Let’s say you’re making cookies. There are several factors and resources you would need to think about in order to make those cookies, such as:

  • Ingredients: Do you have all the ingredients you need? What ingredients are you missing? How easy or difficult will it be to obtain those ingredients?
  • Tools: Do you have the right bowls, measuring cups, appliances, pans, and other tools necessary to make the cookies? How easy or difficult will it be to obtain those tools?
  • Time: How long will it take to make the cookies? Will additional time be required for things like preparing the dough or batter, or cooling the cookies down? By when will you need the cookies to be ready to eat or transport?

So, in order to form your plan for making the cookies, you need to consider all of these factors first. In the same way, you need to consider resource management when you build your project plan.

Because the Best Laid Plans…

Best practices for project management start with good plans.  If you build a project plan with the right level of task detail, solid estimates and reasonable deadlines, the project will be completed on time and on budget, right?  Probably not.

Even the best laid plans can run amok without proper resource management. If you do not also take the time to understand how your available resources affect the plan, then your project will quickly unravel before it even gets going.  All successful project plans should include a resource management component.  Without it, it is impossible to determine if you have the right tasks, estimates and deadlines.

How Tasks Affect Resource Allocation

Let’s start with the tasks.  You can break down a project into estimable pieces of work in a variety of ways.  The types of resources who will be working on the tasks and the skills they possess may determine the best way to design your work breakdown structure.  On the flip side, you will definitely need to assign resources with the relevant skills to tasks that require those skills.  Thus, you need to be able to access your pool of resources based on characteristics like department, location and expertise/certifications/skill sets.  As part of this resource management effort, you may also want to consider how the costs and/or efficiency of choosing between equivalent resources will affect the budget and/or delivery time of the project.

Work Estimates and Resource Allocation

Work estimates may also be affected by the resources you choose to do the work.  For example, you may choose someone with less experience who will take more time to complete a job in order to keep a low-margin project’s costs down.  In this example, you would increase the estimated hours for the task.  On the other hand, you might have a project where aggressive delivery dates are required.  In this instance, you could reduce the estimate by assigning a more experienced, albeit costlier, person.

If you do not have a good process for managing resource allocation and availability, project deadlines and scheduling are where you will suffer the most.  It will be extremely difficult to keep projects on track if you can’t reliably answer the following questions:

  • Who is available to work during the dates of this task(s)?
  • What other projects are they working on (e.g., how much time on specific dates), and how much work do they have remaining?
  • How can you quickly coordinate with other project managers to resolve any resource allocation conflicts based on work priority?
  • How many hours/day do they work, and is any of the time blocked off for overhead activities?
  • Do your preferred resources have upcoming vacation or leave time scheduled, and how will that affect the project schedule?
  • If you lack sufficient resources, how much time would you need from a contractor or new hire to complete the project?

All project scheduling is incomplete without a total picture of your resources and their availability to work on a specific project.  When you understand what your resources are doing through a process that accounts for cross-project assignments and overhead time, you will be able to plug that information in to your project and adjust schedules based on all of the factors that affect project work and delivery.