People management is one of the top challenges for project managers. It is often the reason projects get off track or completely fail. It can make or break new managers trying to get up to speed navigating a new role in a new company.
And today’s workplace trends like the shift to remote work, employees being recruited to new and better paying opportunities, and the Great Resignation movement leave less talent in the marketplace. So, keeping up with the status and availability of human resources is and should be a top priority when planning a new project.
What Is Project Resource Management?
To put it simply, project resource management is similar to forecasting. It helps project managers visualize where investments in time, energy, and materials are, so the business can constantly assess or change their plan due to unforeseen circumstances.
It takes a lot of evaluation and work to inventory resources such as people, tools, and facilities and set up a project. When things change, as they often do, project managers are better equipped to anticipate a change in resources and act as soon as the need arises.
Project resource management involves these three techniques:
- Resource Allocation: Finding the best available resources for the type of work needed and assigning them to projects. For example, some projects may benefit from assigning a junior-level specialist to learn and do the work over time rather than a more expensive senior-level specialist who may be able to do it faster.
- Workload Management: The act of expertly distributing work evenly across a team, so they can work efficiently and never feel overworked or burned out.
- Resource Forecasting: Accurately anticipating and predicting future resource needs over time. This planning exercise helps project managers identify potential gaps and prepare for them in advance.
Read more on project-management.com: Top 10 Project Resource Management Best Practices for Project Managers
How Resources Affect Project Scheduling
A big challenge for project managers when managing resources is to make sure a resource is never over- or under-booked. Overbooking can stress and burn out team members, while underbooking can hurt the project’s budget and company’s line.
There is a schedule to adhere to and a disruption in the allocation of resources can have instant and negative repercussions to project health and success. An unanticipated resource issue can hinder a project schedule and timeline fast if steps are not taken to plan for it.
Resources directly affect a project’s schedule by either moving it all along at a steady and planned pace (ideal); accelerating it in some places and allowing other work to begin sooner if possible (ok); or blocking or delaying progress, creating an uncontrollable domino effect to future work (bad).
There are a few key questions to ask when considering and assigning resources to a project and schedule.
- Are resources being properly allocated based on priorities? Take steps to ensure the resources assigned to multiple work items are prioritized correctly and that higher priority items are covered first.
- Are the right resources and skills available? Identify and match skill sets to required work. If you don’t have all the resources on hand, make arrangements for the training, hiring, and outsources needed to cover all the bases.
- Is there a plan to overcome unforeseen resource constraints? Gain a full understanding of available resources and monitor them in a way that allows you to see any future issues that may come up, so you can navigate and plan for backup or change.
How Project Management Software Can Help
Smaller project teams traditionally use a spreadsheet or calendar to plan and manage work. However, these tools are error-prone and often have multiple people populating and updating them across versions. The data entered is only as good as the manual source.
Resource planning skills are learned and refined with experience and made easier through the use of more robust software tools. So, you are better off with a solution where data can’t accidentally be deleted or overwritten and that allows multiple team members to work collaboratively to schedule work and people.
A tool that can track team availability, assign resources to projects, and track the estimated time and worked hours of individual resources across work and project is what you need to visualize what is needed, when and where it most makes sense, and how it is progressing.
5 Tips for Successfully Managing Project Resources
Plan, plan, plan, and forecast.
Be flexible and prepared to respond to change.
Understand all resources and stay on top of their performance, allocation, and utilization.
Keep resources performing and positive with feedback.
Produce accurate reports showing time, work, and resource progress to provide visibility to stakeholders and keep them informed.
Need a project management tool with built-in resource management tools? Use our product selection tool for project management software to get a fast, free list of apps that’ll work for your team.