Resource allocation is one of the more complex aspects of project management and is critical in creating and leading a high-performing project team. Rather than being a one-off event that occurs upon commissioning a project, resource allocation is an ongoing process that must be constantly fine-tuned over the duration of the project.
Hence, resource allocation is both a project management process and a portfolio management function.
Resource Allocation Defined
In strategic planning terms, resource allocation is an approach for applying available short-term resources to achieve future goals. It is the process of allocating scarce resources across a portfolio of projects or business units.
In a project management context, resource allocation is the process of assigning and scheduling available organizational resources in the most effective and economical manner. The task of the project manager is to determine the proper timing and sequencing of those resources within the scope of the project schedule. This is often most effective completed and shared using a web-based project management tool.
Why Resource Allocation Is Important
Resource allocation involves carefully allocating a range of financial, human, natural and material resources against the needs of the project. These requirements can be expected to evolve over the duration of the project as the project moves progressively through its project lifecycle. By carefully utilizing only those resources absolutely required at each stage of the project, the project manager can avoid tying up resources unnecessary.
5 Project Management Strategies For Better Resource Allocation
Effective project management brings together people, processes, and tools to deliver a shared objective. An essential facet of project management is managing the project’s resources responsibly. However, in many instances, the project manager focuses on measuring their project’s resources rather than actively managing them to optimize the business yield from those resources.
To avoid committing this common mistake, here are five key management strategies for better allocating your project’s scarce resources:
1. Avoid Over-Allocating Resources
Whatever its cause, over-allocating resources is the most common scheduling mistake companies make. Whether due to poor planning or an inability to say “No”, it doesn’t help the project’s chances of being completed successfully to over-extend those resources to the point of burnout, or to put other projects at risk.
Over-allocating resources is an attribute of poor project management that always hurts a project further down the line. It can delay a project, cause a ripple effect to spread across multiple projects due to interdependencies around resources completing, and even halt one project to make room for another. Your team may be able to mitigate its effects on one project, but it’s unfair, unhealthy, and unsustainable to continually over-allocate resources.
2. Use Web Based Project Management Tools To Simplify Resource Allocation Decisions
Project plans change and adapt. Clients adjust scope, planned resources are delayed or conflicts occur over team member availability. Contemporary web-based project management software streamlines the planning process and take much of the pain out of these resource adjustments enabling changes to be quickly implemented and checked for compatibility before being re-issued as change requirements.
3. Avoid Padding Resource Requests
While it is sensible to anticipate the unexpected, you don’t necessarily have to reserve resources with worst-case scenarios in mind. Cushioning project plans with a few more days or a few more people here and there has a ripple effect on the organization. Delaying the release of resources until deep into the project skews project estimation, long-range planning, utilization/billability, and ultimately, the company’s bottom line. Use the analytics that comes packaged with your project management tracking tool to identify phases where you tend to overbook and revised your resource identification model.
4. Maximize The Value Of The Team’s Skill Set Through Multi Tasking Model
Extract the optimum value from your project’s human resources by being flexible with how you use your available resources. A little versatility can provide the flexibility required to tackle peripheral milestones early. Best of all, you might not need to hire outside contractors. Most team members have skills and professional hobbies beyond their specialty, and a helicopter view of their skills portfolio can accelerate project planning.
5. Big Picture Situational Awareness
Resource allocation doesn’t just apply to the project team in isolation it applies across the organization too. Top project managers make sure the bigger picture is always in perspective. Think beyond project life cycle planning and consider the cumulative impact of resource allocation on the company as a whole. Cloud-based project management tools can provide a “God’s Eye” view of the business, fast tracking budgeting and scheduling.
Not So Soft Skills
The most important aspect of resource management is that people sit at its heart. People are ultimately responsible for delivering successful projects. Soft skills like communication, leadership and emotional intelligence are crucial in communicating effectively with team members. It is the role of the project manager to inspire and motivate. Great project managers understand how to combine web based project management tools and the people doing the work to create a transparent, collaborative, and productive project environment.
Show The Love
People perform at their best when they’re passionate about their work and committed to their team. Not surprisingly, when you have resources working on tasks that are outside of individual skill-sets or their fields of interest, the project will struggle. A better strategy is to match a resource to a task rather than simply assigning a resource. Conversely, you’ll know which tasks are outside the team’s competency set resulting in improved resource allocation.
Finally, never allow a great job to go unacknowledged or unrewarded. Let people know how important their efforts are to the project and to you are their project manager. Your team is capable of amazing accomplishments just don’t let them forget it.
How you structure your approach to resource allocation is a critical aspect of keeping your project on track and on budget to deliver precisely the outcomes you expect. If you experience issues with resource allocation or your teams are complaining of burnout or being overworked, consider revisiting your resource management strategy to keep your team fresh and engaged and your projects on track. If you don’t already use them, implement web based project management tools to reduce some of the administrative burdens on the team and keep the information flowing to support collaboration.
About the Author:
Jason Grills is a technical writer currently associated with ProProfs Project. He enjoys writing about emerging project management products,trends in project management industry and the financial impacts of using such tools. He lives in Los Angeles, California. In his spare time, Jason enjoys long walks on beach, listening to blues and doing all things creative.