Any project manager will tell you that successful projects happen with accurate planning, dedicated teams, and nimble processes that allow you to adjust as you go.

Despite knowing this, only 30% of organizations complete projects within set timelines according to a recent report.

That means there’s a huge opportunity to better plan projects and deliver on time and budget.

Starting with resource planning.

But what exactly is resource planning, and how can you incorporate it into your project management process?

In this article, we’ll look at:

  • What is resource planning?
  • Why is resource planning important?
  • Types of resources in project management
  • 5 steps for effective resource planning

Let’s dive in.

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What is resource planning?

Resource planning is a process where you review your project plan and figure out what you need to complete the project before it even begins. You’ll need to take in various factors and allocate resources (including your team, materials, etc.) accordingly. Proper resource allocation and planning keeps budgets and timelines on track.

That’s the overview, but let’s back up a bit. What’s a resource?

A resource is anything you need to get a task done. It can fall under a wide variety of categories, from materials and supplies all the way to time and skilled team members.

Resource planning helps control project costs. Project managers who have a handle on their team’s capacity can create clear and achievable timelines, and make sure they have all the pieces in place to complete the project.

You don’t want to realize halfway through a project that you need to hire a freelancer. That disruption can pull valuable resources away from completing the project and into hiring and onboarding.

Similarly, resource planning allows for seamless asynchronous work to happen. Project managers who plan out their resources are able to designate tasks that can happen at the same time by different team members.

To do this, you’ll need a statement of work or a project charter as a guide. Once you’ve clearly defined the goals, you can plan out what resources you will need in order to accomplish them.

Why is resource planning important?

Managing resources well brings quite a few benefits to your business. However, this step often overlaps with other areas within project management, including capacity planning, creating timelines and schedules, and workload management.

It’s difficult to separate out the benefits of resource planning alone, so we’ll cover the reasons why a more comprehensive focus on planning can help your organization reach its goals.

It maximizes efficiency

Teams who want to complete a lot of work in a short amount of time need clear timelines. Things don’t just fall into place on their own. (And if they do for you, please share with the group.)

As an example, let’s look at a landing page project for an advertising campaign. You need to have the page live by the time your marketing campaign launches. Many of the design and writing resources are shared between those projects, so you can’t just kick off the team and see what happens.

Resource planning is like putting a puzzle together. When done well, you have balanced workloads and tasks aren’t overlapping or piling up at any stage. This keeps the volume of work for each person manageable, which saves you from lengthy backlogs and burned out team members.

It boosts profitability

Planning not only makes your team more efficient and productive, but it also makes your company more profitable.

When you’ve planned out your projects and team responsibilities, you don’t have to worry about excessive downtime tanking your profitability. Not having enough work for your team means that you are paying them without having any billable work to cover it.

It’s a common issue in agencies that work on large projects vs. ongoing retainers. There are usually busy times and lulls, so planning for that and scaling appropriately can help you financially weather both.

The flip side of not having billable work is being short-staffed at a critical time. This could put you up against a tough deadline, resulting in higher expenses when you hire more workers. It could even mean missing those crucial milestones.

This applies to other resources, as well. No one wants to pay rush shipping. Especially when it’s because you miscalculated the number of tiles needed to complete a bathroom remodel project, and your tiler is only available for the next two days.

Those last minute changes can add up fast, or force project delays.

It helps smooth out scaling

You might be able to take each project as it comes now. As your business grows, you’ll need to be able to forecast for when the volume of work increases.

Making resource allocation a regular part of your planning helps you identify roles that you’ll need, and prioritize hires.

Take an e-commerce business, for example. As the demand for orders grows, you might start considering hiring a logistics manager, inventory staff, a digital marketing strategist, a social media manager, and finance and accounting professionals.

But what growing startup has that kind of budget?

When you audit your resources and know what’s available to you, you might find that you actually need better software, or to outsource work to a separate firm.

Other times, that role is so valuable to your business that you need to bring on a dedicated team member.

This is easier to know once you have a clear grasp on your resources.

It clarifies roles and responsibilities

Beyond hiring, this process ensures that everyone’s skills are used most effectively.

When you don’t have a good grasp on available skills and workload capacity, you get a mismatch that can take more time than you had budgeted, or produce a lower quality product.

Hubstaff time and activities report

Keeping an eye on hours and activity rates per team member can help you identify who has availability and who is overloaded.

Your goal is to assign the person with the project best suited to them, which ultimately saves everyone time and effort.

But what types of resources do you have to work with? And how can you plan to use these resources effectively?

Types of resources in project management

Here are some common resources you may have to consider when starting a project:

  • Budget
  • Materials
  • Team members
  • Hours

Let’s take a look at a builder as an example. They’ll have to consider the blueprint of the house, and figure out what resources they need on hand to build it.

