Resource planning, or resource management, is the process of allocating and regulating project resources with the greatest degree of efficiency possible. Such resources include tangible items such as financial resources, supplies and equipment, and the labor and skills represented by human resources. As a sub-discipline of project management, resource planning is carried out with the objective of ensuring optimal utilization of all project resources.
Effective resource management does more than simply support a more efficient project process and increased profits. In the case of human resources, it builds employee trust and improves morale and motivation. Without effective resource planning, excessive strain is placed on the organization’s resource base while projects run over budget and beyond deadlines. An organized and strategic approach to resource planning will support your efforts to get the best out of your project resources. Here are five basic strategies that support improved resource planning.
Gather Information About the Project and Its Requirements
A common mistake is to go into the project planning process with incomplete information. Learn everything you can about the project and begin preliminary resource planning well before kick-off. Everything you can document before the launch date reduces time waste and stress during the project lifespan. Gather all available information on:
Project goals and success metrics
Relevant deadlines and milestones
Actionable learning from prior projects
Approvals that will be required throughout the project
Approaches used by key competitors
Identify the Resources
Running into resource limitations and scarcity mid-project is a sure formula for delay and possibly derailment of the project. The best way to avoid struggling for resources during a project is to be sure resources are identified and available before project kick-off.
Make a resource plan by identifying the types of people needed by skill set and/or project role. Calculate the percentage of FTE needed to fulfill each role. Match people to roles, being sure to consider whether a junior-level skillset will suffice or if someone with more experience is required. Remember, the primary objective is more efficient utilization. Historical information stored in a project management system is very useful here. Look at the resource role requirements of similar past projects in light of project results. Do the research in advance to setup for getting approval to utilize the resources.
Be Familiar with Time Requirements
It is not difficult to determine how much time is needed to complete repeatable tasks. On every project, you should be tracking both hours worked and duration to completion for each identified task. It is a common mistake to assume a task has fewer steps and takes less time than is actually the case. It is impossible to accurately forecast the resources required to do something if you don’t know how long it takes.
Get Buy-In for the Resource Plan
Do not rush toward project kickoff without securing full buy-in and approval to access the required resources. Before beginning to work on the project schedule, take the resource plan to the appropriate stakeholders to request approval. It is important to get buy-in and the authority needed to utilize resources at this stage because you will need help when developing the project schedule.
Begin Drafting the Project Schedule
If stakeholders lack a clear vision of the work involved in the proposed project, you run the risk of encountering objections at critical points. Once you have access to dedicated resources, call on their help as you begin building a work breakdown structure (WBS) or schedule that describes the work and sub-tasks involved in carrying out the project as a whole. Developing a WBS and getting it formally approved reduces the risk that administrative snags will delay the project.
Plan for the Unexpected
Mid-project expansions in scope, delayed receipt of deliverables, budget changes; these are just some of the common ad hocs and unknowns that threaten to derail project resource planning efforts. The correct response is to plan for the unexpected. Look at your team’s past project history and determine how much time is typically spent handling unplanned for items. Account for that number in your resource planning.