The Beginner's Guide to Resource Scheduling

Want to bring the best out of your projects’ resources? Then you need to improve your resource scheduling practices.
Iryna Viter

Resource scheduling is the process of allocating the right resources to specific projects and tasks, and making sure they will be available when you need them. It balances resource capacity and availability, keeping the project on schedule and preventing under- or over-allocation of resources. The end result? Your projects are completed on time and within budget.

Experienced project managers would say that resource scheduling is one of the most essential aspects of project management - not just to keep your project on track, but so that your employees know what's expected of them. In fact, a lack of communication in this area has caused employee engagement to drop for the first time in ten years, according to a 2021 Gallup survey.

But how exactly do you do resource scheduling? To get you started, we have provided a comprehensive beginner's guide that will help you understand what resource scheduling is and how it is beneficial to you as a project manager.

What is resource scheduling in project management?

Resource scheduling is identifying and allocating the resources required to complete a specific project within a given time. It helps you assign tasks according to people's skills and availability, so that you avoid under- or over-utilization of team members.

Resource scheduling can help you:

  • Outline your resource availability at any time
  • Analyze your resource performance and skill-set
  • Make timely and appropriate task allocations to each team member
  • Estimate resource demand and future availability
  • Manage resources while keeping them happy

Resource scheduling equips project managers with unlimited flexibility. You can monitor projects from their inception day to their completion dates, with a chance to reshuffle tasks and deadlines to keep the project on track.

Resource scheduling as part of resource management

When we talk about resource management, we often think of machinery, natural resources, physical components, and finances. Remember to take into consideration that your workers and their specialized skills are a key part of the resources you are managing.

Resource scheduling for projects and tasks

A resource schedule involves assigning resources to projects or tasks. Assigning resources to projects is more high-level and encompassing. It and may involve several other divisions and tasks under it. An example is when equipment or a physical location are assigned to a project, or staff who will work primarily or exclusively on that project.

When you assign resources to tasks, on the other hand, it is more granular and specific, and may comprise more detailed information. For example, a skilled member of the team might be assigned to specific tasks within a project.

Is resource scheduling the same as resource smoothing?

No, resource scheduling is not the same as resource smoothing. Resource scheduling is has to happen before resource optimization techniques such as resource smoothing can be applied. In other words, by allocating resources in the project planning phase, you are better equipped for identifying constraints in the team's availability or limited capacity, and applying optimization tools.

The most common resource optimization techniques are resource smoothing and resource leveling. Resource smoothing, also known as time constrained scheduling, is performed to optimize how activities are implemented within the project schedule. Resource leveling, also known as resource constrained scheduling, focuses on avoiding capacity overload problems by adjusting project timelines.

What are the benefits of resource scheduling?

Meeting project deadlines

Since each project has a definite timeline, a project manager should ensure its timely delivery. This requires scheduling resources before the project starts to avoid delays in task implementation and prevent project stagnation.

Resource scheduling enables project managers to allocate adequate resources per project and schedule those resources in advance for critical tasks.

Maintaining project quality

Each project is a series of various tasks that require specific skills. It’s the duty of resource and project managers to ensure that each task is assigned to the right person. Matching tasks with optimal skills upholds a project's quality and enhances employee productivity.

However, if resource capabilities don't correspond to the tasks assigned, the project's quality can be compromised, leading to employee dissatisfaction. Discontented employees have lower productivity and can resign at any time.  

Assessing resource demand vs availability

Resource scheduling enables project managers to track resources available for projects at hand and allocate them appropriately. The manager can spot critical resources that are booked for several tasks concurrently and delegate some of their responsibilities to avoid over-utilization or burnout.

After monitoring the resource utilization rates, the manager can take appropriate measures to avail resources needed and avoid a last-minute rush.

Drafting a resource plan

Resource scheduling gives an outline of resource utilization, which creates a basis for proper capacity planning. This helps the project manager to draft a systematic and precise work breakdown with a stable structure.

Optimizing resource utilization and lowering project costs

A resource scheduling system enables project managers to assess the types of projects available and shift employees from low-priority to high-priority work to enhance profitability and sustainability.

Resource scheduling tools also help project managers monitor projects' critical financial indicators such as: profit margin, revenue, and resource costs in advance. This makes it easier for managers to correct any discrepancies and control project costs in advance.

