Resource Planning for Professional Services
The professional services sector is broad and encompasses a variety of industries, from IT and marketing to law and accounting. Despite the varied nature of these professions, each benefits from project managers and team leaders taking a strategic approach to resource and capacity planning.
In project management, a resource is anything that is needed to complete a task or project. This can include people, materials, time, and even finances. Because most companies and organizations don’t have unlimited finances or personnel, it is vital that project managers are tactical in deploying these resources. That’s where resource planning comes in.
What is resource planning?
Resource planning is the process of identifying what resources are needed to complete a project and allocating these resources accordingly.
Project managers must decide which team members have the skills and capacity to complete the required project tasks and assign them to each one. They are also responsible for deciding what tools and materials are necessary and obtaining them on behalf of the team. Overall, managers must ensure their teams have everything they need to produce project deliverables on time and within budget.
Resource planning and allocation require a lot of preparation and company knowledge. In some organizations, a dedicated resource manager may be hired to ensure the limited materials, labor, and finances are being properly utilized.
Why is resource planning important?
Even before a project moves into the execution phase, it is important for project or resource managers to look ahead at what will be needed throughout the project’s life cycle. Based on the length and nature of a particular initiative, a project manager should have a good idea of who and what is required to accomplish critical tasks that will ultimately result in project completion.
Resource planning is more effective when project managers have visibility into workloads and can forecast demand, review historical project data, and utilize team members based on skills, location, performance, and availability. Much of this can be accomplished with project management solutions such as Wrike.
Taking care not to overutilize resources in a project setting is one way to prevent productivity killers such as employee burnout. According to the Mayo Clinic, employee burnout can occur when a worker is experiencing stress in the workplace, work-life imbalance, or a lack of control over their workload. Business Insider notes that 40-50% of American workers experience burnout, meaning it is more critical than ever to have an effective resource planning process in place.
Resource planning for professional services keeps projects running smoothly and sets the stage for on-time and on-budget project delivery. It also helps firms understand their ability to take on new work based on the future capacity of their workforce — otherwise known as capacity planning.
Effective resource planning and allocation can be the difference between project failure and success.
What is a resource plan?
A resource plan is a guiding document that a manager uses to effectively identify, allocate, and monitor a project’s resources. It contains detailed information on all the available resources and how they will be used and managed. Think of it as a roadmap that can be consulted throughout a project to ensure it is on the right track.
Typical components of a resource plan include:
- Resource list
- Team roles
- Resource location and contact information
- Equipment/material costs
- Vendor/freelancer contracts
- Overall budget
- Milestones and due dates
- Performance metrics
- Issue log
Resource plans are an essential document for any resource manager, so it’s vital to ensure they are accurate and do not omit any crucial details.
How to make a resource plan
There are four simple steps to creating a resource plan:
1. Make a list
List all the available resources for your project. This includes your finances, equipment and other materials, team members, and external contributors (e.g., freelancers). Add all the relevant information, including contact details and where your resources are located. Your list should be as detailed as possible, so you don’t have to waste time looking for information when you need it.
2. Schedule a meeting
Before you assign project roles and responsibilities, it’s a good idea to bring your team members together to discuss their personal abilities and capacity. Issues can crop up if a resource manager assigns a task to someone who does not have the required training or bandwidth to complete it. This is also an ideal opportunity for individuals to pair up with a similarly skilled colleague to split a task.
3. Add a calendar
Now you know who will be working on what tasks, you can create a resource calendar to monitor specified working hours, company holidays, and planned time off. Align this with key project milestones to ensure nothing gets missed. Your calendar should also track the timeframe of resource consumption — for example, a new shipment of project materials might last two weeks.
4. Create a budget
Controlling costs is an integral part of resource planning. A detailed project budget will help you keep track of spending and ensure you don’t run out of resources before your project is completed. Match your resource costs to your available funds, adding a buffer for unexpected costs. If your team previously worked on a similar project, you can use this data to make your current budget.
Once your resource plan is in place, you should consult it regularly as part of the monitoring process.
Resource planning tools
There are many different tools and features that can help with resource planning. It’s advisable to opt for a software solution that includes the following features:
- Templates: Save time with ready-made templates for each aspect of your resource planning and allocation. Complement your resource plan with a product roadmap, view team workloads at a glance with Kanban boards, and keep stakeholders in the loop with a solid communication plan.
- Calendars: As mentioned, calendars are an integral tool for resource planning. With shared calendars, you can keep track of multiple team schedules, spot potential bottlenecks early, and readjust deadlines if necessary.
- Time tracking: Encourage your teams to use a time tracker so you can quickly assess how long each task takes and allot resources accordingly. When you track time, you build up a valuable bank of data to use for future resource planning, improving your accuracy with each project.
- Reports: Monitor your resources on a daily or weekly basis with automated reporting tools. Regular insights will help you analyze your team’s performance, balance workloads, track billable hours, and stay within budget.
Choosing an all-in-one software platform such as Wrike means you can consolidate the above tools in one place, increasing efficiency and simplifying the resource planning process.