- November 18, 2020
- by Ola Rybacka
- No comments
The project is a process, consists of the steps tightly connected. How we start it affects how it ends – if we struggle with the beginnings, finishing it successfully can be hard to achieve. To avoid possible failures, it’s good to maintain a step-by-step project schedule and stick to it as much as possible. This plan should include resource scheduling results, but how to go about it to make sure it’s enough for the assumed timeframe?
Table of Contents
What is resource scheduling?
The crucial part of project resource management and planning:
it’s the process of assigning the resources to these parts of the project they’ll be responsible for.
Once project managers know the resource availability, they can estimate the project’s start and end dates (and for each stage).
Resource scheduling provides an effective utilization of resources. It gives you the answer to how long the project and its stages will take, considering the assumed resource available.
What are the consequences if a company doesn’t schedule the resources?
If a company doesn’t know about the availability of the resources at the current period of time, it will lead straight to the:
- unexpected resource shortages,
- increased project costs,
- lower project revenues,
- work overload,
- overwhelmed employees,
- higher risk failure for each project stage,
- unexpected hiring needs (and no money for it!),
- lower team morale and unhealthy atmosphere,
- exceeding the deadline (and possible revenue loss if stated in the agreement).
It sounds pretty scary. Not performing the proper resource schedule can break the companies, especially the smaller ones, where customer loss is high. However, even good prospering companies should assume the worst scenarios calculating the resources needed to avoid the nasty surprises. Let’s stop making it scary, and on the contrary, we’ll discuss now…
What are the benefits of project management resource planning?
The process of resource planning helps companies manage resources wiser. It also provides the project managers with the knowledge and experience that is precious for future works:
- ensures effective resource utilization,
- shows the true team capacity,
- makes the scheduled start and end date more realistic,
- makes the project managers sure the project is delivered not only in time but also on a budget,
- points the resource shortage as they appear,
- helps to react in time and reduces the risk of bad consequences of the shortage,
- allows estimating the costs and compare it with the actual cost,
- allows monitoring the progress,
- provides project managers with data necessary for making the simulations of further projects.
Resource Scheduling Essentials checklist
An organized project is way easier to maintain. One of the most life-saving planning tips is creating an essentials checklist. It’s something like a template for the scheduling process – once made and used will serve you for the next ones.
Of course, you can adjust the list for the different project it when necessary, but it should at least contain the followings items:
- skills needed in the particular project,
- employees with these skills,
- need for hiring additional workforce,
- project roles,
- team member availability,
- estimated budget,
- estimated duration,
- start and beginning date,
- time for possible delays,
- available resources different than human ones (e.g., devices, office space),
- possible resources from outside (does your project assume outsourcing or hire part-timers?)
- consequences of the delays (based on previous experience or what’s in agreement).
Feel free to copy and use it for your next project resource scheduling for each new project!
Most useful resource planning techniques
As I mentioned before, following a thoughtful plan helps you to stick to the dates effortlessly and without unexpected situations. But many of us aren’t sure how to create such a plan, and it’s especially tough for the newbies when it comes to project scheduling. That’s why let me show you some of the most useful yet simple techniques that will help estimate work capacity and how many resources we need to finish the project on time and within budget.
When it comes to resource management, many of us prefer to use visual ways. They show a clear overview of the resource availability – one glance is enough to find out if we’re sticking to the assumed schedule. One of them is a Gantt Chart, a concept made by a Polish engineer, Karol Adamiecki, and developed by another engineer and management consultant, Henry Gantt, in the early 20th century. It works easily: shows the tasks over time. The project’s outline is shown across the timescale, so we’re able to tell instantly if we’re on the right track with resource planning, and therefore – our project.
The perfect Gantt chart contains details like below:
- start and end dates of the project,
- tasks included,
- start and end dates of tasks,
- who’s responsible for a particular assignment,
- tasks duration,
- groups of tasks if there are any.
In the beginning, charts were created on paper, but in the online era, we have plenty of Gantt chart tools that automate this process. They are packed with features like task tracking, dependencies, milestones following, and sometimes time monitoring. Not only it’s a convenient solution, but also eco-friendly because it turns the resource scheduling paperless.
Critical Path Method
If you’re not afraid of mathematical analysis, choose the Critical Path Method for your projects. CPM usage helps you predict if the possible delay of one of the project’s stages will exceed an entire project’s estimated duration.
What is important, you define all the tasks within the project before creating the path. CPM points all the tasks that should be finished before starting a new one – it means the team can’t start the new assignment before the previous one isn’t done. Using this method, you create the longest path showing dependencies between activities and milestones (or dates for deliverable items). If some of the tasks will need more time to finish them than estimated, the entire CP structure or the relations between tasks may change.
The biggest advantage of CPM is showing critical points of projects. It helps managers determine the people resources needed to finish the project on time. A well-designed project assumes the longest path and a few shortest and parallel ones. Finishing the last task on the CP means the end of the entire project. Remember: once you use a particular critical path, it won’t be the same for different projects.
Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT)
Another mathematical technique for better resource scheduling visualization. Like in CMP, to use this method, the first step is to determine all the tasks and their order. The difference is that the duration of PERT tasks is variable, and in CPM, it is determined.
PERT helps you to estimate the different durations for the project, based on the levels of confidence:
- optimistic timing,
- most-likely timing,
- pessimistic timing.
However, PERT is a CMP variation; it’s way more skeptical about the time needed to complete each project stage. It helps managers estimate the time risk for finishing the tasks and the entire project and takes it more subjective.
Not every project consists of tasks following each other; many can be performed simultaneously. Fast-tracking points them and speeds up the project delivery.
This technique’s rule is pretty simple: you add extra resources to your schedule to be sure you won’t exceed their availability at each stage of the project. Sometimes it’s a lifesaver, but it can be a bit risky since you have additional resources.
Do I need resource scheduling software?
In online times, resource scheduling software is a must! First, it turns the entire process paperless, storing the gathered data in the cloud. It’s always accessible since most of the tools available on the market offer their web, desktop, and mobile versions.
What is more, they allow the entire team to collaborate on the documents in real-time, so each team member is up to date with changes made for their assignments. The resource management process is then fully automated, so managers don’t have to waste time filing papers manually. Depending on features the software is offering, the team’s workload is visualized in different ways (e.g., timelines, charts, kanban dashboards). It clearly shows who’s working on which tasks, and in case of making changes, you can, e.g., drag and drop users to assign tasks to them.
How time tracking helps you schedule resources?
Using time tracking software and analyzing data it provides, you know how much time the particular tasks usually take — for example: your team members on time for each activity during the workday. The activities are assigned to the particular projects and tasks common for the organization. In the reports section, you can see the summarized time gathered for each project. It can be divided by task; you can select everyone from your organization, a single group of people, or a single user. These reports give you a clear overview of how the team performs at a particular stage, so you can predict how long should future similar projects take.
Hint: TimeCamp – its unique project tree structure allows you to create as many tasks and subtasks as you wish, so you can create a clear overview for, e.g., time spent on all activities performed for one customer).
What is more, if the hours tracker is packed with an attendance module, you’ll be able to consider any possible delays caused by the employee’s holidays, vacations, or sick leaves.
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Resource scheduling isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but it can ensure the success of your business if done properly. Knowing the true resource capacity makes teams less overwhelmed, helps avoid the workload, and makes the scheduling just more effective. Implement it at your company and find out that using it, the next step of project management like resource allocation will go smooth!