Project resource management: 3 steps to master your skills

  • October 14, 2020
  • by Ola Rybacka
  • No comments

Many companies, especially agencies and firms from the IT sector, show some difficulties with project kickoffs. They often go all the way, forgetting about planning everything step by step to gain insights about resources that are currently available. In line with the principle, “it’ll work somehow,” project managers struggle to complete the project without asking people to stay at the office until late night. But indeed, there are smarter ways of dealing with it without risking your employees’ mental health.

Today, we’ll guide you through the troublesome subject of project resource management!

First things first, let’s start from scratch – what exactly is project resource management?

According to the Project Management Institute (PMBOK Guide – Project Management Body of Knowledge, 6th Edition):

Project Resource Management includes the processes to identify, acquire, and manage the resources needed for the successful completion of the project.

It doesn’t sound complicated, but knowing many companies fail at resource management, it’s easier said than done. The problem lies most likely in the lack of relevant knowledge, unclear expectations, and poor management skills. But there’s no need to worry about it.

Marylin Monroe used to say:

Just because you fail once, it doesn’t mean you’re going to fail at everything.

Let’s take the advice to heart and dive more into effective resource utilization.

I’ve split the article into the parts outlined in the definition: resource identification, acquiring, and management. In each, we’ll try to explain how time tracking can help you solve the pressing issues.

Project resource management step by step!

Step I: Identify the resources

A good project manager should be at least decently oriented in resource availability. But in the multitude of different tasks, we often forget about the basics and their importance for a projects’ success.

Prepare a resource breakdown structure

First and foremost, dig more into human resources. Once you find out the project purposes, define:

  • number of employees needed to deliver the project in time,
  • team members with matching skills,
  • their availability, especially considering the projects they’re already involved in or are booked for.

Once you know they’re fully available to join the project, you’ll be able to create a list of employees that can participate. If you think there’s loads of work, nothing more wrong! Time tracking works great in resource planning, providing project managers with useful data on employees’ availability and team capacity.

Don’t forget to make detailed notes through this process! Use mind mapping or task management software to keep it safe and accessible in one place.

Is time a resource in project management?

Although it might seem as somewhat of a silly question: of course it is, and in fact, together with human resources, it’s the most precious one. Knowing less or more, how long the project will take helps you adjust the number of people assigned to it. To align the projects’ timeline, use PERT (Program Evaluation and Review Technique).

PERT assumes three confidence levels of the project’s delivery time:

  • Optimistic timing
  • Most-likely timing
  • Pessimistic timing

Learning from the experience, we should know that optimistic timing is only a pipe dream. We often struggle to achieve the most likely one. That’s why it’s common sense to follow the pessimistic scenario to stick to the end without a sense of failure.

Once we find out the possible project timeframe, we know which metrics should be the most important for us when analyzing data gathered by time tracking software.

Learn from the past projects

TimeCamp, with its unique project tree structure, allows creating as many projects, tasks, and subtasks as needed. First, it’s perfect for resource leveling, and it works two-way:

  • each employee, being assigned to the part of the project they’re involved in, know well what their job is,
  • the project manager has full transparency on resource allocation.

Second, the breakdown allows us to get detailed insights on how the team’s work time is consumed across the projects. Analyzing the reports, based on the previous works, managers can estimate how long the next projects will take, including all the steps assumed. Knowing how many person-hours the team needs to deliver the project on time, it’s much easier to assign a specific number of people to it and recruit the new employees, if necessary.

🛎️ In TimeCamp, you can choose from a wide range of reports to analyze the team’s performance and current resource utilization (find the full list here!).

Register your FREE TimeCamp account and give the reporting a try!

Step II: Acquire and allocate the resources

The first step may have seemed rather dull and tedious, but completing it means we can finally move from planning to taking action! Instead of daydreaming about possible ideas and scenarios, managers can turn the knowledge they’re gained through resource planning into solid project foundations.

