level of expertise you require of the person to hire or transfer the work to. Here's how it looks on a resource calendar in Runn:
With a complex project you need efficient coordination of both workers and resources to ensure the project meets its deadline. A resource calendar can help a project manager work out how to assign tasks to each team member at their specific working times, and keep the process running smoothly until the goal is accomplished.
Resource planning for multiple projects can be a nightmare - for both employees and managers alike! If you don’t plan, you may have times where you end up with too many tasks and too few resources. Other times, you may find you don’t have enough tasks to allocate to your team.
So how can you best coordinate resources across multiple projects? The key is to develop a complete resource pool. This gives you an overview of the work versus available resources. For example, you can see who’s available, who is fully occupied, and who might have too much on their plate and be at risk of burnout. Team leaders can help give you an accurate picture of team allocations and remaining availability, so that you can feed this into your resource calendar.
A resource calendar gives you a high-level overview of your company’s production pipeline. This helps you plan in advance, maximize efficiency and keep every person engaged on a task at the right time. Monitoring all the production steps and all your employees can be exhausting and unproductive in the long run. A resource calendar eases your work by presenting the workflow steps in a pre-arranged order, showing everyone when and how to do their work.
Knowing your company's production pipeline is an important aspect of planning for resource risk. Resource risk happens when the resources you need to complete a project aren’t available when you need them. Although these risks can be beyond your control, identifying the stages in your pipeline where risks might occur means you can make contingency plans.
This overview also helps with capacity planning, to make sure your company's resources match current and upcoming demand. You can also use it in active succession planning, ensuring that staff are upskilled to fill the roles of existing experienced staff. In this way, an unexpected resignation won't leave your company's entire pipeline in the lurch!
By keeping track of your team’s bookings or timesheets, you can identify individuals who are overworked or underutilized and adjust their bookings accordingly.
It is wise to remember that overworked employees can experience personal deterioration and will not be able to perform as well as you need them to.
If you are alerted to an employee's heavy workload through your resource calendar, you can reassess the resource allocation, and decide whether you need to extend deadlines or allocate more resources to the task.
Create a resource calendar at the start of a project. This way, you can get a snapshot of who is available for work, what their skills are, and how much they charge.
You’ll also be able to track their availability throughout the span of the project. Use the information to reduce project risk and assign tasks to other team members to cover up for their unavailability. If needed, hire external help.
Ideally, however, it’s helpful to use resource software to create a resource calendar that’s a single source of truth — tracking employee availability across the board. Such a resource calendar isn’t project-specific. Instead, it’s a calendar you can reference as you plan quarterly work and take on new projects.
Almost all businesses could benefit from using a resource calendar in their human resources departments, because of how they facilitate an overview of employee tasks and availability.
In particular, digital agencies use resource calendars for easy monitoring of tasks, especially among team members. Consultancy organizations and professional services also have to monitor the limited resources involved, such as finances and personnel. Software projects also need resource calendars to help visualize what parts of the project require more resources than others.
A comprehensive resource calendar includes the following:
Make sure you have all this data available before you start working on building a resource calendar.
Although there are various ways to create a resource calendar, such as a Google calendar or Excel spreadsheet, investing in specialized software is more beneficial in monitoring the progress and budgets of your projects.
Runn is a resource management software that helps you manage team availability. It helps you identify your team’s skills, and also assigns and update tasks once a project enters your company’s production pipeline. It also assists you in maintaining proper communication with all team members.
The software will generate reports based on the information you’ve put in. The reports show clients, project status, contract status, pricing model, and budget.
Accurately planning projects around the availability of your human resources means you can optimize costs, increase margins, and bring in greater returns. When you know your resource availability, it also helps you to avoid under-utilization of resources, resource clashes, and overbooking of employees. Good resource calendar software helps with accurate resource planning, and ensures that the necessary resources are available at the right time.
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