Resources are varied. Everything from the people you’re working with and the equipment they’re using, to the materials and other supplies you need, to even the site where you’re working: it all falls under the umbrella of resources. That’s a lot to allocate! Let’s define resource allocation and then run through some allocation tips.
What Is Resource Allocation?
Resource allocation is an important part of and resource scheduling, which is the scheduling of tasks and the associated resources that those tasks require to be completed. Part of resource allocation is knowing the availability of your resources and scheduling them to coincide with your project timeline.
When allocating resources, it can be for the project or non-project activities, such as administration, support, operations, etc. These resources can be either fully or partially available, which has to be taken into account when scheduling resources. When the project scope changes or project requirements change, resource allocation must also pivot to accommodate these changes.
As difficult as it might be to allocate resources correctly over the life cycle of a project, it’s an essential part of any thorough project management plan and should be done in the planning stage of a project. This helps keep costs down, maximizes productivity and helps with team morale, as well as facilitates client satisfaction by achieving the best outcome and successfully delivering the project.
Once you’ve identified your resources and you’re ready to allocate them to tasks, add them to your project management software. That way you can coordinate them with your project schedule and distribute them across your team. In ProjectManager for instance, you can manage your project schedule, your team and your non-human resources in one place. Build your schedule on a Gantt and track your resource distribution, progress and labor costs in one software. Try it free today!
How to Allocate Resources on a Project
Resource allocation is a plan that you develop with the aim of making the most of the available resources at your disposal in a project, which makes it a critical resource planning activity. This is mostly a short-term plan set in place to achieve goals in the future.
This sounds challenging, but don’t worry we’ve got your back. The following are some general tips to help you with your resource allocation when managing a project.
1. Know Your Scope
Before you can allocate your resources or manage them, you have to determine the scope of the project you’re working on. Is it a big or small project, long or short?
Once you have those questions answered, then you can make the right decision on what resources you’ll need and how many of them are necessary to complete the project.
The clearer the project scope is, the better you’ll be able to figure out how to allocate your resources. Therefore, take the time to get the full picture of the project prior to doing any resource allocation.
2. Identify Resources
You know the scope, objective and tasks for your project needed to be on time and within the budget approved, now you have to get your resources together.
But that doesn’t mean you have an unlimited pool from which to pull. So, you have to see who’s currently available, what equipment you’re going to need or purchase and where are you going to perform the tasks for this project, and is that space available.
Before you can allocate resources, you have to have them. So, make a list using the criteria above and then make sure it fits within the budget allotted for the project.
3. Don’t Procrastinate
You’re a project manager. You live and die by your planning. Resource allocation is no different. Waiting until something has gone awry means you have to scramble to get it back on track if that’s even possible.
It’s inevitable that resources will need reallocation. What plan have you ever created that was set in stone? Therefore, in the planning process, you should take some time to research where and when you might have a blocked team member or task dependencies.
By setting up a resource plan and noting these red-flag warnings, and more importantly figuring out how you’ll respond to them, beforehand, you’re prepared to handle them when they arise. And they’ll always arise.
Related: Resource Planning Template
4. Think Holistically
It’s a problem when you’re so focused on the process that you neglect to lift your head up from the project plan to note what is actually happening. This isn’t merely checking your estimates against actual progress in the project, though that is important, too.
What you must always be aware of is the state of your resources. For example, what is the schedule for your team, are any taking vacation time, are they sick, etc.? Also, what is the duration of the lease for the site or equipment? These are important questions to ask when scheduling resources.
Don’t let any of these details get past you because of tunnel vision. Look at the whole project, not just the various pieces, as captivating as it can be to lose oneself in project metrics.
5. Know Your Resource Dependencies
One way to allocate resources is by not having to allocate them at all. This isn’t as mystical as it might sound. It involves something far less magical and more practical, planning.
By planning beforehand, you can avoid bottlenecks that trap your resources when you need them most in the course of the project execution. Planning also helps you keep your resources from falling short. This doesn’t mean you won’t have a bottleneck or resource shortage, but it’s less likely if you know your resource dependencies.
Part of planning for dependencies is having a contingency plan in place in case team members are blocked or you run low on needed resources. Keep your plans from being over-dependent on one resource to avoid trouble down the line.
6. Track Time
You always want to keep a close eye on the time, how your team is working and if they’re being efficient. It’s your job to make sure that a task that can be completed in a day doesn’t take a week. There are ways to improve time tracking.
