What are 'resource' in a project?
‘Resources’ can be anything from people, materials and equipment, to knowledge and time. These resources are limited, and using them as efficiently as possible is critical to a business’s bottom line. Struggling to manage your resources? Keep reading to find out what’s involved in effective project resource management and tips on best practice.
How does project resource management differ from project management?
Project management, Project resource management and Resource planning are sometimes mistaken for one another and the terms are often used interchangeably. Though they’re interlinked, it’s important we recognise them as intrinsically different components.
Project management is a methodical approach to planning and guiding project processes from conception to completion. Project resource management is an important component of your project management plan, while Resource planning is a step in the Project resource management process.
3 steps to #beautiful Project Resource Management
Step 1 - Create a project resource plan
The project resource plan helps you to identify all of the resources required to complete your project successfully. Your plan should be actionable, detailed and updated regularly throughout the life of the project.
First, go through a process of ‘data collection’
This is where you need to determine what resources you have at your disposal. It’s worth regularly surveying your inventory so you always have a rough idea of what materials are on hand, or making sure you have a central staff calendar so you’re aware of any leave booked or contractors scheduled.
‘Resource estimation’ will often happen concurrently
As the name suggests, this is about predicting how many resources will be needed to complete the project. For example, if you’re a creative agency, when a new project brief comes in, you might send the client an estimate based on how much time (man-hours) you anticipate the project will require.
Often, if you’re doing similar kinds of work, you’ll have a good idea of how long it will take to do certain jobs or tasks. The great thing about using a system like WorkflowMax is that you can create a custom template for different quotes, making the process a lot faster and more streamlined.
Take advantage of a ‘Resources Breakdown Structure’. This is a hierarchical breakdown of resources by category and type. This details all the resources and divides and subdivides them into classes until everything has been accounted for. Make sure to include human resources, equipment and supplies. The Resources Breakdown Structure will help when estimating the cost of a project accurately.
Step 2 - Develop a resource schedule
Once you know the resources at hand, and their availability, you need to create a schedule to manage them. Planning for the worst case scenario is useful, and that’s where the concept of “the critical path” comes in. This is the longest length of time it will take to complete the project. To estimate this, make a list of all the tasks needed to complete the project, note the duration of each of those tasks, any task dependencies, the relevant milestones and deliverables.
This will help you determine the longest path your planned tasks will take to reach the end of the project, as well as the earliest and latest that each task can start and finish without impacting the project schedule. Knowing the critical path can also help you manage dreaded project overruns.
Step 3 - Set yourself up for optimal resource allocation
Resource allocation is about assigning and scheduling available resources in the most effective and economical manner. Unfortunately, projects are often derailed due to mismanagement of project constraints, and/or a misallocation of resources.
Why projects fail from a misallocation of resources
1 – Overpromising and an inability to say ‘no’. This is a problem especially for smaller businesses, who in an effort to win more work or please clients may agree to projects despite the fact they’re already at capacity. This leads to overallocation of resources, poor quality of work, missed deadlines - and is, in general, a recipe for disaster.
2 – Not knowing the resources at hand. Without a real-time view of materials on hand or physical capacity, it can be easy to over-allocate resources.
3 – Not matching the right resources with the right tasks. Great project managers play to people’s strengths, and the allocation of resources to projects or tasks haphazardly will lead to inefficiencies.
How to identify and avoid resource overallocation
If you’re using online resource scheduling software, you’ll likely get alerts and notifications when you’re getting close to capacity. Often, it’s helpful to just be aware of what’s happening around you too. Are your staff consistently staying late, looking stressed and working themselves into the ground? These are all warning signs of overallocation.
Luckily there are a few ways to get you back on track:
- Invest in modern tools! PlanRight is a powerful scheduling and capacity management software that integrates #beautifully with project management software WorkflowMax.
- Turn away new projects when you know you’re at capacity, or outsource them.
- Track time effectively. WorkflowMax offers staff 6 ways of tracking time effortlessly.
- Use a ‘Responsibility Assignment Matrix’ and make it visible to everyone. This outlines the roles and responsibilities people have towards actioning certain tasks throughout a project. Its main function is to be a practical document showing which resources are responsible for which tasks. It’s not simply a list of who is going to complete what task but their roles – for example, who will oversee tasks, who can be reached for assistance, who may be supplying materials to that task, or who needs to be informed about the progress and timing etc.
Resource Optimisation and dealing with Resource Constraints
Resource overallocation is both costly and inefficient. The holy grail of successful projects and job profitability is being able to optimise your resources so they’re being used most economically.
In an ideal world, all our projects would hum along nicely and never deviate from the schedule. Unfortunately, in the real world, all sorts of unexpected things can happen to derail the project. Before beginning any project it’s helpful to identify any potential barriers to resource optimisation and have a plan B ready.
Resource levelling (also called ‘resource smoothing’) is a great way of managing the availability of resources, any plan Bs and resource constraints. An ongoing process, this is about being adaptable - for example, extending deadlines when a staff member appears swamped, or perhaps starting a phase earlier than expected when it becomes apparent that the previous task has been completed faster or with fewer resources. It is an intuitive process and should be ongoing.
Best practice for successful resource management
It might seem like there’s a lot to remember, but with proper planning, you’ll be able to achieve the most effective resource management. Here is a quick summary of what you should do to stay on track:
- Create a robust resource schedule, and review it regularly throughout the life of a project.
- Invest in the right tools! You’ll be able to avoid workflow surprises with a good project management software that has capacity planning functionality.
- Dig into the reporting. Another benefit of an online system is that you’ll have access to a range of comprehensive performance and staff and time reporting.
Remember, project resource management is an important component of your project management plan. It requires a little planning, but a systematic approach will set you up for success. First, create a project resource plan, then a detailed project schedule, and finally take all steps necessary to ensure optimal resource allocation.