Whatever the project, efficient use of resources is vital to reaching its goals. In project management, resource planning is an essential part of putting together an action plan to ensure any project will be completed within its deadlines.
Resource planning is a strategy that helps to utilize resources in the most efficient way to achieve the best results. It is an approach that promotes a well-rounded picture of resource allocation and informs about the capacity of resources an organization has access to.
In this article, we’ll look at the importance of resource planning in project management, its components, and processes, and give you some fundamental tips for efficient resource planning within your organization.
Why is resource planning important?
As mentioned above, the main goal of resource planning is maximizing the usage of available resources. In order to do so, managers need to have a full understanding of the value of each resource and where it can be used the most efficiently.
Having a proper resource plan also allows for delivering results on time and is the basis for a successful project timeline. It gives an opportunity to gauge how much time is needed to complete each task and ensure time is used efficiently.
Effective resource planning helps to plan for projects down the road and predict resource availability in the future. The more projects are completed on a basis of resource planning, the easier it will be to allocate resources for a new project.
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Planning your resource use efficiently also offers flexibility during a change. It is common for timelines or tasks to change during the completion of a project, and when planning for resource use, change will be more tolerable when it is anticipated.
Another important benefit of efficient resource planning is being able to focus on the project itself rather than figuring out how and where to use the proper resources in the process. A solid resource plan that has been developed prior to the beginning of a project will minimize distractions and provide space for focusing on deliverables.
Lastly, having a robust resource plan will make it easier to make well-informed decisions about the project.
What are the components of a resource plan?
In order to achieve efficient resource planning, you have to determine what types of resources you have access to and how to best allocate them according to their purpose. These five components will together construct a comprehensive resource plan:
Not surprisingly, the first and arguably most important component of a resource plan is your employees. People within your organization are your most valuable assets and later on we will talk about how to identify the best use for each individual.
When it comes to efficient resource planning, time is another important asset that will work in your favor. From determining how much time is needed to complete the project, to understanding how time-consuming each task is, this resource is crucial in providing a clear structure to your resource plan.
The more data you have from previous projects, the more successful you will be at effectively determining what the best resource plan is. Previous data informs about how well-executed projects have been in the past and make planning for new ones much easier. During any project, you should be collecting data about its progress, so that it can be used to improve the processes in the future.
Practically no project can be done without some kind of equipment. For some projects, you might only need a computer with a specific software, but in some cases, transportation, specialized equipment, or production materials will be needed, so it is crucial to determine that in the resource planning stage.
The last component of a resource plan is finances. Unexpected expenses will not be enjoyable to deal with in the middle of a crisis due to faulty resource planning, therefore, it is critical to fully understand how much it will cost to execute a specific project.
5 essential tips for efficient resource planning
Now that we have determined why resource planning is important and what it entails, it’s time to look at some things to remember in the process of putting together a resource plan.
Tip 1: Determine what resources you have
Unsurprisingly, the first step to resource planning is understanding what resources you have. Take the five components of a resource plan we already discussed above and individually determine what is needed for an upcoming project and whether or not you actually have access to those resources.
In terms of team members, it is essential to know who you have within your organization and what their skill sets, capacities, and experiences are. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your team members is the basis of assigning the right tasks to the right employees. An unbalanced workload will throw off the flow of a project and make the process more challenging than it needs to be.
You also need to determine how much time you have for the whole project, individual tasks, different milestones, so that you can set realistic expectations and consider adding buffer time in case an unexpected change occurs and the project needs more time to meet the deadlines. The better you understand time as a resource, the easier it will be to make adjustments along the way.
Once you have determined what resources you have, you will also need to identify what is possibly missing and what steps to take to close the resource gap. Perhaps there is a gap in talent and you will need to hire an expert to help carry out the project, or maybe there is a lack of equipment to properly execute some tasks and you will need to gain access to that.
Tip 2: Involve the team
It is a challenging task to identify resources and know how to best allocate them, so it is valuable to involve the whole team. Hold a resource planning meeting and don’t be afraid to let the team members in on making important decisions, or at least informing those decisions.
Involvement will ensure everyone on the team is on the same page and knows the direction the project needs to take to avoid miscommunication. If there are multiple projects or multiple crossover teams you are managing, designate the resource planning to different team leaders that can then report back and serve as a point of reference.
Tip 3: Track the progress
In order to stay on top of knowing where your organization’s resources are going, you will need to track the progress of your project and how the resources are being used. Resource tracking will allow you to monitor actual resource use against the initial resource plan, and make adjustments if necessary.
Tracking the allocated resource use on a regular (monthly, weekly, daily) basis will enable the team to stay on track, reach milestones, and collectively solve problems as soon as they occur without making critical errors.
Tip 4: Be flexible
In project management, flexibility will be one of the most valuable assets you can have. Projects will almost always need adjustments on some level along the way, so it is beneficial to expect change and go into a project with a flexible mindset.
Having a flexible mindset will make you and your team less fearful of change and encourage you to be open to alternative solutions. In general, it cultivates an environment where employees are not afraid to come forward with new ideas and participate in the decision-making process. In 2019, Insider reported that the majority of employees are fearful of sharing their ideas, opinions, and concerns at work, so a flexible and open management mindset will encourage the opposite.
Tip 5: Use data to evaluate
We already talked about previous data being an important component of any resource plan, and it is key to continually collect as much data about the resource use as you can to evaluate ongoing processes within a project.
In order to make decisions with the above discussed flexibility in mind, these decisions are best informed by real-time data. Efficient data use will lead to increased productivity and stretch your resources even further. You can collect resource data on a simple spreadsheet, or use a resource tracking software.
Mistakes to avoid
When executed well, resource planning will definitely be improve your project management, but there are a few possible mistakes you’ll want to avoid:
Uneven resource distribution
Retain from overusing some resources beyond their capacity, as well as underusing some others and possibly overlooking their potential. As in many work-related situations, aim for balance.
For example, if you know some of your team members are more experienced and others need more training, avoid overloading the experienced and deprive others from a learning opportunity. Underutilizing some of the team members can leave them feeling less valued than others and lead to decreased motivation.
Inaccurate time estimates
Another common mistake is to inaccurately estimate how long a project or a task will take due to pressure from the management or clients. It is understandable that you will want things to get done as quickly as possible, but it is not worth underestimating timelines and compromising the well-being of your team.
Be mindful of adding buffer time to estimates, because it is unrealistic to expect your employees to be productive at all times, work extra hours to get more done, or even constantly multitask.
No risk management plan
By now, we have established that a project timeline will likely need adjustments along the way. While it is necessary to anticipate change, you also need to have substantial systems in place in case things go wrong and there is no time for an in-depth decision-making process.
Having a risk management plan will decrease the chances of impactful project disruption and solidify your role as a leader, allowing others to rely on you during a crisis.
If you’re managing a project, chances are you will be better off with learning how to execute resource planning in an effective way. Evaluate the resources your organization has access to, what it might be lacking, and assure that they are used and disbursed properly. Most importantly, prepare for change along the way and ensure involvement of the whole team.
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