There’s a lot to juggle when a new project kicks off. But with proper resource planning, you put your best foot forward by limiting that chance for things to go wrong.
Mapping out the project timeline, assembling the right team, and plotting out the tasks that need to be completed can feel like a headache if there’s no method to your madness.
Resource planning involves assigning tasks to the right people, assessing who’s available and when, and managing non-human resources that are needed (like tools and equipment).
Sounds simple, right?
While you’ve likely already got some kind of resource planning process in place, odds are you could reassess your method. Even the smallest changes could dramatically improve your process, waste less time on decision-making, and create smoother transitions between teams to keep all your team members in the loop.
What is resource planning?
Resource planning identifies what resources (or team members) are needed to efficiently complete a project by allocating the right tasks to the most ideal team members.
Do it right, and you can maximize your efficiency, avoid missing milestones, and deliver projects on time, every time. For your team, resource planning tells them what they need to work on and when, as well as the tools and equipment they’ll have to do that.
Essentially, it’s the opposite of “winging it”—the biggest no-no when it comes to project (and client) management.
There’s an art to getting resource planning right; an over-resourced project wastes time and budget, while an under-resourced one can be a disastrous display of missed deadlines and unhappy stakeholders.
So, what actually counts as a resource?
It seems strange referring to people as resources, but they’re just one part of the resource planning process.
People: Team members who will be involved in a project. This might include employees, contractors, or freelancers.
Tools and equipment: The tools or project management software your team will need to complete the project on time.
Budget: How much money is being pumped into the project and what that money needs to be spent on.
Facilities: Where team members will carry out the tasks they need to do. For example, will you need a meeting room or a recording studio?
Time: The length of time it will take to complete each task as well as the timeframe for the entire project.
Why resource planning is so important to team leads
Resource planning is helpful for everyone, from project managers to team members, and stakeholders to department heads. Knowing what resources are in play as well as the timeline and budget you have to work with can help you plan ahead.
Here are some of the main benefits of resource management and planning:
Save money: Companies save an average of 28 times more money when they implement a resource planning process.
Maximize resources: Use the best people for the job, and manage their workload.
Deliver stellar results: Keep projects on track and on time to keep stakeholders happy.
Plan ahead: Predict the resources you’ll need for future projects.
Increase efficiency: Get started on projects quicker and avoid unnecessary hold-ups.
Improve client relationships: No nasty surprises for stakeholders once a project has kicked off.
What you need to know before you begin to plan out your resources
If the start of a new project feels like a mad scramble to get your ducks in a row, it’s time to shake up your resource planning.
Before a project can begin, you need to consider what skills should be leveraged, who’s available with those skills, how long everything should take to complete, and how this specific project will fit into everyone's schedule.
Just because the project is important to you does not mean it's the most important task for every one of your team members. To help you consider all of these factors, try and make note of:
The start and end dates of the contract
Hourly rates and prices of team members, contractors, and freelancers
The skills you need to complete the project
Who on your team has those skills (or whether you need outside help)
The availability of your chosen team members
The proposed budget of the project
The answers to these will act as the foundation of your resource planning. From there, it’s a case of slotting it all together to make sure the project gets completed.
Top Tip: Interested in picking up some resource allocation hacks? Check out our guide to 5 effective resource allocation tips to keep your team on track ⚡️
How to improve your resource planning process
Maybe your current resource planning process isn’t working. Maybe you don’t really have one in place and just guess what resources you might need. Or it could be that you don’t have much trouble with resource planning, but would just like to hone your method a bit.
Whatever point you’re at, these tips will help you level up your resource planning game for every new project.
1. Plan the tasks you need the most
It helps to work backward when allocating resources. Trying to guess how long something will take or whether you’ll need a specific piece of equipment isn’t going to do you any favors. Instead, start by looking at what you want to achieve at the end of a project.
Once you have a big picture view in mind, you can break it down into smaller, more manageable tasks. It’s then much easier to identify what resources you need for each of those smaller tasks and allocate them where necessary.