They’re going to want to:

  • Know exactly when the house needs to be built and when the owner plans to move in
  • Price out materials and get the budget approved
  • Hire a project team to pour concrete and lay the foundation
  • Find workers to build the frame
  • Hire masons to lay the brick
  • Hire a landscaper
  • Assign a project manager
  • Order the supplies needed to make the house move-in ready

Once they’ve done all that, they need to check other project plans to make sure crews aren’t double booked on other client projects.

If the builder doesn’t carefully plan to have the right resource at the right time in the project schedule, this project could get confusing fast.

5 steps for proper resource planning

So how can you be more effective at resource planning?

Here are five detailed steps to get started right away, and guide your project to success.

Step 1: Assess and audit your project resources

Before you start working on any project, know what resources you have available to you.

Whether you’re building a house, an app, or a piece of written content, you need to know exactly what steps to take along with the roles and materials that are required.

So how do you audit your resources?

  • Use a spreadsheet or project management tool to list your team, and figure out what their role is in the project
  • Check in with your team and identify areas for growth and development
    • This can help you fill gaps that you might have otherwise hired for
  • Identify each resource’s strengths and past performances
    • How effective and on-time have they been in the past?

Use your project management tool to see who is assigned to tasks, and who may need more tasks assigned to them.

ClickUp workloads

Step 2: Create a project timeline and schedule

A resource plan will allow you to plan exactly what is needed, from start to finish. A resource plan is like a builder’s blueprint: without that blueprint, the builder will only be guessing on what needs to be done.

Creating a resource plan will help you:

  • Prioritize tasks
  • Create realistic deadlines
  • Allocate tasks to the correct people

An important part of any project is creating a project plan. You may also know of this document as a project charter, project plan, or even a statement of work.

This will help you know exactly what needs to be done, what you need to do in order to get things done, and when tasks must be completed.

Using a project management tool and a time tracking app will help you manage resources over multiple projects, handle scheduling like a professional, and avoid resource conflicts that could lead to a delay in your project delivery.

A Calendar view or Timeline view on a resource planning tool means that you’ll be able to see a clear timeline of your project deadlines, and even drag and drop the tasks to reschedule them.

ClickUp project planning

Step 3: Allocate tasks

Figured out all of your tasks that need to be completed to finish the project?

It’s time to start assigning tasks to your team so that they can complete them. Here are a few guidelines that will help you assign tasks effectively.

  • Assign tasks based on your team member’s strengths. Assigning an accountant to a task that would be better done by a mason would not be effective.
  • Assign tasks based on availability. You’ll have to factor in a freelancer’s availability compared to a full-time team member’s workload, for example.
  • Assign tasks with clear guidelines and expectations so that your team knows exactly what is expected of them, and how they can be successful in achieving the project goal.

Step 4: Share with the team and start working

Once the plan has been created, stick with it.

Any changes to your project plan will impact your resources, and may even cause you to not complete your project on time.

Sometimes, during a project, small changes happen. These changes are called “scope creep.” While they may seem like they are small changes, ultimately, they could completely derail your project plan.

That would be like the builder getting started on the house, and then deciding to add a chimney halfway through.

Since that wasn’t on the blueprint, they may not have ordered enough bricks.

Avoid scope creep by following the resource plan that you have created and be clear with your client about how you’ll tackle changes. A change might mean pushing back the move-in date, or a higher cost for the client as you bring in more people to keep the project on track. Communicating what constitutes scope creep upfront is key.

Step 5: Regularly evaluate resource allocation

Once you’ve started your project, don’t take for granted that everything is working correctly.

Regular one-on-one meetings with your team ensure they have the resources they need to be successful. This will also help you know if people are feeling burnt out or overwhelmed with their workload.

If the builder checks in with the masons and finds that production has been slowed due to hotter weather, the amount of time originally allocated for any brick work may not have been enough.

Through regular check-ins, the builder could see this in advance, and make any adjustments to the project plan. For example, adjusting working hours so the crew is on site during cooler temperatures to help the process go smoothly.

Additionally, taking the time for regular check-ins with the client will make sure they’re on board with every phase, so there aren’t changes late in the game.

Step 6: Use a resource planning tool

Project management tools like ClickUp or Hubstaff Tasks help busy project managers create and follow a resource management plan.

These tools will help you create a resource schedule and work toward achievable due dates.

Workload views allow you to assign tasks to your team, and see at a glance who’s overworked, and who is an available resource.

ClickUp resource planning

Features such as Gantt charts or Timeline views visualize a project from start to finish, and even mark project milestones.

ClickUp flowchart

And best of all, ClickUp integrates with Hubstaff to help you track against your plan. You’ll get notifications if projects are approaching budget limits, and all the time tracked to a task will show up in ClickUp.

You can even plan resources using the Agile project management features that Hubstaff Tasks offers. Plan out Sprints for more focused work, visualize Roadmaps and Timelines so that you can see overlapping tasks, and use daily Stand-ups to identify bottlenecks.

ClickUp project chart

You’re up

Never get caught without enough resources to finish your projects. Through careful resource planning, you’ll always be able to complete projects on time, and under budget, impressing your clients and teams.