What Is Resource Planning?

Resource planning organizes, identifies and lists the resources required to complete a project successfully. Resources are assets that are required to execute a project; a resource is a broad category and includes equipment, tools, supplies, materials, time and people.

A proper resource plan will map out the exact quantities of the necessary storable resources (such as cash) and non-storable resources (like machinery or labor). Considerations made during resource planning factor greatly into the scheduling and budgeting of projects.

Related: 25 Free Project Management Templates for Excel

Because it’s so important to align your resources with your budget and your project schedule, it’s best to use a project planning software to get everything organized in one tool. ProjectManager makes it easy to manage resources, budgets and project schedules in one online platform.

ProjectManager's resource planning dashboard

What Are The Components of a Resource Plan?

A resource plan aims to use resources in the most efficient manner possible, thus contributing to the overall productivity of the project. This is furthered by properly allocating your project team where their skill set will take the project the farthest. The best bet is to have a constant flow of resources and make sure you’re using them wisely and productively.

When resource planning, you should ask yourself the following questions about the most key components:

  • What are the roles of the project team?
  • What are the procurement needs of the project?
  • What types of contracts are required?
  • Are there any pre-qualification methods needed?
  • What criteria will be used to select contractors or vendors?
  • How much of the budget is allocated to resources?
  • How will performance be measured in the project?
  • What policies and procedures will be used?

Resource Plan Key Terms

To better understand how to manage your resources in projects, we should first break down different key terms that are often associated with resource management.

Remember, resources are more than just your team—they’re also your equipment, assets and office space. They’re everything, in fact, that has a cost required to complete the project.

  • Resource Plan: A detailed list of resources and the ways you will manage them throughout the project. The more detailed, the better.
  • Resources Breakdown Structure (RBS): A resources breakdown structure creates hierarchies of resources, according to the hiring organization (like a reporting structure or team hierarchy) or by geography (such as all the teams or equipment required in Asia or Africa). Include all resources on which the project funds will be spent, but it’s up to you to define which type of hierarchies are relevant to your project. Its execution is similar to a WBS.
  • Responsibility Assignment Matrix: A responsibility assignment matrix defines resources according to various levels of responsibility for completing project tasks or for the overall project. Clarify the roles and responsibilities of the entire project.
  • Resource Overallocation: Overallocation simply means when a person is given too much work, which can impact the budget and even derail a project. It’s crucial that resources are balanced, so you’re going to need a way to stay on top of your team’s workload throughout the life cycle of the project.
  • Resources Histogram: This provides a visual of the resources for anyone in the project who needs to stay in the loop. It’s a quick and easy way to view the allocation of your resources and note whether any are over- or under-allocated.
  • Resource Dependency: This refers to a theory that an organization should guard against having all their eggs in one team basket. That is, over-reliance on one team to accomplish core work (especially if it’s an external team) can lead to workload blocks and resource shortages.
  • Resource Leveling: Leveling resources is a juggling act, whereby you manage resource availability across a project or across multiple projects. It can be accomplished by extending the duration you had planned for certain tasks to be accomplished by adjusting the start and end dates, depending on whether you have the resources to complete them now or not.

Related: Free Resource Plan Template

Stages of a Resource Plan

There are four main stages to resource planning one should follow to ensure your bottom line stays firm and you are able to get the available resources when you need them. This is also called the resource management life cycle.

Before the project starts, begin to figure out the resources you’ll need to execute it. This includes the budget for those resources to make sure your project is profitable, and getting sign off from stakeholders. To start this process, the project resource requirements must first be decided upon. Then, you can think of filling the types and amount of roles that will be required.

1. Ascertain Resources

After you’ve evaluated the situation and determined what the objectives of the project are, you have to select the right strategy and estimate the resources that you’ll need to reach that goal. Resource forecasting must be thought through as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. These resources include labor, materials, equipment, facilities and others, such as admin, subcontractors, etc.

2. Procure Resources

You need to start to assemble your team according to the skills and experience the project requires. Equipment must be sourced, and contractors secured. Some of the aspects of this stage of resource planning include developing team roles, procurement needs, contracts, budgets, measurements to judge performance and any policies and resource optimization procedures.

