A key part of project management is properly managing resources to complete tasks efficiently, on schedule, and on budget. However, scheduling resources—which include people, equipment, or facilities—is often a complex task.
It involves allocating and scheduling resources based on resource capacity, availability, effort, as well as project scope. Organizations run into trouble by either over-allocating resources or under-allocating them, which can impact profitability, client satisfaction, employee trust, or relationships with third-party vendors.
Effective resource scheduling helps solve problems associated with resource availability and work capacity in various ways. Here are the key benefits of implementing resource scheduling into your operations.
1. BETTER ORGANIZATION
Projects often include various teams, departments, locations, vendors, and resource types. Resource scheduling helps you organize all aspects to effectively plan and complete the project.
DEFINE THE PROJECT
The first step is to define the scope of the project. List all the tasks needed to complete the project, and every job involved with completing each task.
DETERMINE THE TIME
Next, you need to estimate the time duration and effort for each task of the project. This may include the number of hours, days, or weeks a task will take, the amount of manpower needed for each task, or the percentage of usage required.
Each task will have constraints, so it’s important to plan for them. Examine each task for any specific restrictions. It could be a deadline, specific skills required, time of day work needs to be done, weather restraints, or other dependencies.
2. SMART TASK DISTRIBUTION
Once you know all the tasks and jobs involved with the project, you have to distribute those tasks among your various resources. But distributing tasks evenly isn’t always the best solution. You need to distribute tasks smartly, which resource scheduling tools can help you do.
The first step in smart task distribution is identifying the resources needed to complete every task of the project. This includes looking at your consumable and reusable resources and determining the quantity required or the total effort needed for the tasks.
Next, check the availability of the resources required. This includes looking at the equipment needed for each task and whether that equipment is being used or will be needed for other projects.
As for people, you’ll need to track their availability as well. A scheduling platform makes this task more efficient because it enables you to determine when more staff is needed, respond to time-off requests accurately, and find replacements quickly without disrupting output or delaying tasks.
MATCH CAPABILITY WITH TASKS
You not only match resources with tasks based on availability, but also capability. Consider the strengths and weaknesses of workers. While one worker may be available for a task, another person may have the skill to do the task faster, so you may need to schedule the task around his/her availability to meet deadlines.
A good way to manage this is having a resource capability database, which records the specific skills and abilities of each worker. It will help you schedule your human resources faster and easier.
3. BETTER ESTIMATES
Sometimes project managers make incorrect estimates on time and budget without properly evaluating their ability to meet those estimates. Instead of guesswork, these steps will help you make accurate estimates.
Estimates are complicated, especially when done with traditional methods. Many project managers make these evaluations manually either by firsthand knowledge, guesswork, feedback from the team, or spreadsheets. It all leads to imprecise estimates.
When you use a scheduling platform, it provides reports and analysis of past projects. You can review how long similar projects took, the track record of employees on certain tasks, and the number of resources needed.
You’re unlikely to have unlimited resources or time, so you’ll have to make adjustments. You should prepare for those issues in your estimates. There are primarily two ways to reconcile limits and constraints: resource smoothing and resource leveling.
When you’re under time constraints, such as when a project has a definite deadline, resource smoothing delays some work and removes flexibility, but it is usually more efficient and cost-effective. Resource leveling is used when you have restraints on resource availability. In this method, start and finish dates are adjusted based on resource constraints.
In most situations, you’ll use a combination of smoothing and leveling to complete the project.
4. REAL-TIME DATA AND ANALYSIS
Monitoring resource consumption in a project is critical to timely delivery and cost efficiency. Using technology to monitor your project in real-time provides key data and analysis.
Since resources and employees assigned to a project may be in different locations or on different teams, it’s important to have a centralized system that provides full visibility into how resources are being used.
Software solutions provide these insights to help you see how the project is progressing in real-time with daily reports.
BE READY TO RE-ALLOCATE
No matter how well you initially allocated your resources, projects change along the way. With proper real-time analysis, you can see if you have over-allocated or under-allocated your resources.
Realizing these issues immediately allows you to make necessary adjustments without sacrificing delays in the project or increasing labor cost by paying overtime because workers are taking on more tasks than necessary.
Sometimes delays are necessary for various reasons. Data analysis can help you predict them in advance and adjust deadlines well ahead of time instead of at the last minute. Last-minute deadline adjustments can leave you scrambling to re-allocate resources and can cause even longer project delays.
5. PLAN IN ADVANCE
Resource scheduling helps you plan ahead for future projects by anticipating future capacity and demand. Here are some ways it helps you prepare.
Proper scheduling allows you to evaluate which resources are in high demand. You can schedule your projects well ahead of time and delay future tasks based on constraints you anticipate.
Resource scheduling also involves evaluating trends. You take into account seasonal highs and lows and adjust your scheduling to anticipate bottlenecks and low activity periods.
IMPROVE EMPLOYEE TRUST
Resource planning also improves employee trust. When you have an accurate system, it doesn’t put any undue burdens or demands on employees. They trust the schedule because it gives them proper insight into busy times so they can plan days off well in advance. This improves the work environment and employee accountability.
Resource scheduling is essential to project management. Without proper resource scheduling, projects don’t meet deadlines, go over budget, and put added strain on employees and resources.
The process can be complex, but a resource scheduling platform makes it easier by helping you identify resource availability and capacity, properly allocate resources, make better estimates, and analyze data for better decision-making.
If you’re looking for a resource scheduling solution, Visual Planning can help you track and allocate your resources in an easy-to-use platform.