Projects have finite resources. You work to a schedule, you have a budget to follow, and you have limited employees to work on the various tasks. You also have to maintain the quality of your project, making sure that no task is left undone, and that no rework will be required. It's the project manager's job to keep the project on track despite these limitations. This is where resource loading comes into the picture.
Resource loading is the step in resource planning where you assign tasks to each person in a team throughout a workweek. This process considers everyone's availability and assigns tasks to each resource according to their available hours.
There are various ways that project tasks can be assigned within a team. Often each team member will be assigned a percentage of a task or activity until 100% of their work capacity for the week is filled. This way, project managers can divide project tasks efficiently, so that their resources are neither over-utilized or under-utilized.
In other cases, project managers may choose not to fill up 100% of each team member's available hours with critical tasks. Instead, they assign up to 75 - 80% to specific tasks. The remaining hours can be used for responsive activities such as checking and responding to email, bathroom breaks and other tasks. This way, team members can ensure the quality of their output by having manageable workloads.
Two terms that are used in resource planning and project management are resource loading and resource leveling. They are both parts of resource planning, and it's important to understand the difference between the two.
You can use resource loading and resource leveling in the same project. Resource loading happens after resource allocation, and involves distributing the tasks to the resources that have been allocated to the project.
A resource optimization technique such as resource leveling is then applied to ensure the resources are used efficiently - without overbooking. You can level your resources by making changes in your project schedule or adjusting resource allocation. An obvious example of resource leveling would be moving start and end dates of tasks to balance the workloads and avoid over- or under-allocation of resources.
To succeed at resource optimization, project managers use resource management tools.
Now that you know what resource loading is, the next step is to look at how to calculate it.
In resource loading calculations, we divide the total hours needed for doing all the work by the available hours for work in the time period you are working to. We write it as follows:
Resource loading = Estimated work hours needed/Available work hours
A simple example is if you have eight hours of work to be completed across two days. Your employee's availability is ten hours across the two days. When you assign these specific tasks to your employee, the resource load would be 80%, leaving your employee with two hours to work on other activities during the two days.
Depending on your project plan, you can use daily, weekly, or monthly available hours to calculate resource loading. You can also use available hours for the entire project duration.
There are several factors that influence resource loading success for any particular project.
Your project schedule is likely to face difficulty if you overestimate or underestimate your load.
If you have underestimated the number of hours needed for each project task, it will have a major impact on your team's workload, which can also involve errors that cause further problems.
On the other hand, if you've overestimated the time the resource assignments will take, your employees will be sitting unused for long periods, which is a drain on project budgets.
You and your team members are not always available for work. All time off, whether vacation, illness, or statutory holidays should be accounted for.
Hours that are unavailable during the workday should also be considered. This can be time for administrative matters, training, and personal breaks. Realistically, it will never be the case that 100% of a team member's time can be dedicated to your project tasks.
A safer option is to choose to base your calculation on, for example, a more realistic time estimate of 75% of working hours. As well as allowing for the time spent on other matters during the week, this can also provide a buffer for unexpected project hiccups, and ensure that your employee has a workload that is manageable.
Calculating these resource times accurately is crucial in resource loading. If you have overestimated your team members' available hours, this is likely to delay your project delivery date.
Since the entire project duration will depend on exactly how available your workforce is, you should consider your resource availability together with their skills. Do you have someone in your team who has specialized skills which can shorten project tasks? Or will you assign it to team members who have the highest time availability in your team?
However you look at it, it's important to consider how long it takes for each person to finish their task as well as their availability when allocating your project resources.
Achieving good resource balance involves project managers taking into account all the factors they can think of in allocating their resources for the project. You should include all the foreseeable work, but also factor in flexibility for unplanned or unexpected events.
You must consider other aspects of the project, such as project controls, resource availability, and resource risks. You can use these factors to benefit your resource balance, and avoid any underestimation or overestimation in each task's total work hours.
In short, looking at all aspects of the project and its resources prevents resource overload which can only cause delays.
Resource loading is an important part of resource management and brings several benefits to project management.
You can use the resource utilization formula to assess if you are making the most out of your resources and tools. This is especially useful in the critical chain project management method, as it means you can ensure the highest priority tasks on the critical path are accounted for within your employee's schedule.
When your resources are used efficiently in this way, you can stick to your project schedule and your project budget. Even when unforeseen circumstances occur, your project's progress is not delayed.
Rarely is your employee workload focused on a single project. People who have specialized skills usually work on multiple projects requiring that specific skill set. This is why project managers need to develop an overview of how to allocate these critical resources to each project. In addition to specialized input, other employees in the project have several assigned tasks they need to finish. Without resource loading and resource management, your project will flounder.
When you are applying resource loading to your project, you can achieve a wider view of the project, from staffing to finance and equipment. By using resource loading, you get a view of which are considered specialized resources and which are not. You can then apply strategies that utilize and optimize each resource's availability in the right place at the right time.
When it comes to project management, communication is vital. Miscommunication can greatly impact the project's progress. With resource loading, you can clearly communicate within your team and with management about what is expected from each person in order to keep the project on track. Communicating about the task load with each team member can motivate and give clear direction. Everyone knows what is expected from them, and what they can expect from others.
Resource loading promotes transparency for everybody involved in the project. This helps reduce your business email noise, and avoids any setbacks that may occur if people have not understood what is expected from them.
Resource loading will give you a better picture of the overall project. It can also provide you with a more realistic project timeline. This is because you assign tasks and allocate resources according to a realistic assessment of employee availability and workload.
As you load resources, you are more likely to notice the points in the work breakdown structure at which problems may arise. You are then able to put measures in place to manage these resource risks before they become an emergency.
As project manager, you should have control over who is doing what, and what is going on in the project. Through resource loading, you can manage the workload of your resources in detail. Resource loading helps to keep your team on track, maintain budgets and meet deadlines.
There are many tools you can use to assist in resource management. These will give you insight into who is doing which task, where they are doing it, and how long before they will finish the task.
A resource loading chart provides project managers with a comprehensive view of resources, assignments, and costs for the project. The primary function of a resource loading chart is to visualize your resource availability and the project schedule.
Having a resource loading chart will also help project managers forecast the need to recruit additional team members, and reassign tasks in advance rather than have a particular resource loaded in excess of 100%. It also makes scheduling easier, as you are less likely to have to reassign tasks at the last minute because of resource conflict.
Other benefits of having a resource loading chart include:
Runn provides real-time resource management tools. Runn's People Planner overview helps you find the right person for the right task at the right time and provides all you need for successful resource loading.
It shows your resource's availability in a clear visual format. It also offers a range of different ways to look at the chart in order to plan your project tasks. You can also set up group utilization, to aid clear communication within your team.
When it comes to team projects, proper resource management and planning are essential. There are many resource constraints, such as time, finance, and skilled employees. To complete a project in line with your project schedule, you will need to figure out the most efficient way of assigning tasks to your team.
Resource loading is a key aspect of resource management, enabling you to step in and maneuver and oversee project resources. It maximizes the utilization of resources by giving a clear view of your organization's workload, prevents miscommunication, calibrates a more accurate project timeline, and matches specialized tasks with specific team members.
Combined with efficient and reliable software like Runn, resource loading guides you on the know-how of 'loading' your resources and helps you in achieving your project objectives.
Workforce planning helps you find and hire the right people now and in the future. If a business is only as good as its people, workforce planning is the key to success.