Identifying and Overcoming Resource Constraints in Project Management

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Resources are what you need to execute your project plan—people, equipment and materials. Managing those resources is part of how you deliver a successful project.

Each task in your project plan will have project resources like  people, time and a budget attached. Therefore, you must know their availability to schedule them. That’s a resource constraint, and project managers must learn how to manage those constraints in order to keep the project moving forward.

What Are Resource Constraints in Project Management?

A resource constraint is any limitation and/or risk associated with project resources. Identifying these resource management constraints is part of the project planning phase. Resource constraints are roadblocks that can derail your project and prevent successful delivery.

Constraints impact every aspect of the project life cycle. In fact, the most common constraints in project management are referred to as the triple constraint; time, cost and scope. Projects have a budget (cost), a deadline (time) and the project manager must know exactly what the project will include (scope).

While the triple constraint is the most well-known in project management, they are by no means the only ones. Outside of the resource management constraints that we’re talking about today, there are quality, customer satisfaction and other restraints. All of them will impact your project.

Managing your project resources and having the tools to quickly allocate what’s needed is what project management software does. ProjectManager is a cloud-based software that lets you organize, track and allocate resources to match capacity. Manage your resources with online Gantt charts that work seamlessly with our resource management features. Try ProjectManager for free today!

ProjectManager's Gantt chart
Manage resource costs with ProjectManager’s interactive Gantt charts. Learn More

The Potential Impact of Resource Constraints

Resource constraints are most often associated with cost. The project budget determines the experience and skills of the team you assemble, as well as the nonhuman resources you can acquire.

That’s why availability is such an important component of resource constraints. Without managing resource availability and resource allocation during a project, you can quickly find yourself with excellent materials—but no team to use them. (Or, an expert team that doesn’t have the equipment it needs to execute its tasks.)

Therefore, cost, availability and access are all tightly woven with managing resource constraints in a project. This is especially impactful on a project when the project manager is responsible for teams who are distributed geographically, which can further complicate the the resource management process.

Resource Constraints Examples

Constraints are factors that limit or restrict a resource’s use. Resource constraints are varied, but usually share one thing in common; cost. People, places and things all cost money, whether by salary, rental or purchase.

If you’re working on a construction project and need to rent heavy equipment in March to dig a ditch, but all the machinery is under contract until summertime, that’s a resource constraint. You must identify and resolve these constraints in the planning phase of a project life cycle.

In the example above, the project manager would look into reserving equipment, perhaps by selecting an alternative rental company. Either way, they should make these decisions long before any ground is broken on the project. Those decisions are documented in a resource management plan, which is a project planning document that defines how project resources will be managed. Failure to do so is a sure way to fall off schedule and overspend your budget.

Tips for Managing Resource Constraints

Now that we understand resource constraints, let’s discuss some of the best practices to use. Following these project management tips can help with your overall resource management:

  • Be Strategic: Before you manage anything, you need to develop a strategy and ensure it aligns with the corporate strategy. This requires knowing what you’re trying to accomplish, how you’ll determine success and what will help you accomplish your goals.
  • Know Project Requirements: Know your deadlines, milestones, goals, budget and the key competitors. Requirements gathering is worth the extra time and effort it takes to set up your project for success.
  • Have a Contingency Plan: You can identify and prepare for resource constraints, but there are always going to be resource management issues that come out of the blue. Don’t let it sideline you. Have a Plan B, C or D for the unexpected. You might not know what will happen, but you should have a contingency plan to know how you’ll respond.
  • Track Time: Resources, like projects, are limited in time. You should know how long you’ll need them and track how long you’re using them. This is very helpful when you’re dealing with repetitive work. It’s possible you’re not allocating the right amount of time.
  • Prioritize: Not all tasks are equal, and therefore, not all resources are going to be evenly distributed. Take time to prioritize your work. Define the difference between urgent and important, and know the effort required so you can resource your schedule properly.
  • Use Project Management Software: Having software that plans and tracks your resources saves you time and effort. You want features that give you real-time data and make it easy to reallocate resources when necessary.

How to Do Resource-Constrained Scheduling

Without resource-constrained scheduling, resource constraints are only abstract. Resource-constrained scheduling deals with scenarios where resources are limited and lets you devise ways to ensure you complete tasks on time.

Completing projects under resource constraints requires problem-solving. It takes a creative project manager to look at the project and determine how to shift resources to address constraints. To do this, project managers need to balance the triple constraint resources, so this might mean taking from the budget, schedule or scope. Whichever constraint is used, the end result must be a project that continues to meet its deadline and budget.

Projects can fail, or not be completed if you cannot resolve resource constraints. Resource-constrained scheduling is often a balancing act. If you can’t hire enough people to manufacture a product and meet demand, then you might seek cheaper materials or reduce inventory.

There are risks to the quality of your deliverable and the satisfaction of your customer base, of course. You need to take into account all of these results as you make and adjust schedules.

How ProjectManager Helps With Resource Constraints

Obviously, managing resource constraints and creating resource-constrained schedules requires a great deal of flexibility. You need more than a spreadsheet to manage all those changes. ProjectManager is cloud-based software that gives project managers greater insight into their resource constraints so they can respond quickly and effectively.

Create a Resource Plan on a Gantt Chart

The first thing to do is organize all your resources, and the best way to get this complicated data on one page is with ProjectManager’s interactive Gantt charts. Use it to list your tasks and add planned resource costs to them. Dependencies can be linked, and milestones set.

ProjectManager Gantt chart

Manage Your Resources in Real-Time

People are your most important resource, and are often the hardest to manage. ProjectManager’s resource management features help you manage your team more effectively. First, you can set their availability. Then, as you assign them tasks, use the color-coded workload chart. You can reallocate their work right from the chart to help them work more productively.

ProjectManager's workload chart

View Your Team’s Progress on Kanban Boards

Get transparency into your team’s workflow with kanban boards. They allow the team to manage their backlog while managers get visibility into their team’s work. They can see any upcoming blocks, and reallocate resources to keep the team working.

kanban board view from ProjectManager

ProjectManager is award-winning software that organizes schedules and updates resources in real time to manage projects successfully. Keep track of your team and nonhuman resources to deliver projects on time and within budget. Try ProjectManager free today!

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