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Libby Marks

How to Plan Team Availability for Future Projects

Your profit and progress depend on how well you use your team's time. Use it wisely with team availability planning.

'There just aren't enough hours in the day'. Sounds familiar? We've all said it when deadlines are looming and deliverables mounting.

In project management, time is a finite factor. We can't make more of it. We can only make the most of it. And that means understanding and planning team availability to optimize what you can deliver.

Here's what you need to know about planning team availability - to improve project outcomes and profitability.

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What is team availability?

Team availability is the amount of time and resources available within a given team within a given period. It considers the number of resources in your team and the hours they have available in a set timeframe. It also includes dynamic changes to availability, such as planned leave or sickness.

Team availability can apply to any grouping of individuals. It could be a project-based team comprising members with lots of different skill sets. Or it could be a skills-based grouping, for example, all of your Java experts or DevOps engineers.

Grouping people together and looking at team availability helps project managers, resource managers, and senior leaders understand how much work they can take on and deliver using this particular group of people.

How do you calculate team availability?

Here's a basic example of a team availability calculation. Team Blue has

  • Eight full-time team members who work 35 hours per week = 280 hours
  • Four part-time team members who each work 21 hours per week = 84 hours

In a standard working week, when everyone is present, Team Blue has a total 364 hours available for work. Knowing this allows the team manager to allocate an appropriate amount of work to keep Team Blue optimally utilized and moving the project forward.

However, next week, one full-time and one part-time team member is on annual leave, and one full-time team member is sick. Next week, Team Blue's availability reduces by 91 hours to 273 hours.

Why is it important to calculate team availability?

In the example above, 91 hours is a significant reduction in team availability. They've lost 25% of their usual capacity. That's something the team manager needs to know and adjust for when assigning tasks to team members.

Without adjusting for this reduced availability, there's a high risk that the team will miss that week's goals. Or have to work overcapacity to deliver them.

On the flip side of the coin, perhaps the project manager looks at team availability and spots upcoming capacity. That's an opportunity to allocate new tasks or even take on a new project.

These are just some of the reasons savvy project managers take team availability planning seriously. Not only to understand their team's capacity but also how that impacts everything around them - from delivery dates and client satisfaction, to project profitability and growth.

The benefits of monitoring team availability

The benefits of monitoring team availability go far beyond just knowing who's available for work. Understanding team availability is a key element of successful resource management - and resource management drives numerous success factors in project-based businesses.

Making workload manageable

No one can work at 100% capacity. After even a week of working long hours, productivity and mental acuity can reduce. And when overtime becomes 'all the time', your resources are at risk of burnout. A survey by Deloitte found that 77% of people have experienced burnout at their current job. Monitoring and proactively managing availability - and both a team and individual level - lets you distribute work evenly between resources, create balanced workloads, and keep your people at peak productivity.

Keeping projects on track

Understanding, identifying, and utilizing team availability keeps projects moving. When your resources are working to an optimal capacity of around 80%, you've got all hands on deck. No one is overworked. But equally, no one is under-utilized either. There's no one warming the bench while they wait for work to be assigned to them. Everyone is pulling their weight, working towards your deadlines and deliverables.

Predicting problems

Monitoring team availability is like having a crystal ball. It lets you look into the future and spot potential resource problems before they become a risk to your project. If you can see that team availability dips in the coming month, you can mitigate against the risk and keep the project moving optimally. For example, by

  • adjusting the date of a deliverable
  • reallocating lower-priority tasks that week
  • asking for more resources if necessary to meet milestones

Maximizing your ROI

In a project-based business, your resources are a major expense. We know they're worth every penny. But you want to maximize how much money you make for the money you spend on staff. When a resource is underutilized - perhaps doing admin instead of billable project work - they're not earning money, they're burning it. By monitoring team availability and allocating work to fill spare capacity, you maximize how much you can bill.

Surfacing opportunities

When you look at team availability, you're looking at your capacity for work. If you look at team capacity and discover a block of availability, you have the opportunity to fill it! By reallocating tasks from another overworked team - which spreads your existing project load - or by taking on an additional project - which means additional revenue for your business.

Spotting skill shortages

If you're looking at team availability for a skills-based grouping, it can help you capacity plan for the future. Say you group all of your Python pros into a 'team' and see that they're consistently overcapacity with no availability at all. That's a strong indicator that you need to recruit more Python experts asap. Spotting recruitment needs in good time means you're less likely to incur risks or costs due to skills gaps - such as project delays or having to augment your in-house staff with contractors.

How to track team availability using Runn

With a small team, monitoring and planning team availability isn't too big a headache. But the more people you manage, the harder and more time-consuming it gets (especially using manual methods like spreadsheets).

Resource management software like Runn can help you monitor, surface, and utilize team availability quickly and easily. Instead of poring over spreadsheets and doing manual calculations, Runn uses shows team availability in real time.

From Runn's People Planner, you can see a bird's eye view of your team and dive deeper into individual availability if needed.

Assign resources to projects

The first step is to allocate resources to your project. Search for resources by role, skill, team, tag, and more.

Group resources into teams

Once you've allocated your resources, group them into teams. For example, all of your developers, all of your designers, all of your writers. Once they're grouped, you'll be able to view the availability of everyone in that grouping.

View availability

With your resources grouped, you'll see an intuitive, at-a-glance visualization of team availability over a certain period. In the screenshot below, you'll see that the purple background represents team availability and the blue bars show how much of that availability is allocated.

  • If the purple is higher than the blue, you're under capacity - you have spare availability to use
  • If the purple and blue are even, you're at capacity - you have no more availability to play with
  • If the purple dips below the blue, you're above capacity - there's no availability and you should consider reallocating some work
team availability

Final thoughts

With a systematic and strategic approach to monitoring and managing team availability, you can deliver benefits at a project and organizational level. Higher ROI. More projects on time and budget. Happier staff and clients!

But you can't do that with clunky spreadsheets and their out-of-date data.

You need a fit-for-purpose resource management tool that does the heavy lifting for you. So you can see team availability at a glance, take action quickly and confidently, and get back to work.

That's why we'd love you to try Runn - because you deserve the right tools to do your job. And we know that once you've tried it, it'll change your life for the better.

So we're offering you a no-catch, no-commitment, no-credit-card needed, completely free 14-day trial.

Sign up with your email address, start experimenting, and see just how easy it can be.

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