Successful project delivery is usually a result of efficient management of both workflow and resources. In a multi-project environment, ensuring productive work of team members gains even more importance: resources are shared by concurrent projects, and their fruitful work on them will be impossible without wise resource management.
What do you need to know to manage project resources with maximum efficiency? Read further to find the answers.
Resource Management: Definition and Importance
PMBOK defines project resource management as a process of identifying, acquiring, and managing resources required to complete a project successfully. Project resources can be divided into three categories: human resources (employees with necessary skills), material resources (equipment, facilities, materials, tools), financial resources (funds required for successful project completion). Human and material resources can be either acquired from a host organization or from external sources.
The main mission of resource management is to ensure that the right people work on the right project at the right time. The results of efficient resource management are as follows:
- All projects in the company are staffed with employees, and there are no unexpected resource shortages;
- The tasks assigned to the team members fully correspond to their competence levels;
- The project team members work at their full capacity and have comfortable workload: none of them is overworked or idle;
- People show high productivity levels;
- Projects can be delivered on time and within budget even when resources are limited.
Achieving these results becomes possible thanks to a set of resource management activities. Let’s take a closer look at them.
Essential Resource Management Techniques
Resource capacity planning
Resource capacity planning is the process of determining the number of resources required to meet the project needs, i.e., forecasting the gap between available employees and the required ones. Capacity planning allows a resource manager to determine whether there’s a demand for more employees to complete the current and upcoming projects. The main functions of resource capacity planning are as follows:
- Preventing unexpected resource shortages;
- Optimizing employees’ workload;
- Preventing cost overrun resulting from resource shortages;
- Preventing project delays caused by employee unavailability.
Planning resources’ capacity is especially important for large organizations running numerous projects with a shared pool of resources.
Resource allocation is the process of assigning employees to project tasks in accordance with their skills, capacity, and availability. It also involves distribution of material resources required for the project completion (tools, equipment, facilities) between the project tasks. Efficient resource allocation contributes to:
- Balanced workload and right resource utilization: project tasks are assigned based on employees’ capacity, so, there a low probability of their under- or overload;
- Enhanced productivity: when people work on the tasks that perfectly match their skills, they deliver better results.
One of the approaches to resource allocation is resource scheduling.
Resource scheduling involves determining each task’s start and finish dates based on the availability of employees required for their delivery and scheduling these tasks accordingly. Resource scheduling has the following benefits.
- Employees will have a clear view of how much work they are expected to deliver and be aware of the timelines.
- It helps project managers monitor the general project timeline to make sure that the project’s due dates won’t be missed.
- A resource manager will be able to monitor the capacity vs. demand and take corresponding measures.
However, this method has some disadvantages. First, projects have more constraints than just resource availability. Second, such an approach (establishing tasks’ start and finish dates) can negatively affect team members’ productivity – they can be trapped by Student syndrome or Parkinson’s law.
Workload management means keeping track of team members’ workload and making sure the project tasks are distributed optimally between the people. It takes into account task priorities as well as team members’ capacity, availability, experience, strong and weak points to ensure that they are productive, feel comfortable with their workload, and fulfill their potential. Proper workload management eliminates two major productivity enemies: overwork and idleness. In the first case, team members become overwhelmed, stressed, make mistakes, and can become a bottleneck for the whole environment. In the second case, in addition to being unproductive, employees can become indifferent about their responsibilities and lose engagement.
So, the main purpose of proper workload management is to ensure that employees work at their full capacity but aren’t overworked, which increases their productivity, engagement, and contributes to better project outcomes.
Resource optimization techniques
Sometimes, there can be resource allocation difficulties – e.g., when one employee is required for several project tasks at the same time, or tasks are distributed unevenly. To resolve these challenges and optimize resource utilization across projects, a resource manager can use resource optimization techniques – resource leveling and resource smoothing.
Resource leveling is applied when the number/amount of resources is limited, and it will be impossible to complete the required scope of work without overallocating them. The main purpose of this technique is to resolve resource conflicts and prevent employees from overload.