3. Manage Resources

At this point, you need to define the roles and responsibilities of your team, who is doing what. Subcontractors’ roles also need to be defined. If you’re using tools and equipment that is being rented for the project, then you must make sure they’re returned in a condition that meets the requirements of the contract. Any facilities must be maintained, too.

There will be issues, of course, and when they occur you have to identify, define, investigate and analyze, solve and then review.

4. Control Resources

Somewhat different from managing resources is controlling your resources, which means monitoring the resources during execution to make sure they’re delivering the results that are expected of them. What this boils down to is something called the resource utilization rate, which measures how efficiently you use the resources.

If the utilization rate is too low, action must be taken, such as a cost-benefit analysis. You should always be evaluating outcomes to make sure you stay on track.

What Is Resource Management Software?

Resource management software is a tool that assists in the planning and scheduling of projects. It’s used to manage your team, tools, equipment, materials and so forth—all of which are crucial to your success.

Project management training video (j0c2p3ibzq)

Your resources all have costs associated with them, and are often used for a limited period. These expenses and timeframes must be managed to align with the schedule. Resource management software lets you plan with these resources in mind, then allows you to allocate them and track who’s working on what and when.

A resource management tool will help you track costs and time related to your resources in order to make sure you use them as planned and are sticking to the project budget. Microsoft Project is one of the most commonly used project management software, but it has major drawbacks that make ProjectManager better for resource management.

Desktop vs. Online Resource Management Software

Desktop and online resource management software share many features. This can make it difficult to choose which is the right solution for your project. They both allow managers a high-level view of the project resources. This makes it easier to quickly view the resources needed and provide just the right amount.

You can also generate reports with both a desktop and online application. For example, project status reports are critical to make sure you’re not overspending. They’re also a communication vehicle to present to project stakeholders and keep them updated on progress.

Pros of Desktop Resource Management Software

There are big differences between the two, however, and if you’re looking for security and speed, the desktop model might be best. Desktop applications can be more secure if they don’t require an internet connection. Of course, neither desktop or online software are guaranteed to offer impenetrable security, but the desktop probably does have an edge there.

Speed is also a factor. Desktops are not at the mercy of the strength of your online connection. Of course, if your internet connection is severed, then your online tool will not function at all.

Pros of Online Resource Management Software

While desktop software might have advantages in security and speed, those gaps are rapidly closing. Advancements in two-factor authentication and Single Sign On can provide an incredibly secure experience.

Online has other advantages that desktops can never achieve. The major difference is that an online resource management tool is going to have real-time data, which is crucial when managing resources to keep the project running smoothly.

Real-time data means better decision making, but it also creates a platform on which your team can collaborate. This leads to greater productivity, meaning your resources will go further. Having features that connect teams to work through their tasks together helps with efficiency and building better teams.

Finally, an online resource management software can be accessed anywhere and at any time, if there’s online connectivity. That means teams that are distributed across the globe have access to the tool and can even work together. It also means that all your project documentation is centrally located and also available when and where you need it.

Benefits of Online Resource Management Software

Managing resources requires real-time data to keep track of your costs and the time spent in order to maintain your budget and stay on schedule.

Online resource management software gives relevant and timely information because you don’t have the luxury of waiting when the success of your project hangs in the balance. But that’s not all you get, the following are more advantages related to using an online resource management tool:

  • Track resource costs
  • View availability of team
  • Balance team’s workload
  • Integrate resources into project plan
  • Automatic calculation of actual vs. planned costs
  • Keep updated on team’s hours with automatic timesheets

Must-Have Features of Resource Management Software

There are lots of resource management software options on the market. To choose the one that is best for your project, make sure it has these features:

Assign Teams & Track Resources

When building your project plan, schedules must include team assignments and the related resources they’ll need to execute their tasks. Interactive Gantt charts do all this online, giving you a tool to assign and track project resources that stay on budget and deliver on time.

