Is it at all possible to assign project tasks to the right employees at the right time? To take into account all the contributing factors, such as lack of resources in fast-developing companies, globally distributed teams, multiple projects running simultaneously, uncertain business environment, and not to overload your employees at the same time?
The good news is that it really is! Knowing the right resource management techniques and utilizing effective tools can greatly assist in making the resource management process effective. Read further to find out resource management best practices that will result in optimum resource utilization and better project outcomes.
What Is Effective Resource Management and Why Is It Important?
In simple terms, effective resource management is about thorough planning, informed scheduling and allocation of resources. It serves two major purposes: on the one hand, it’s an extremely important component of successful project delivery; and on the other hand, it ensures that all the available employees are capable of completing all the necessary project assignments, being neither overloaded nor idle.
Let’s consider the benefits of effective resource management in detail.
- More efficient utilization of available resources.
Effective resource management is meant to find the balance between increasing employees’ efficiency and preventing their overutilization: to distribute tasks between employees in such a way that they are capable of completing them timely and efficiently in accordance with their capacity.
- Smart resource allocation.
Also, the effective resource management process involves employees’ skill management. If a resource manager is aware of team members’ skills and the level of their maturity, it will be much easier to find the one who has perfectly matching skills for completing a task. As a result, effective and informed resource allocation will increase the quality of the work performed.
- Preventing employees from overload and burnout.
Overload and, what is worse, burnout have numerous negative effects on employees and the whole project they work on: they become exhausted, disengaged, not committed to the work they are doing, have problems with physical and mental health, etc. All of these factors decrease the quality of work, so one of the signs of the effective resource management process is team members’ balanced load.
- Reducing costs for additional resources.
In a number of cases, effective resource management can reduce costs for hiring new employees, as it allows you to do more with less. For example, if you need a welder for completing a certain part of work, but he is involved in the other project and unavailable at this particular time, his work can be done by a mechanic who has welding skills and capacity. In addition, a mechanic with welding skills can improve them and perform welding tasks from time to time when it’s required. In such a way, you won’t have to hire one more welder for the project, and will avoid project delays related to unavailability of resources.
- Improved project delivery.
When all resources involved in a project work like an orchestra, where everybody is aware of their particular role in the whole process and navigates towards a common goal, the probability of successful project completion is much higher.
Now, let’s look into the strategies that will make your resource management effective.
7 Effective Resource Management Strategies
1. Create a Sound Basis for the Resource Management Process
These basic steps will set the right direction for the whole resource management process, so their importance cannot be overestimated.
The aim of resource planning is to make sure that the project is provided with sufficient human resources who have necessary knowledge, skills and experience for successful project delivery.
It’s important for preventing resources’ underutilization, their overallocation, and minimizing resource dependencies (e.g. a team member who works on too many tasks can be reassigned to avoid possible bottlenecks). Resource planning involves resource allocation and developing a resource management plan as a result. It usually includes the following information: available resources, their cost per hour, their availability, and each employee’s detailed responsibilities.
This step involves scheduling the start and finish dates for each project task in accordance with resources’ availability. Resource scheduling aims to keep the project on schedule and at the same time avoid either under- or overallocation, which as a result will contribute to delivering projects on time and within budget.
However, there is the other effective approach to resource scheduling: using task prioritization without establishing task deadlines – in this case, resources are scheduled depending on the most important tasks and resources’ capacity; and the focus shifts from task to the whole project’s deadline. This is an automatic process performed by Epicflow, resource management software.
2. Use Resource Optimization Techniques
These techniques are applied when it becomes necessary to optimize resource utilization; they deal with resource and time constraints.
This technique is used when the available resources are either under- or overallocated. According to PMBOK Guide, resource leveling is “a technique in which start and finish dates are adjusted based on resource constraints with the goal of balancing demand for resources with the available supply.” In simple words, when available resources are limited, you can adjust the project timeline in accordance with the availability of a critical employee. So, you distribute work between employees in such a way that the project schedule is realistic and achievable, and the work environment is healthy.
This technique is used when resources are allocated unevenly. In this case, the critical path cannot be changed as opposed to resource leveling; and it’s the time constraint that matters most here. Resource smoothing involves adjusting the project activities in such a way that the requirements for resources on a project will not exceed the resource limits defined before. When you apply resource smoothing, you must avoid any delays not to affect the critical path. Usually, this technique is used after resource leveling.
