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Managing Schedules
In-Depth Guide To Resource Availability In Project Management

A project cannot succeed without extensive resource planning. This seems like a no-brainer, but a resource plan is more than just words in a document. Before your team can bask in the glory of a project well done, a project manager must take an active role in resource availability.

Project resource management is a methodology that includes resource availability, resource planning, and resource management. Project resource management is a living process that helps guide your project from start to finish and ensures proper resource utilization.

Resource availability and resource allocation are more than just spreadsheets full of data. Fortunately, I know all about resources and project plans. Let’s take a closer look at these terms, what they mean, how they function, and what all this means for your project and your team.

In this article

What Is Resource Availability?

Before a project can even get off the ground, a project manager needs to take stock of resource availability. Broadly speaking, resource availability is the number of resources needed to complete a project and their availability. There are multiple factors in determining resource availability. Let’s break each down for a closer look.

People Resources

Whether you can pick your team or not, consider how your project team aligns with the project’s requirements. Planning people resources is one of the most important resource forecasting tasks to complete, and it requires constant reevaluation.

  • 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 for your project?
  • People resource availability: What other scheduling conflicts could arise and compromise your team’s efficiency? For example, general meetings can take up hours of 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

Your project more than likely doesn’t exist in a bubble.

  • 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?

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 your resources, but there are multiple variables to consider.

Defer to the Experts

Whenever possible, confer with experts in your field who are familiar with your project’s purpose and goals. If this isn’t possible for your entire project, look at the smaller objectives in your project. Have objectives like yours been completed elsewhere in your team or in the company? Reach out to other project leaders for their opinions on resources and how to allocate them.

Expect the Unexpected

There are many ways to solve your project’s problems. While it might seem like there’s one best way to do that, it’s unwise to build your entire project timeline around one solution. Analyze other solutions to your project’s goals. If only one person is qualified to tackle a specific project goal, you’ll need to ensure you have a backup plan in case (or, more accurately, when) something changes.

Track Your Internal and External Data

What other resources can you use to help you determine resource availability and allocation? Refer to subject matter experts and data from other projects (within and outside your team and company) for guidance in resource allocation.

The Theory of Constraints

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

This is an ongoing process during a project’s life cycle. It is a part of resource availability, resource planning, and resource management. It is also useful in deep dive analysis after a project’s completion.

There are five steps in this process:

  1. Examine each process in your project’s resource plan. What is the limiting constraint that slows or derails progress? This is often the weakest link.
  2. Resource utilization—what resources can you 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 it.
  5. Address new constraints, and continue the cycle.

It’s also important to consider whether other teams play a role in your project. Are there deliverables required from external teams for your team to succeed? These are constraints that can also impact your project.

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

Resource Management And Optimization

After a project manager has determined resource availability and allocated those resources, they can then focus on optimizing resource usage.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all plan when it comes to resource management, but here are a few common techniques that project managers use in resource management.

Resource Utilization

Resource utilization is an analysis over time that helps to identify which resources are over- or underused. This is especially useful in human resources because employees who are overutilized tend to burn out. This can impact your project’s development and success.

There are several resource utilization metrics that you can use to understand how your resource are being utilized and if they are being utilized optimally.

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. This analysis helps determine if current resources are sufficient to address new gaps in the project’s requirements.

Related Read: Project Management Resource Leveling: A Resource-Optimized Scheduling Approach

Resource Forecasting

Resource forecasting ensures that project managers have resources allocated to address any problems that might arise during a project’s lifetime. This skill isn’t just about the current project, however. Resource forecasting also allows project managers to keep track of their current capacities in preparation for additional projects with different requirements. The data accrued from one project is always useful in preparation for the next.

Resource Planning and Allocation 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.

Related Read: 10 Best Free Resource Management Software In 2021

By Ben Aston

I’m Ben Aston, a digital project manager and founder of thedpm.com. I've been in the industry for more than 15 years working in the UK at London’s top digital agencies including Dare, Wunderman, Lowe and DDB. I’ve delivered everything from film to CMS', games to advertising and eCRM to eCommerce sites. I’ve been fortunate enough to work across a wide range of great clients; automotive brands including Land Rover, Volkswagen and Honda; Utility brands including BT, British Gas and Exxon, FMCG brands such as Unilever, and consumer electronics brands including Sony.

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