Maximizing limited resources

Project managers can collaborate with other departments to share available resources. This ensures that more tasks are accomplished with the available resources, and avoids the costs of hiring additional resources.

Predicting and mitigating resource risk

All project managers know that too many factors are outside of their control. This has never been as evident since recent supply chain issues have impacted global productivity. Anything that can contribute to delayed completion of a project or the inability to finish it at all is a resource risk.

Managing that risk can be achieved by drafting a resource risk plan. These plans are based on the resource schedule, as they must take into consideration which resources, and how many of them, will be needed to finalize the project on time. Resource risk plans also look at how those resources could be jeopardized, for example by considering tentative projects that might draw on key resources. They also identify whether there is a secondary source from which those resources could be drawn if the primary source is compromised.

Resource risk plans help to set company policy, streamlining the reaction to unexpected events. This is an important job for one document, so it may need to be updated as the business changes or or climate the business operates in evolves.

What information do project managers need to create a resource schedule?

Preparing a resource schedule can be a time-consuming process, but long-term, it’s worth the time. Depending on the scope of the project, it may take various forms, but the framework needs to include the following:

Identifying resources. Project managers should check the project's resource demand and note their availability. The list of resources should include their titles, names, and the team they are currently aligned to. According to the skills required, a manager can determine whether there's a need to recruit new employees for the project.

Resources costs. It is essential to outline each resource's cost per hour, indicating whether it's a direct cost (incurred by the company) or a billed rate (incurred by the client).

Availability. The resource schedule must indicate each resource's availability and highlight their planned holidays or any other events.

Project tasks. Managers should draft a detailed schedule showing specific tasks for each resource and the scope of their responsibilities.

A resource calendar. A resource calendar is a critical document since it shows each resource's availability per week, their planned vacations, and off days.

Origin. It is crucial to indicate the origin of your resources, including their team, office, and location. If contracted, it is best to indicate the type of contract as well.  

How to create a resource schedule

Because resource scheduling incorporates decisions based on multiple sources of information, it is important to follow a detailed process to ensure nothing is missed out. Here are six steps to resource scheduling for your project.

Choose a resource scheduling tool

The manual process of scheduling resources can be exhausting and inaccurate, but choosing the right resource scheduling tool can help you manage your resources efficiently.

The Runn resource scheduling tool is one of the best and simplest resource scheduling software solutions on the market. You only have to click, drag, and drop to assign a time schedule to each of your team members. The software gives you a bird's eye view of everyone's schedules and real-time scheduling insights to keep you updated about evolving plans and milestones.

Break down project tasks

To schedule resources effectively, you first need to break down your project into individual tasks. Forming a strong work breakdown structure (WBS) is a key step. This includes creating a task list for each project to help you estimate how many resources and skills are required. Using the task list, managers can schedule resources in line with each team's capacity.

Analyze your resource capabilities

The most common resources for most projects are equipment and human resources. Your project might need specific software, hardware, or tools through purchase or leasing.

As for human resources, it is essential to assign tasks to the right person with the required skill set – a process known as capacity planning. It is beneficial to invest in a database showing the skills of each of your team members for easy matching of tasks with members' schedules. For instance, using Runn for resource scheduling can help you assign projects to qualified resources.

Monitor your team members' availability

You can check each employee's availability on your resource calendar and can allocate a corresponding schedule to their available hours. It’s crucial to know how long the work would take up to completion, so as to adjust your project team size appropriately. You can get an accurate estimate of the time and resources needed by checking previously completed projects with a similar scope.

Identify constraints and respond promptly

Employees' holidays, sick leaves, or days off may come as the deadline approaches, forcing you to reassign tasks or change deadlines. Resource scheduling software can save the day in such instances and give you peace of mind.

Track resources as the project progresses

It is essential to monitor progress of each team member's tasks to keep the overall project on track. As well as forming part of your actual costs review, the actual time spent will have an impact on the future scheduling process. Identifying critical resources and developing a coverage and contingency plan to keep your project going is essential.

Good business performance depends on the proper utilization of resources. Every project requires specific skills and time to be accomplished, but these resources are scarce and you need to optimize what you have available to you.

An effective resource scheduling tool allows you to maximize resources which in turn can promote employee retention, reduce hiring costs, and boost productivity. So put your manual Gantt chart and spreadsheets away, and let resource scheduling software bring you more accuracy, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness.

You can try free resource scheduling software today to experience the convenience of resource management.

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