3. Be Ready for Uncertainties
There may be plenty of reasons why something can go not the way it’s been planned. Large companies dealing with large projects or a multi-project environment where a lot of human and material resources are involved are usually accompanied with lots of uncertainties, i.e. lack of necessary information (you simply cannot allow for all the possibilities) and numerous external and internal events that can affect the workflow. It’s also known as Murphy’s Law that runs “If anything can go wrong, it will”, but you often don’t know beforehand what can go wrong and why. So the main idea here is that you can’t avoid these uncertainties, but you can try and cope with them. How to do that?
- Focusing your resources on high priority tasks and completing them asap will prevent them from falling into a trap of bad multitasking, student syndrome, or Parkinson’s law.
- If you have to make a decision under conditions of uncertainty, it’s a good idea to perform scenario analysis. It’s a technique that makes it possible to predict probable outcomes depending on current actions or conditions. It can be performed during brainstorming sessions, by means of simulations or with project/resource management tools.
- Monitor your employees’ performance: knowing how they coped with their tasks in the past will give you an idea of what to expect of them in the future.
These solutions will allow your employees to take significant steps towards successful project delivery even when you’re not sure what happens in the future.
4. Monitor Resources’ Load
Keeping control of resources’ load aims to make it clear if resource capacity corresponds to resource demand. It’s important to keep them balanced to prevent employees from overload and for their effective contribution to the project outcomes.
5. Manage Employees’ Skills
It’s extremely important for a resource manager to be aware of all the team members’ skills as well as their maturity level. This will give an insight into a variety of tasks they can perform, which in turn makes it easier to utilize their potential to the full to meet the project’s need for resources. Also, knowing all the employees’ skills helps to overcome a resource constraint, e.g. in a multi-project environment, where people work on numerous projects at the same time, you can assign an employee from the other department to complete a certain task if they have corresponding skills and capacity.
The other task of skill management is identifying employees’ skill gaps and facilitating their professional development. This will allow you to build cross-functional teams that are a valuable asset in the present-day dynamic business environment: due to being interchangeable, members of such teams can deliver the work faster compared to the sequential work process.
6. Keep Your Employees Engaged
Employee engagement plays an important role in the quality of work they deliver. It’s supported by:
- motivation (providing the team members with constructive feedback, acknowledging their contribution into the project, supporting their initiatives);
- giving them room for errors (employees who are afraid of making mistakes are usually lacking initiative);
- empowering them to make decisions (delegating responsibility can improve team members’ efficiency).
7. Use Resource Management Software
Currently, there are numerous resource management tools that can greatly assist resource managers in their work. Let’s consider Epicflow as an example. What resource management functionality does it offer?
This feature allows you to add and change employees’ competences and their levels in the system. It helps you to assign a resource to a task basing on their competence level and capacity, both of which are marked with corresponding colors for more clarity.
It predicts your resources’ capacity in the future depending on their current tasks. It has three important functions: makes it possible to avoid bottlenecks related to resource availability, prevent resources from overload, and optimize resource utilization (e.g. if a group is expected to be idle in the future, its members can be assigned to other projects/tasks that require such resources).
This feature aims to monitor and analyze resources’ performance in the previous projects. It consists of three elements: capacity, load, and output, and shows how they changed over time. Analysis of such information is important for current resource allocation, getting an idea of how your team can perform in the future, or drawing some conclusions as to the resource management process in dynamics.
This is your assistant in making informed decisions under conditions of uncertainty. It allows you to evaluate project outcomes, make corresponding decisions, and get a better project predictability. For example, you can see what the project outcome will be if tasks are assigned to certain team members, if the critical employee becomes unavailable, if you apply the resource leveling technique and shift a project’s due date, etc. With What-If Analysis, you can consider all possible alternatives, which will make it much easier to make the right decision.
Integration with human resource management systems
It provides updates on resources’ availability: days off, vacations, sick leaves marked in the human resource management system are imported into Epicflow, and employees’ capacity is adjusted accordingly. Such a function is extremely relevant for large projects and multi-project environments, where hundreds of people work on numerous projects, and it’s impossible for resource managers to take everyone into account.
Therefore, Epicflow as a resource management system works like a single database that keeps all the resource-related information required for project delivery, so that there is a single source of information for both a project/resource manager and every team member.
Are there any more recommendations for the effective resource management process? You are welcome to share your experience.