To do this you must keep track of your team’s workload. That requires the right tools to give you real-time data collected on one page where you can both see and schedule ahead when needed.
7. Use Tools
Project management software, like ProjectManager, is a great asset to managing your resources more productively. With an online tool, you get project data instantly updated.
You can see where your resources are allocated across a calendar that is color-coded to note whether they’re on- or off-task, on vacation or sick. Rescheduling to help a team member who is overtasked is a simple click of the keyboard.
To see exactly how much project and resource management software can help you allocate resources, watch the short video below. It illustrates all of the benefits of our scheduling features, real-time dashboards, team management tools and more. When there are so many resources to manage, and so many stakeholders to satisfy, do yourself a favor and invest in a tool that will make your life a little bit easier.
8. Don’t Over-allocate
Many managers over-allocate, whether because of poor planning or an inability to say no, which doesn’t help. Instead of bringing in the project on time and within budget, over-allocation threatens team burnout.
Be honest. Do you suffer from this bad habit? If so, stay vigilant and avoid it. If you don’t, there’s a good chance you’ll tarnish team morale and the quality of their project work.
It’s unfair to expect so much from your resources that they break. Re-examine your resource plan and make use of it to allocate the resources you have for the project evenly.
9. Be Realistic
While it’s good practice to be prepared for issues that might arise in your project, you don’t want to hog resources by adding too many people or days to your schedule.
When you do this, you’re skewing the project estimate and messing with the effectiveness of long-term planning. It’s going to take from your bottom line.
Remember when we mentioned comparing your estimated to actual utilization? This is where that process helps keep you properly allocated. Using a tool, as we noted above, is also key to getting an accurate sense of how the project is going.
10. Have a Routine
As a manager, you plan and then you execute and monitor. It’s all very structured. But sometimes things like resource allocation falls through the cracks, which is only going to come back and haunt you.
Therefore, you want to set up regular check-ins, say a specific day and time every week, to go through your resources, check your PM tools and make sure no one is over-tasked for the week’s work ahead.
Another thing you can do is speak with your team members, get a sense of what’s going on with them on the front lines of the project, and ask if they have any issues. By setting up a routine check-in and keeping updated with your PM software, you get a clear sense of your resources.
11. Know Your Resources
You can’t manage what you don’t know. You should know the experience and skills and personality of very resources that you’ve tasked or allocated to support the project.
For example, you should create a profile for each of the members of your project team. What are their skills and experience? The more you know about them, the better you’ll be able to place them in the project and assign tasks that they can best perform.
You probably have something like this already from when you were assembling your team and had written a job description for each of them. Keep those files up to date as their skills and experiences broaden. This is essential for meeting project requirements.
12. Use Resource Reports
You can reallocate if you don’t know where you’re resources are allocated. You might have planned them out well, but change happens in projects. How can you tell what is happening on the ground as compared to your plans? Reports.
You can generate all sorts of reports to give you a full picture of the project and how it’s progressing, which helps you balance your resources. For example, there are resource reports that give you an overview of your team’s workload and whether they’re over-tasked or idle.
Task reports keep you updated and variance reports help you determine whether the project is proceeding as planned. The latter gives you vital information, such as if you’re behind schedule and need to redistribute the work to get back on track.
Free Resource Allocation Templates
Resources allocation requires accurate and timely data to avoid bottlenecks that can slow down your project. Project management software is the most efficient way to manage your resources, but if you don’t have an online resource management tool there are templates that can help. ProjectManager has free templates for every phase of your project, including ones to help with resource allocation. Here are a few.
Before you can allocate your resources, you need to understand what’s required. The free requirement gathering template for Word acts as a means of communication between the stakeholders and the project team. This ensures quality deliverables that meet specifications.
You’ll also need to organize your resources before you can properly allocate them. Our free RACI matrix template for Excel is a place where you can define the roles and responsibilities of the team members. RACI stands for responsible, accountable, consulted and informed, and the free template helps you place everyone involved in the project within one of those quadrants.
Now you’re ready to build a resource plan to help you manage your resource allocation. Our free resource plan template for Excel lists all the resources you’ll need for the project, how much each will cost and a monthly, weekly or daily chart of when you’ll need them. This helps you organize and schedule your resources: each tab on the template can be customized to match your production schedule.
If you’re looking for a project management tool that can help you implement those tips and manage your resources properly, then look no further. ProjectManager has all the features mentioned above to help you manage your resources, and it’s cloud-based software, which means the information you’re working with is in real-time. See how it can help you by taking this free 30-day trial today!