Always be one step ahead

Once you know who’s available right now, you can assign employees to the specific parts of the project. Allocate the responsibilities carefully and equally to avoid the situations when some of the team members are booked up more or less. Being overwhelmed leads straight to the burnout that can seriously affect the project’s future.

When doing resource allocation, always remember to leave some space in case of unexpected. We can’t predict the future at 100%, so we should always consider something that will go wrong through the process. It’s especially important when it comes to the human factor.

Let’s see: right now, we know that Mrs. X or Mr. Z is fully available for the estimated duration of the project. But what happened if, during the weekend, one of them would break the leg while enjoying their free time? Without having resources covered for this kind of situation, it sounds like serious trouble that makes the project’s success go away.

Let the tools work for you

To always see the management process in a bigger picture, use resource management tools. They provide managers with insights on the team’s workload and current employee availability. Some of them also show the employees whose skills match precisely the project’s requirements – sounds pretty useful, doesn’t it? They also help teams avoid scheduling conflicts and provide managers with insights on hiring needs.

Among all the resource management software available on the market, these tools drew our attention:

  • 10,000ft by Smartsheet – a complex tool for project staffing that delivers valuable insights into the team’s capacity. Pricing starts at $25 user/mo,
  • Resource Guru – convenient, calendar-like tool that shows clearly who’s already booked or not. pricing starts at $2.50 user/mo,
  • Forecast– rich-packed tool that provides teams with a holistic view of how resources are utilized across the projects. Pricing starts at $29 user/mo,
  • Mavelink – perfect for managing resources and creating a big picture for distributed teams. Pricing starts at $19 user/month,
  • Float – planner-like resource management tool with a clear, colorful interface that keeps managers up to date with the team’s workload. Pricing starts at $5 user/month,

Not forget to mention, TimeCamp also serves companies as a resource management tool! As mentioned before, its complex project tree structure shows clearly who’s been already assigned to which project. What is more, thanks to the attendance feature project manager stays up to date with team members’ availability, knowing if they requested for vacation days or sick leaves.

Step III: Manage the resources

Since the most challenging parts of resource management are ahead of us, the third step seems to be the easiest one. Nothing more wrong, so we shouldn’t let our guard down. Why? Because managing resources means the continuous evaluation of the decisions made before. All to make sure that resource allocation and identification went well.

This is the moment when TimeCamp’s budgeting comes with a helping hand.

Compare actuals with estimates

The budgeting feature provides managers with clear insights on how the estimated resources are consumed during the project. It also sends an email reminder to notify that the time budget for the tasks is either exceeded or nearing exceeding (80%). Turning the notifications in Settings, you’ll never be surprised you’re running out of the resources earlier than expected.

What is more, time tracked for the project can be quickly compared with the budget, thanks to the Estimates report. Managers can compare the estimates with work time that has already been recorded to see if it matches the earlier assumptions. Perfect for being switched on!

screenshot of timecamp estimates screenshot of timecamp budgeting feature

Create transparency

Proper resource management letting your employees know precisely what their job is. First and foremost, introduce your employees to the projects’ objectives, goals, and estimated delivery time. Explain their role in the project and the parts they’re involved in. Then, use task management software to create a transparent project structure, with all tasks detailed and team members assigned. Also, don’t forget to track time for each task (hint: TimeCamp offers integration with most of the popular task managers on the market ✅)!

Let’s wrap it up

Well, project resource management may seem a little bit complicated at the beginning, especially for these who didn’t pay much attention to this process before. However, doing it carefully, step by step gives the managers full control over resource availability and consumption during the project timeframe. Gained knowledge allows us to react and solve burning issues faster, minimizing possible loss or hire when needed.

All of that is new for you? Nobody is born an expert, cheer up, and follow the steps mentioned above! 🔝

Any questions? Leave them in the comments!

Ola Rybacka

Social Media Manager at TimeCamp, copywriter, content designer. Loves books and jazz/rock/celtic music. Ph.D. and speech therapy student. Find her on Twitter: @Pidzuchna

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