Resource Planning: A Handy Guide for Project Managers

For project managers, delivering a good result on time and on budget is the ultimate. Central to achieving that is resource planning.
Shannon Toe

Having too many resources can lead to cost overruns, which means you blow your budget. Having not enough means you can’t get the job done on time.

In order to get it right, you've got to have a good resource planning process in place. Doing this well means you strike the perfect balance of having exactly what you need, when you need it, and no more. 

Resource planning is easier said than done, but it’s a significant factor in your overall performance as a project manager. For example, the Project Management Institute found companies that DIDN’T have a project plan spent 28 times more money (!) than those that did, because resources were often wasted.

What is resource planning?

The process of distributing tasks to team members based on their capacity, skill sets, and best fit for the work is known as resource planning.

In other words, resource planning is your schedule for allocating the resources that your project needs. Overall, resource planning may include human labor, technology, equipment...anything that’s involved in getting you through to that finished product or result. 

Having a good resource plan means the project team knows what they’re going to be working on, and that they’re fully utilized. The same goes for equipment - for example, if you have to hire a tractor, you would have a plan for that tractor to be used the whole time you’re paying for it, and returned as soon as you’re done with it.

Your resource plan is also important for managing the capacity of your team. For example, your plan isn’t likely to involve having individuals working 24 hours a day.

Why is it important to plan resources?

The importance of resource planning cannot be understated. According to McKinsey research, 83 percent of senior executives said strategically shifting resources was their most influential factor in spurring company growth.

This growth is realized in a number of ways:

  • You’re more efficient
  • You maximize the use of your resources
  • You’re more organized
  • You know your resource availability for future projects
  • You promote job satisfaction and staff retention
  • You improve your relationships with clients and other stakeholders

An effective resource planning process can determine the right mix of resources needed to complete a project based on the project's demands, which are influenced by three factors: its requirements, its constraints, and its opportunities.

If done right, resource planning also lets you see where mismatches are likely to happen. Remember, this is all on top of allowing you to deliver your project on time and on budget. 

What problems can be avoided with robust resource planning?

In discussing the benefits of resource planning project management, it can help to see the issues that you avoid when you do it well.

  • Poor communication. Having a clear project plan means team members know what they’re supposed to be doing and when their deadlines are.
  • Resource clashes. A good resource plan lays out when and where a resource is being used, avoiding double-bookings that lead to delays and costs.
  • Idle resources. Under-utilized resources are an unnecessary cost, but having a plan allows you to allocate resources to ensure they’re being put to good use. 
  • Lack of accountability. A resource plan makes individuals responsible for resources, which ensures things are done the way they should be.

What makes an effective resource planning process

Resource planning is an art. You have to determine which task will go to which team member, keeping in mind the background, strength, and capacity of that person. It can be very tricky. However, without resource planning, team members could become overworked and stressed, which can affect the quality of what they produce. Let's discuss what goes into creating a resource planning process below.

1. Identify the skills needed to complete project assignments

In order to plan effectively, it is important that you have good knowledge of all the resources that are required within the project from the very beginning. Drawing from project requirements, you can get a good idea of all the resources and skills the project needs, and when they should step in. This will inform your company's hiring decisions and a resource management plan respectively. Mind that it’s important to be thorough in assessing what you need in order to be efficient.

2. Get to know your resource availability

The availability of resources is a critical aspect in project planning and management. It relates to the knowledge you have about what resources you can utilize, when, and under what conditions. Knowing your resource availability requires looking at each employee's allocations now, as well as days, weeks, and months ahead of time, to figure out the gaps when their time is not occupied. 

If resources are available, you are allowed to use their time for the duration of your project. As a result, a typical resource availability matrix will include everyone's workload, as well as vacations and personal time off.

Sometimes that may be straightforward, but other times it may require more in depth planning.

For example, your resource may be pre-booked to doing something that is within a higher priority area of the business. Think if it's possible to adjust your schedule of work to focus on other aspects of your project in order to utilize your current resources while you wait.

3. Create placeholders for missing capabilities

‍‍It’s expected that for some assignments you won’t be able to find resources. This happens all the time, and for that case Runn has a feature you could use to create an allocation without adding the resource. 

4. Hire the right talent

Once you know what skills you're missing based on the placeholders you created, it's recommended to start making a case for bringing in new roles. 

Considering the logistics of acquiring material resources is equally important. If there’s transportation required, or if the resource needs to be set up before jumping on a project. 

5. Create a resource management plan

A resource management plan is a wonderful guide. Your plan may need to be changed as projects are rolled out, but it will give you a basis from which you can allocate the necessary resources to a project at the times they’re needed.

Your plan includes identifying the resourcing that a specific task requires, acquiring that resource, and re-allocating it once it’s no longer required. Without a plan, you may get to a stage of a project and realize you don’t have a resource you need, or it may be being used elsewhere. 

At its most basic level, a plan is a standard resource management technique that ensures your project has the resourcing it requires.

6. Effectively manage the team

Managing your team is all about how you ensure team members remain as productive as possible without putting them on overdrive. It’s essential to consider the following concepts:

  • Performance tracking. It helps to track and measure employee productivity to ensure they’re getting through the required work.
  • Skill development. Team members are motivated by learning new skills and being challenged. It’s important to provide an adequate level of work that keeps them satisfied.
  • Burnout. Working too hard, or for too long diminishes workers’ productivity. It’s also a personal issue that can lead to staff leaving your business. 

A proactive approach into managing your teams is vital to promote their wellbeing at work and get the most out of your staff.

7. ‍Manage any external resources

External resources typically come with extra costs attached. That means it’s crucial to ensure they’re being fully utilized while you have access to them, and they’re returned as soon as you’ve finished with them.

For example, if you have a specialist tradesperson working on parts of a project, they should be fully engaged for the entire time that you’re paying for them. They should understand and adhere to your policy around breaks, and your contract with them should end as soon as they’ve finished their work.

This also goes for resources for project management. If you’re paying for software or a project management tool, you should cancel your subscription as soon as it’s no longer needed.

Using resource management tools and techniques 

There are a range of resource planning techniques you can use to make an effective resource plan, such as scheduling, budgeting, and workflow organization.

You may be proficient at doing this on your own, but if you’re not then you can enlist help in the form of resource management tools

Resource planning software specifically helps to automate reports based on your exact data, and they take much of the guesswork away from your forecasts. Plans are always subjective, but these tools allow you to get visibility and insights that you may not think of when you do it all manually.

Final thoughts

Having a sound resource plan can make a huge difference in your ability to complete a project on time and on budget. In fact, it’s incredibly difficult to achieve both of those things WITHOUT a good resource plan.

Project resource planning should be a standard part of preparing for any project. It’s best to make your plan well in advance so you can lock in the resources you need. The longer you wait to book resources, the more likely it’ll be that someone else is using them.

Don’t treat your plan as the finished product either. Plans always change, and it’s ok to make adjustments. The important thing is that you have one, and you will see just how beneficial it is when you do.

Recommended readings:

Enjoy the post? Sign-up below for the latest strategies, stories and product updates from the team at Runn.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

You might also like

Try Runn on a single project, a whole team, or run your entire business

Try for free
14 day trial. No credit card required.
Smart resource and capacity planning