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Resource Planning Visualization: Software, Charts, & Why Do It

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What Is Resource Planning Visualization?

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

A Gantt chart, for instance, is a visualization tool that allows members to forecast and track progress on the project plan. Resource planning visualization makes resource management more efficient and effective for the manager and their team.

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 visualize key milestones for effective project planning, review resource allocation, and engage in resource capacity planning.

The adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” captures the essential benefit of visual resources. Visual models reduce time and improve productivity by communicating massive amounts of information in a condensed space, but these graphics require planning. And establishing a process for developing visual resources will help to ensure clear communication through the graphics.

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

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

Steps In Visual Resource Planning

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

Whether or not you are new to visual resource planning, completing each step in the resource scheduling process can seem arduous at times. Start with the below recommended planning steps.

While these steps are important to visual resource planning, keep in mind that many projects now work in an Agile environment. In Agile project management, production relies heavily on flexibility, collaboration, and interaction to change the path to product completion. As a result, project managers often design these steps within resource planning software that allows for adjustments to the project plan.

1. Work Breakdown Structure

As part of the project initiation phase, many resource managers begin to visualize project resource planning with a work breakdown structure (WBS) to outline tasks for team members. The project manager often uses the WBS to create a Gantt chart for laying out the project schedule.

2. Project Scheduling

Resource managers must think through employee roles, responsibilities, and skill levels when building the project schedule. By basing project scheduling decisions on this information, resource managers can optimize the schedule to best fit the requirements and deliverables.

Building the following elements into the project schedule can also make the project more efficient:

  • Standard operating procedure (SOP)
  • Project milestones
  • Project deliverables
  • Status reports
  • Icons
  • Color coding

SOPs explain the processes team members need to follow to complete tasks and what tasks each member is responsible for.

3. Data Analysis

Next, you must understand data from past projects alongside data from your current project. This data includes team member performance and availability. And you must evaluate project risks and assess the project’s feasibility within those constraints.

4. Finalize Project Schedule

Lastly, you’ll finalize your project schedule and make necessary information understandable to your team. Infographics, maps, diagrams, charts, and other graphics help with visual resource planning for resource managers.

Chart Types For Resource Planning Visualization

Resource managers use a variety of charts for resource planning visualization, and each chart lends valuable support to the process.

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 represents data for different resource planning purposes.

Charts For Organizing Resources

These project management resources organize data for early in the project or resource plan.

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 resource management allocates responsibilities from the start, though some Agile environments, like Scrum, adapt RACI to fit the project plan.

Charts For Scheduling Resources

Once project management assigns resources, the next step is resource planning for the schedule.

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 work breakdown structure data. Additionally, a Gantt chart tool in project planning software allows easy modification and, thus, supports Agile project environments.

Kanban

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

Adopting elements of the work breakdown structure and Gantt chart, team members identify which production stage a task is currently in (e.g., “To-do,” “Doing,” and “Done”) by moving a task tracker into the appropriate column. Resource managers use a Kanban tool to prioritize a visual workflow, to limit work in progress, and to display forthcoming tasks in a highly Agile environment.

Charts For Calculating Risk

Before finalizing the resource plan or project plan, project management needs to consider risks to the project.

Cause-And-Effect Diagram

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, quality, schedule, budget, and risk probability of the triple constraint theory framework.

Matrix Chart Or Diagram

Matrix charts are complex visuals that aggregate data to show relationships. By showing how many elements interact, matrix charts help resource management 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. For instance, a resource manager categorizes a risk factor as unacceptable if it has a high probability of occurring and high impact on the project.

A Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, And Threats (SWOT) Chart

A SWOT chart is a simple project management tool that organizes details that fall within each of the four chart topics. A resource manager develops a SWOT chart to analyze an entire project or specific element within a project, such as personnel utilization.

Software For Resource Planning Visualization

Project management changed with resource management software. Resource management software goes beyond Gantt chart design to automatically showing resource utilization, resource availability, and even capacity planning.

  1. monday.com

    Best for building custom workflows across teams

  2. ClickUp

    Best for unlimited users/seats

  3. monday.com

    Best for end-to-end solutions

  4. Smartsheet

    A work execution platform with content collaboration features, forms to collect data, multiple permission levels, and dashboards to keep marketing teams in sync

  5. Screendragon

    Best robust and customizable marketing project management software

  6. ClickUp

    Best free plan for marketing project management software

  7. monday.com

    Best for annotating and versioning

  8. Smartsheet

    A work execution platform with useful content collaboration tool features and project dashboards to keep creative teams in sync

  9. Screendragon

    Best creative operations project management solution designed for high-performing in-house & agency teams

  10. ClickUp

    Best free plan for creative project management software

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, all in one place.

Key Resource Management Software Features

A resource manager can project plan efficiently using these key features 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

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. Once you know how to develop your project, learn how to visualize the project and its resources in our article on resource allocation for project managers, where we model the processes in the Runn app. After all, visualization is the first of four pillars of resource management. Keep in mind, too, that each resource planning tool will have its own workspace to learn.

Some other software you might find helpful includes:

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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