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Understanding team member skill sets and availability is one of a project manager’s most important tasks. But without resource planning visualization, project stakeholders will likely fail to appreciate the hours you’ve invested in getting to know your team and meticulously calculating the hours that it will take them to complete project work.

In this article, we’ll define resource planning visualization and explain why it’s important, review the steps involved in visual resource planning, and discuss chart types and software that project managers can use for resource management.

What Is Resource Planning Visualization?

Resource planning visualization provides useful graphic tools for resource management. Using well-designed visuals for resource planning helps you see who is doing what task, what resources are required and expended, and when each task occurs in the project plan

A Gantt chart, for instance, is a visualization tool that allows team members to forecast and track progress against the project plan.

The Importance Of Resource Planning Visualization

Resource planning visualization helps resource managers develop project plans and optimize resources for those plans.

For example, conducting resource scheduling using visualizations enables resource managers to depict key milestones, review resource allocation, and engage in resource capacity planning.

Visual models reduce time and improve productivity by communicating massive amounts of information in a condensed space. But, these graphics require planning. Establishing a process for developing visual resources will help fulfill the adage “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

Poor resource planning can result in significant impacts on a project and a company:

  • Reduced communication
  • Increased cost
  • Greater team member and project manager responsibilities
  • Lower team member performance
  • Project delays
  • Lower quality products

Steps In Visual Resource Planning 

Visual resource planning follows the same general principles as traditional resource planning; however, resource management software makes it easier for team members and resource managers to visualize the project plan and find the information required to make decisions.

Keep in mind that many projects now operate in an agile environment. In agile project management, flexibility, collaboration, and interaction are key to shaping the path to product completion.

Project managers often follow the below recommended steps for visual resource planning (usually using resource planning software) so they can dynamically adjust the project plan.

1. Complete A Work Breakdown Structure

When scoping a project, resource managers often create a work breakdown structure (WBS) to outline tasks for team members. The WBS hierarchically organizes project tasks and deliverables into a visual format.

2. Create a Gantt Chart for Project Scheduling

The project manager may then use the WBS to create a Gantt chart for laying out the project schedule. Building the project schedule requires thinking through employee roles, responsibilities, and skill levels.

While a detailed Gantt chart is crucial for visualizing each component of the project calendar, integrating a robust project scheduling tool can streamline this process significantly.

By basing project scheduling decisions on this information, resource managers can optimize the schedule to best fit project requirements and deliverables.

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3. Report Project Data

Once you finalize the project schedule, you can make necessary information understandable to your team. This may come in the form of infographics, maps, diagrams, charts, and other graphics. You can also create dashboards that display project health metrics for executives and other stakeholders.

Learn how to set up a project dashboard here.

Chart Types For Resource Planning Visualization 

Resource managers use a variety of charts for resource planning visualization. This can be a part of visual project management or separate from it, depending on your work methods.

Like all communication, effective visual resources carry a message to an audience. The best way to communicate varies depending on the message you need to convey, so choosing the right chart is important for your audience to understand the data. 

Complex charts encourage users to take time to explore aggregated data, whereas classic visuals like a bar chart are best for communicating data clearly and quickly.

Each of the chart types below serves different resource planning purposes.

Charts For Organizing Resources

These chart types help organize data during the project planning phase.

Work Breakdown Structure

A work breakdown structure is a type of flow chart that organizes deliverable components within a project. By identifying the components and resources for each deliverable, the work breakdown structure helps project managers to optimize resource allocation and develop the project timeline.

Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed (RACI)

RACI, also known as a responsibility assignment matrix or diagram, outlines the roles and responsibilities of team members for each project task.

RACI may not be the best fit for agile projects because team member responsibilities may fluctuate as the project evolves. Some agile environments, like Scrum, adapt RACI to fit the project plan.

For a more modern approach to RACI, listen to our podcast episode with Cassie Solomon here.

Charts For Scheduling Resources

Once the project manager assigns resources, the next step is scheduling them.

Timeline Schedules

Timeline schedules provide a breakdown of the project from beginning to end. A Gantt chart is a common type of timeline schedule that visually represents task progress on a detailed level. 

A resource manager uses a detailed Gantt chart to visualize each component of the project calendar based on WBS data. Additionally, using project planning software lets the project manager easily modify the Gantt chart, making it suitable for agile project environments.

Kanban Boards

Contrary to a Gantt chart, which emphasizes timeline, Kanban boards prioritize individual tasks. Kanban is a project methodology with its own style of resource planning visualization.

Adopting elements of the WBS and Gantt chart, team members identify the appropriate production stage for a task (e.g., “To-do,” “Doing,” and “Done”) by moving it into the appropriate column on the board.

Resource managers use a Kanban tool in agile environments to prioritize a visual workflow, limit work in progress, and display forthcoming tasks.

Charts For Calculating Risk

Before finalizing a resource plan or project plan, project managers must consider potential project risks.

Cause-And-Effect Diagrams

Also known as fishbone diagrams, cause-and-effect diagrams outline risk factor data for resource managers. Risk factors include anything that can affect the scope, schedule, and budget of a project (also known as the triple constraints).

Matrix Charts Or Diagrams

Matrix charts are complex visuals that aggregate data to show relationships. By showing how many elements interact, matrix charts help resource managers to identify optimal personnel and other resources for a project.

An impact matrix, also known as a risk assessment matrix, is a common chart in a risk management plan. The impact matrix relates the probability and impact of risk factors to determine their severity.

Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, And Threats (SWOT) Charts

A resource manager develops a SWOT chart to analyze an entire project or specific element within a project, such as personnel utilization. SWOT charts present a holistic view of potential risks.

Software For Resource Planning Visualization

Resource management software goes beyond Gantt chart design to calculate resource utilization, resource availability, and even capacity planning.

Get help choosing the right resource management software here.

Why Project Managers Use Resource Planning Tools and Software

Resource planning software and tools help resource managers to do their job efficiently and effectively without jumping across applications.

Want to update the project schedule? Use the app. Want to see about resource availability? Use the app. Want to generate a risk report based on previous performance? Use the app. Resource managers can do everything they need to do from one central location.

Key Resource Management Software Features

A resource manager can plan projects efficiently using these key features found in many project management software applications:

  • Identifying and allocating resources within capacity planning limits
  • Viewing readily available aggregated data
  • Using multiple views to compare and edit data
  • Using visual creation tools to generate reports, diagrams, charts, and more
  • Creating automated, dynamic reports
  • Conducting project portfolio management
  • Communicating and collaborating using messaging, meetings, and live status updates.

Read more about common features of resource management software.

Need expert help selecting the right Project Resource Management Software?

If you’re struggling to choose the right software, let us help you. Just share your needs in the form below and you’ll get free access to our dedicated software advisors who match and connect you with the best vendors for your needs.

Learn More About Visual Resource Planning

Begin with our step-by-step project initiation guide to learn how to plan and protect your project from the start.

Make sure to subscribe to The Digital Project Manager newsletter for more on resource management and planning!

Sarah M. Hoban
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.