Gantt Charts image

Track Your Team’s Work

Timesheets have become more than a tool for payroll. Resource management tools can have timesheets that automatically reflect your team’s status updates. This not only streamlines the process, but gives managers an invaluable view into their team’s progress.

Timesheets image

Know Who’s Working on What

To keep teams working productively, you need to know how many tasks they’ve been assigned. Having a view into their workload can help you re-allocate as needed to make sure they’re not overburdened. Balancing workload also makes sure your resources are being used efficiently.

Workload Management image

Keep Updated With Live Information

An online resource management tool collects live data to help managers make better decisions. But you also need a system in place to keep managers and their teams aware of any updates. A tool that triggers email alerts is a must, one that has in-app notifications is essential.

Alerts & Real-Time Data image

Get Easy, Flexible & Detailed Data

Reporting features collect data on the progress and performance of your project and give you insights into how to best manage your resources. Having a report that can be easily shared with stakeholders and filtered to focus in on specifics is ideal.

Reports image

See Resources Across Many Projects

Managers are often responsible for more than one project, such as a program or portfolio, and want a tool that can assign, track and report on all their projects. This allows you to find synergy between projects and have them all work together for greater efficiency.

Portfolio Management image

How to Execute a Resource Plan in ProjectManager

Resource management software assists project managers with planning and scheduling their project resources. It’s usually included as part of a suite of project management features that are designed to manage every aspect of your project.

ProjectManager is an award-winning software that’s designed to identify, organize and monitor your resources with robust online Gantt charts, real-time dashboards and one-click reporting that let you stay on top of everything. Here’s how it works:

1. List All Your Tasks

Gathering all the necessary tasks and determining the level of effort for a project is the first step needed to define your resources. You need to know what you’re doing before you can determine what you’ll need to do it!

Collect all your tasks on the task list view or Gantt chart view in our software. Add estimated start and end dates to populate the project timeline on the right side of the Gantt chart.

ProjectManager's task list view is critical for resourcemanagement

2. Add Your Resources to the Tool

Resources are your teams and the things they’ll need to execute their tasks. All of those resources must input into the software in order to manage and track their progress.

Onboard your team by inviting them to the project with the global add button in the top right corner. They will receive an email with a link. Once they follow that, they’re in and ready to start tracking their work.

3. Define Resource Costs

Calculating the cost of your resources is how you manage your budget. Keeping track of those costs is how you maintain your budget.

Add the labor rate for your resources, and set the cost by hours assigned. Our software automatically does the cost calculations for you as your team logs their hours and progresses through their tasks.

4. Schedule Resources on the Gantt

Resources (that aren’t people) need to be attached to tasks and added to your schedule to keep track of their costs throughout their life cycle in the project.

With ProjectManager’s Gantt chart you can create a resource calendar. Add your nonhuman resources the same way you onboarded your team. You can set their costs, then track them later in the project to keep on budget.

assign resources on a gantt

5. Track Time

Monitoring the hours logged by your resources is how you make sure they’re adhering to the project plan, schedule and budget.

Use timesheets to track the hours your team logs as they work. Their time updates are automatically reflected throughout the software.

Timesheet view in ProjectManager

6. Balance Resources

Once the project is executed, it’s crucial to keep your resources matched with your production capacity, making sure you have just what you need, when you need it.

Keep your resources level by checking the workload page. Here, you’ll see a color-coded chart that shows if team members have too many or too few tasks. You can then reallocate their tasks from this page.

7. Report to Stakeholders

Stakeholders are the people who are invested in the project. They will want to stay up-to-date on progress and performance.

Generate reports on workload with a single click. Filter to show the data you want, then easily print or save as a PDF to share with your stakeholders.

ProjectManager's workload features are perfect for resource management

Ready to start managing your projects, tasks and resources in one tool? Take a free trial of ProjectManager.

Creating a Resource Management Plan: An In-Depth Look

So, those are the basic terms and processes. But how can you use them to create a process, schedule your resources throughout the project cycle, and monitor those resources within the boundaries of your budget, without overburdening them and risking team burnout? Lucky for you, we’ve covered the basics of resource planning before, and it can be distilled into a super basic three-step process.