For example, if you’re planning for a web design project that has an end goal of a user-friendly website with new branding for your client, you need to consider:
What steps are involved in the process (logo design, branding consultation, wireframes, user testing, development, content writing, testing, etc.)
What resources do you need for each of those steps (a graphic designer to create the new logo and an illustration tool, a copywriting and editor for the content, etc.)
2. Carefully and thoroughly assess the resources you have available
One of the hardest parts of project management is managing your team’s workload. It’s easy to throw a bunch of tasks at people and hope for the best, but this can quickly lead to burnout and a demotivated team.
Start by having a keen understanding of what resources you have available. You can then match resources to tasks. You won’t always get it right, but the more you practice it, the easier it’ll get.
Top Tip: This 10-point project management checklist to help you stay organized is a great jumping-off point 🙌
3. Set the budget and timeframe (and stick to it)
Successfully managing your resources means effectively managing the funds behind the project and the milestones you need to hit.
Once the budget is signed off t, it’s up to you as the project manager to make sure you allocate efficient resources within that budget.
Once you’ve identified which resources you need for a project, you can start mapping out where and when they’ll be used in the project.
Another important aspect is to try and track the time it takes on certain tasks. This lets you (or your client) have better insights into what exactly everyone is doing and how long it takes.
With the Teamwork time tracking feature, you stay on top of project timelines and see how long each team member is spending on dedicated tasks.
If you're looking for a more holistic view of your resources, we've got you covered. The Gantt chart framework also gives you a top-level view of what needs to happen and when.
Make sure you have the right tools to help you keep track of time spent and the over budget. If you're still relying on spreadsheets, it might be time for a serious upgrade.
Top Tip: Want to break up with spreadsheets for good? Read our guide on Excel in picking up some resource allocation hacks? Check out our guide on Excel for project management and see why it's time to upgrade. 📈
4. Track and measure resources across your entire team for the most holistic view
Resource planning takes time to get right. You’ll constantly have to tweak your process and learn from past projects to see what works and what doesn’t.
You might find that you under-resourced one project and it brings all your other projects to a grinding halt. In the future, you’ll know not to make the same mistake.
You can keep track of the resources you’ve used for each project with Teamwork. At the end of each completed project, you’ll have a better idea of project requirements and timelines, which means you can make better project estimates in the future.
Not everything will go as planned, so make sure you’re prepared for any hiccups that might pop up. You might find you’ll have to make adjustments for:
Slow approvals or feedback from stakeholders
Changes to project scope
Team members dropping out (getting sick, leaving on maternity, etc.)
Having the budget or timeline slashed
If you’ve got all your resources stored in one place, you can quickly match the new budget or bring in new team members who are available.
5. Run the post-project analysis to improve in the future
Each project is a new chance to learn and optimize your resource planning process. Start by looking at the number of resources you budgeted for and allocated and the number what you ended up using to complete the project.
Did you bring on too many team members? Not enough? Or did you budget for a piece of equipment you didn’t end up using?
Dig into these questions at a project retrospective and you’ll start to see improvements in your resource management. You can even generate project reports within Teamwork for an overview of all items in your project.
Easily view things like milestones, task lists, tasks and subtasks, latest project updates, and current project health. The Teamwork Project Health Report helps you understand how a project is progressing and helps you understand how everything went after completion.
We can’t underscore enough just how crucial this activity is for future planning.
You’ll probably discover some discrepancies between profits and resources spent on projects. Your post-project analysis will help identify where you can make improvements next time.
Make resource planning work for you
Gone are the days of tired old Excel spreadsheets that are rarely updated. Resource planning is an important part of the project management process.
Doing it the right way ensures you stay on budget, complete projects on time, keep stakeholders happy, and improve on project estimates in the future.
Use a resource planning tool like Teamwork to input the resources you need for a project, keep track of what resources are being used, and plan out the timeline and budget of each project.
If you’re managing multiple projects at one time, each of which has its own set of resources, a spreadsheet isn’t going to cut it. Teamwork provides an overview of where you’re at with every project at every given time.
Try Teamwork free for 30 days and see why 20,000 companies trust us to run their business every day.