Resource smoothing is applied to balance the uneven distribution of resources and avoid peaks and troughs of resource demand within a fixed timeline. In contrast to resource leveling that is based on resource constraint, resource smoothing deals with the time constraint, i.e., a project timeline cannot be changed. The main function of resource smoothing is to ensure balanced distribution of resources across project tasks.
In addition to mastering resource management components and techniques, a competent resource manager should be aware of current trends in the domain.
Recent Trends in Resource Management
The world changes, and the approaches to managing project resources should be aligned with these transformations. PMBOK points out the following major trends in the present-day resource management.
- Emotional intelligence (EI).
EI is important for both a project/resource manager and team members. First, it helps manage people more effectively thanks to understanding their needs, motives, etc. Second, team members with developed emotional intelligence collaborate more efficiently. Third, it contributes to the reduction of turnover rate.
- Self-organizing teams.
With the increasing popularity of Agile approaches, self-organizing teams have become more common, especially when it comes to IT projects. Such teams perform their functions without centralized control. They are only provided with support when needed and are empowered to make decisions.
- Virtual or distributed teams.
Globalization trend along with pandemic with its remote work requirements has made distributed teams a common phenomenon that is here to stay in every industry. Despite a number of advantages, managing distributed teams is associated with certain challenges – cultural and time differences, tracking progress, and maintaining effective communication.
In general, recent resource management approaches focus on a more collaborative and supportive management style and optimized resource utilization.
To ensure that the resource management process runs like clockwork and to be able to implement the above-mentioned trends into practice, you can leverage the right resource management tool. Let’s review its opportunities in the section below.
Resource Management Software: Essential Functions
RM solutions provide resource managers with comprehensive support at all stages of the resource management process. An example of such a tool is Epicflow – a resource management solution designed specifically to meet the needs of a multi-project environment. Here are its most essential functions contributing to maximum efficient resource management.
Improved resource allocation
Epicflow has several tools to make this process productive.
To allocate resources properly to project tasks, you should take into account their competences, capacity, and availability. Keeping all this information in spreadsheets and using them in the resource allocation process is far from efficient – when there are thousands of people working on numerous projects, it will become an all-consuming task. But Epicflow can change the situation:
- it keeps all the data regarding employees’ competence levels, availability, and capacity;
- it has a resource allocation advisor: it uses the above-mentioned information to suggest a team member who’s a perfect candidate for completing a certain task.
Setting the right priorities across projects
Our system analyzes real-time data to prioritize project tasks, so that a resource manager can allocate people accordingly. Epicflow takes into account employees’ availability, so there are no chances to allocate two tasks to the same team member.
Improving resource allocation decisions
In some cases, it may be difficult to make the right decision due to uncertainty. This is where Epicflow’s What-if Analysis comes into action. In our system, you can run simulations of various changes to the project environment, see their consequences, and come up with the best possible decisions regarding resource allocation.
Monitoring employee’s performance
Monitoring performance is one of the most important activities of a resource manager and a team leader. It provides them with essential indicators of their management efforts’ efficiency and gives an opportunity to improve the workflow if they find problems. Epicflow has several features to track teams’ performance; here are two of them as an example.
Timesheet is a table where you can track the output delivered by a team or its individual members within a chosen period. You can compare the number of planned and spent hours to assess how productive the team members have been over this period.
Historical Load Graph provides a resource manager with the data on teams’ output in relation to their capacity. It also shows how much work has been completed on schedule and with a delay. This information can be used both for lessons learnt and for future estimates.
Detecting improper workload
The main purpose of workload optimization is to prevent team members from overload and make sure that they work at their full capacity. Epicflow’s Future Load Graph can help resource managers with these tasks: it analyzes both real-time and historical data to predict employees’ workload. In addition, it makes it possible to spot future resource bottlenecks (overload, resource shortage) before they hamper the workflow.
In fact, Epicflow’s capabilities go far beyond the above mentioned features. You can book a call with our expert to learn the whole spectrum of Epicflow’s functionality and its contribution to maximum efficient resource management.