First, note all your resources, including people, equipment and materials. Next, figure out how many of those resources are needed to get the project done. Finally, make a schedule for the resources. Drilling down, however, it’s important to make sure you have all the components of a good resource plan. It should include the following.

  • All the Resources Necessary to Complete the Project: That’s everything from people to machines and even any office space you’ll need. Spend a good amount of time with this list, the more complete it is, the more accurate your schedule will be.
  • Timeframes For the Planned Effort of Each Resource: By noting the duration of time needed for each resource, you have a clearer picture of how it will fit into your overall schedule.
  • The Number of Each Resource You’ll Need Per Day/Week/Month: Again, you want to break your resource needs out on a daily, weekly and monthly rotation to better grasp what you’ll need and when.You can use a resource histogram to help you with this process.
  • Quantity of Resource Hours Required Per Day/Week/Month: You’ve figured out what you need, but how many hours for each of those resources are you going to allocate over time?
  • Assumptions and Constraints: An assumption is what you think might be true, while the constraints are the schedule, cost and scope of your project. So, you want to know what they are and how they’ll potentially impact your plan.
  • Resource Constraints: In addition to the traditional project management constraints that affect how you manage resources, there are specific resource constraints that you’ll need to be aware of.

Think strategically. Are you assuming a team will be available in three months? Do you know for a fact they won’t get assigned by another group leader for a separate project? Have you taken into account holidays and scheduling shifts?

Identifying all your assumptions is a critical component of planning your resources wisely.

Resource Management Best Practices

That’s the makings of a solid resource management plan. Now you need to know how to actively manage your resources as your project progresses.

You can do this when you have visibility into resource availability and workload. Because work shifts from person to person, as people collaborate back and forth, work can easily end up on the shoulders of only a few key team members. This can mean others are sitting idle waiting for them to reply or toss the work back. You need to be able to monitor those workflow trends and be able to quickly reallocate idle resources.

So how do you do this? There are four ways you can keep on top of the resources workload.

1. Manage Work Schedule Calendars Actively

You need to be able to track the hourly and daily availability of individual resources, as well as track their planned holidays and vacations. Be sure to take into account global or regional time differences, as well as different global holidays that might differ from your home office holiday calendar.

2. Monitor Progress on Gantt and Dashboard

You can also consult the planned versus actual progress of your overall project to get a head’s up if there’s a problem with resources. A Gantt progress bar should tell you how much progress is being made on a specific task according to the planned effort. You should also be able to see whether progress is made on individual tasks with shading on the larger task bars.

ProjectManager’s dashboard view, which shows six key metrics on a project

You should also be able to get a view of the whole project’s progress both by looking at a rolled-up view of the Gantt tasks or on a dashboard report. If you’re falling behind, usually moving around resources is a way to get back on track.

3. Review Workload Allocation

The team’s workload is another metric you’re going to need to keep close. If all the work is being laid on the shoulders of only a few team members, while the others are idle, then you’re going to need to reallocate your resources.

Another way of looking at this is leveling your resources by ensuring that they are equally distributed across your team. Checking on workload is a daily part of keeping your resources well-allocated.

4. Get Resource Reports to Monitor Productivity

When you’re watching your resources in real-time, and the project’s success is on the line, then you’re going to need to make decisions swiftly. Use the reporting feature of your project management tool to produce reports on resource allocation, as well as task progress by an individual. It’s important to monitor resources regularly with deep dives into data to measure productivity KPIs like output and actual effort.

Remember, resource management is heavily linked to your scheduling and management of your project management schedule. These are different but complementary disciplines, and the more holistically you approach managing your resources, the more you’ll be able to act in a timely manner to keep your project moving towards success, on time and within budget.

Therefore, you want to have the right resource management tools to keep you informed of your resources while the project is in progress, whether that’s collecting data in an Excel spreadsheet or a more robust online PM tool. Using an online Gantt chart gives you a visual view of the project’s tasks, their durations, and whatever dependencies are linking one task to another, so you’re able to note bottlenecks and easily reallocated resources to get the project back on track. Try ProjectManager today to take advantage of the best resource management tools on the market.

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