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Before your team can bask in the glory of a project well done, a project manager must take an active role in project resource management, including monitoring resource availability, resource planning, and resource management.

Project resource management guides a project from start to finish and ensures proper resource utilization throughout the project life cycle. Let’s take a closer look at resources and project plans, what they mean, how they function, and how they impact your project and your team.

What Is Resource Availability?

Before a project can get off the ground, a project manager needs to take stock of resource availability—the number of resources needed to complete a project and how much time each resource has to dedicate to project work.

Multiple factors determine resource availability. Let’s break each down for a closer look.

People Resources

Planning people resources is one of the most important resource forecasting tasks and considers how project team composition aligns with project requirements. Consider the following questions to ensure that project team members are spending their time on the right things:

  • People resource planning: Who is on your project team, and when are they available? Most employees work on multiple projects and have other responsibilities outside of your project. Do these team members have enough time to dedicate to your project?
  • People resource availability: What other scheduling conflicts could arise and compromise your team’s efficiency? For example, unplanned or unstructured meetings can quickly drain time from valuable resources.
  • Resource pool: Does the project scope exceed that of your team’s abilities? Are there skill gaps that need to be filled by members outside your team?

Other Project Resources

In addition to people resources, your project may also require material resources (supplies and other equipment), financial resources, and time. When planning other project resources, consider:

  • Project tools: Does your team have all the tools (hardware, software, etc.) they need to complete the task? Can your team work around any delays in receivables?
  • Financial resources: What is the budget for this project? Is the budget sufficient to accomplish the tasks required? What other sources of funding, if any, may be available to offset project costs?
  • Time resources: What are the deadlines associated with this project? Do the people, material resources, and financial resources align with the desired project schedule?
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How To Do Resource Planning

After a project manager has determined resource availability, they can begin to determine how to use those resources to accomplish the goals in their project plan. There’s no one right way to allocate or plan resources, but there are multiple variables to consider.

Consult With Subject Matter Experts

Whenever possible, confer with subject matter experts who are familiar with your project’s purpose and goals. Do they believe that the financial and time resources allocated for this project are sufficient to achieve the desired scope of work?

In addition to consulting with subject matter experts, it is also useful to confer with other project managers who may have experience executing similar projects elsewhere in your company (especially if you're at a larger organization). Contact these leaders to gather opinions on project resources and how to allocate them.

Expect The Unexpected

While it might seem like there’s one best way to execute a project, it’s unwise to build your entire project timeline around one course of action. Analyze other potential solutions to achieving project goals. If only one person is qualified to tackle a specific task, you’ll need to ensure you have a backup plan in case (or, more accurately, when) something changes.

Track Internal And External Data

I like to create a baseline schedule at the outset of a project so I can track how my initial assumptions differed from reality. Consult lessons learned documentation, such as prior project schedules, risk registers, budgets, and/or retrospectives, to help you allocate financial, time, and people resources appropriately and avoid potential pitfalls.

Chatting with other project managers can also give you insight into the capabilities and working styles of particular team members, which informs how resources are allocated.

Consider The Theory Of Constraints

The theory of constraints is a managerial methodology that helps project managers identify potential bottlenecks in their work processes. Failure to identify and remove these bottlenecks means that external forces can wreak havoc on your team’s ability to deliver according to the project schedule.

The theory of constraints methodology includes five steps:

  1. Examine each process in your project’s resource plan. What is the limiting constraint that slows or derails progress?
  2. Review project resource utilization to identify what resources you can dedicate to addressing the constraint.
  3. Ensure all activities in the process support the constraint.
  4. If the constraint can’t be eliminated, consider other actions that might work to alleviate the constraint (e.g., investing additional resources).
  5. Address new constraints, and continue the cycle.

It’s also important to consider whether other teams play a role in your project. Does your team require deliverables from external teams to be successful? These constraints can also impact your project.

Get a detailed look at project management constraints and how to handle them here.

Resource Optimization And Forecasting

After a project manager has determined resource availability and allocated resources, they can then focus on optimizing resource usage. Here are a few common techniques:

Resource Leveling

Resource leveling is a supply-versus-demand skill. It’s an analysis that helps project managers determine if their resources are effectively utilized. Resource leveling helps determine if current resources are sufficient to address new gaps in project requirements.

Resource Smoothing

Resource smoothing is a resource management technique that tries to reduce resource demand so a project can be executed within the timeline that was originally planned. An example of resource smoothing might be engaging a more experienced person to complete project work in a shorter amount of time.

Resource Forecasting

Resource forecasting ensures that project managers have resources allocated to address any problems that might arise during a project’s life cycle or to execute future projects with similar requirements.

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Resource Planning And Allocation Of Resources

Resource availability is only one aspect of project management, but it forms the basis of any solid project management plan. There are also a ton of resource management software options and tools to help project managers handle their project’s requirements.

For more on resource management, availability, and planning, subscribe to The Digital Project Manager newsletter.

By Sarah M. Hoban

Sarah is a project manager and strategy consultant with 15 years of experience leading cross-functional teams to execute complex multi-million dollar projects. She excels at diagnosing, prioritizing, and solving organizational challenges and cultivating strong relationships to improve how teams do business. Sarah is passionate about productivity, leadership, building community, and her home state of New Jersey.