Even the most successfully planned projects can spiral into chaos with one phrase: “We don’t have enough resources to get the job done.”
Limited resources are a common blocker for teams across all industries, especially in today’s uncertain economic environment. However, a Project Management Institute survey found that only 26% of companies use resource management on a regular basis — a statistic that highlights a need for better estimation and allocation strategies.
So why is resource allocation important?
To put it simply, it’s the difference between a failed project and a successful one. Without the right strategy you’re at a much higher risk of experiencing missed deadlines, incomplete projects, and increased costs. But with proper resource allocation, your team can benefit from reduced costs, maximized productivity, risk elimination, and more.
When resource allocation comes to the rescue, you’re much more likely to avoid the chaos spiral and see projects succeed. Let’s walk through how to do it.
What is resource allocation?
Resource allocation is the process of identifying resources and thoughtfully assigning them so your team has what they need to complete each project successfully. Since resources are so critical to project management, scheduling and allocating them will help you achieve your goal by providing a solid overview of what you need to get done.
But we’re not just talking about financial resources — there are many types to consider when building out your tracking process. The different types of resources include:
- Your team: Each employee brings a different skillset to the table — so the more diverse, the better.
- Equipment: Depending on your industry, equipment could include your techstack, tangible materials like construction tools, or even simply a printer.
- Materials: These can include gas for travel or any other consumable used in your type of projects.
- Facilities: You may need a workspace to get the job done.
- Money: How much are your projects going to cost?
- Time: How long are they going to take?
When making resource allocation decisions, make sure you also understand what you’re producing, how you’re producing it, and who you’re producing it for.
How do I track resource allocation?
There are six easy steps to successfully tracking resource allocation. Here’s what they are.
1. Identify available resources
The first step is to lay out who and what your available resources are. In terms of your team, consider each employee and identify their individual skillsets, who fits the required skills for the project, and how long they’re available to work on it. It’s also important to assess who’s going on vacation and when to cover all your bases.
If you need tangible materials for the project, ensure they are in good working condition so you don’t run into any blockers along the way. Once you’re aware of who’s working on the project and what you need to get the job done, it’s time to allocate the resources.
2. Understand the project scope
Before you put those resources to work, everyone involved needs a deep understanding of the project at a high level. Ensuring this includes things like:
- Defining goals and milestones
- Assigning roles and responsibilities
- Determining the project timeline
- Establishing expectations
- Identifying constraints, risks, and possible solutions
Going through this checklist (and anything else you think you might need to cover) will ensure your project scope is crystal clear and prevent possible confusion — meaning your project won’t easily run offtrack.
3. Align project tasks with their resources
Once the team is on board and everyone’s on the same page, break the project down into tasks and match them with the resources they need to be completed. For each task, list its due date, team members who own them, required skills, and location (if necessary).
Be realistic during this step — inaccurate timelines and budgets can be deadly to your smooth project.
4. Implement a time tracking system
Speaking of inaccurate time estimates, this is often one of the biggest factors that result in failed projects. The best way to avoid this is to have a solid time tracking system in place so you can:
- Create accurate timelines for every project
- Ensure profitability
- Track progress and ensure tasks are complete on time
- Course-correct when delays occur
- Calculate billable and non-billable hours
Tip: Using Harvest’s intuitive time tracking solution makes it easy to get real with your task estimation. With visual reports into past projects, you can get detailed insights into how long each task took to complete and what resources you needed — so you can forecast upcoming initiatives fearlessly.
5. Track utilization
Over or underutilizing resources each come with their own unique issues, so it’s important to track resource utilization in real time. Doing so helps you maximize productivity and measure the effectiveness of your resource allocation planning.
In terms of team utilization, it’s helpful to calculate time they spend working so you can maximize utilization, reduce the risk of oversight, and prevent burnout. The best way to calculate this is to divide an employee’s busy time by their available time, or even dividing their recorded working hours by their available hours.
6. Reallocate when needed
Changes often occur throughout the lifecycle of a project. From budget modifications to scope increases, you might need to reallocate your resources to fit the new plan. It might even be a good idea to review along the way as your team completes tasks — was the allocation effective? Did the task go over deadline? What could have been done differently?
Reassessing while the project is still in motion makes it easier to make changes if necessary and ensure success as it reaches the finish line.
Resource allocation is critical to avoiding project management chaos — doing it the right way helps you prevent the potential pitfalls that result in project failure. By identifying your resources, understanding your project scope, and tracking utilization along the way, you’ll set your team up for success.
Harvest can help make each step of the process easier — sign up for a free trial today to get started tracking time and planning with confidence.