The more projects in your enterprise’s portfolio, the greater the amount and diversity of resources needed to keep them on track. Organizations must balance the requirements of multiple ongoing endeavors that draw on the same resource pool — which includes people, equipment, and financial resources — while ensuring that projects coming down the pipeline are adequately resourced as well.
Building a solid resource plan is the only way to effectively identify and allocate all the resources necessary to meet organizational goals. Resource planning requires a mastery of individual project details combined with a holistic view that takes the needs of the enterprise’s entire project portfolio into account. That’s no easy feat when your company also faces uncertainties related to supply chains, labor, changing regulations, and more. Whether you’re building a power plant or contemplating a new mining operation, you need a resource plan that accounts for all the unique challenges your organization faces.
Here you’ll find everything needed to make resource planning a strength of your enterprise by developing plans that can handle the complexities of its project portfolio.
What is Resource Planning?
Resource planning is the process of identifying, acquiring, and allocating all resources required to complete projects across your organization. More than just enabling success for individual projects, resource planning is a key facet of project portfolio management (PPM). Allocating resources to the right projects at the right times is critical, especially when juggling multiple large-scale projects that may take years to complete.
Resource planning involves managing resource capability, availability, and demand to meet project requirements. It ties into many other key PPM and project management practices, including budgeting, scheduling, and forecasting. Resource planning is how you’ll stay on track to meet project budgets and develop effective schedules that take into account all projects in your organization’s portfolio. And it relies on accurate forecasting, together with proactive risk management practices, to account for uncertainties and anticipate both current and future resource needs.
What does a resource plan look like?
When developing your organization’s resource plan, you’ll want to ask questions that get at the core of your company’s resource needs. Here are a few questions every enterprise should ask during the resource planning process.
What resources do you need?
The most fundamental part of any resource plan is a list of all required resources for your enterprise’s current projects and those on its radar. This rundown should feature relevant details for each resource. These details include the resource’s category, cost, and availability. For people resources, you should also list information on roles and sourcing, noting whether they’re in-house, sub-contractors, or otherwise outsourced.
Which projects will the resources be allocated to?
Resources won’t do your organization much good if they aren’t allocated to the projects that need them. A resource plan must lay out the projects and teams or individuals that your enterprise should allocate specific resources to. This helps ensure that resources are used efficiently and any conflicts between projects that require the same resource are identified well in advance.
What are the schedules and roles of any people resources involved?
Your company’s employees are its most valuable resource, and they add a few additional considerations when it comes to building a resource plan. Resource planning involves matching personnel with the appropriate roles, identifying any existing talent gaps, and mapping out the schedules of all people resources on a per project basis. The goal is to know when and where every team member is needed so your enterprise understands any people resource-related constraints and can stay ahead of the curve when it comes to training and recruitment.
What’s the status of each resource now?
Consumable materials are used up, employees join and move on, and critical equipment breaks down. The resource landscape doesn’t stay static, and neither should your resource plan. Keep it up to date with the status of each resource as it changes over time you can make informed decisions regarding resource allocation and project timelines.
What are the benefits of resource planning?
Resource planning leads to better project and portfolio outcomes. Here are just a few of the advantages to a well-crafted resource plan.
A resource plan is a key part of turning your operation into a well-oiled machine. It serves as the real-time roadmap that helps team members move smoothly from task to task and project to project. Resource planning means that employees can spend more time getting the job done instead of tracking down or waiting for whatever they need to complete it.
Resource planning gives managers a much clearer picture of resource capacity, demand, and availability — and with the right platform, they can make this information visible to the rest of the workforce as well. This sets expectations, improves collaboration, and makes it easy for team members to identify potential roadblocks or spot areas where processes could be improved.
Better utilization of resources
Materials sitting in a warehouse or employees sitting idle without work represent costs detracting from your organization’s bottom line. And equipment needed in two places at once, or team members forced to work overtime for months on end, can be just as problematic. Resource planning minimizes both under- and over-utilization, so your company gets the most value possible out of every resource without expecting too much from any of them. A good plan also reveals opportunities to invest in additional resources, even on a temporary basis, to overcome deficits that would otherwise result in projects running behind schedule.
Optimized resource allocation
Some projects are more important to your enterprise’s success than others, and the last thing you want to do is shortchange a key project by dedicating resources to a less critical endeavor. Some relationships matter more to your business, some clients are more time- or budget-conscious than others, and some projects simply bring in more revenue. Resource plans allow you to allocate resources to the highest priority projects first, making sure the most important balls are never dropped.
5 steps to a great resource planning process
Quality resource planning is within the reach of every organization. Here are 6 steps you can take to start crafting effective resource plans.
1. Review the project portfolio
The resource planning process begins by identifying all projects in your enterprise’s portfolio, prioritizing them, and defining the objectives of each. While resource plans get into the details of each individual project, effective planning requires a high level, holistic view of your organization’s entire project portfolio. When you understand how each project fits into your company’s overarching business strategy, you can make intelligent, informed decisions during the rest of the process.
2. Identify and forecast resource requirements
Once you’ve carefully reviewed the forest, it’s time to move into the trees. Dive into the project details, estimating the resources — materials, equipment, and labor — that will be required to meet each objective on time and, if possible, within budget. This should cover everything from the software team members use to stay connected in the field to the personnel themselves. Consult with stakeholders who have relevant experience so you can get a variety of perspectives on what it will take to achieve project success.
This stage of resource planning also involves accurately estimating and forecasting resource needs over the entire project lifecycle. With the right software, you can easily generate forecasts informed by relevant historical data using your choice of methodology. An integrated project portfolio management (PPM) solution also lets you perform automated capacity checks and take a deeper look at aggregated resource demand, so your resource plan is as accurate as possible.
3. Acquiring resources
You’re now ready to actually acquire the resources you identified in step 2. This involves assessing what resources your enterprise currently has on hand, what you lack, and taking steps to close the gap. Equipment sourcing, purchasing materials, and putting together teams based on the roles required are all tasks that fall into this stage of the resource planning process.
As you proceed with resource acquisition, you’ll have to evaluate whether resource constraints mean the scope of one or more projects needs to change. You’ll also need to decide whether your organization has the necessary internal personnel to meet all its needs or should step up hiring and training — or possibly look to third parties for additional talent.
Resource acquisition doesn’t always mean looking to external sources, of course. As you’ve taken a thorough look at your organization’s project portfolio, you can make smart decisions about what, if any, resources to transfer and share between projects to keep the most important tasks moving. This broad perspective also makes it easier to key in on resource constraints that impact the portfolio as a whole. And it allows you to identify resource needs that impact multiple projects so you can reduce project costs further by buying in bulk.
4. Develop a resource schedule and allocate resources
Scheduling is one of the most important parts of any resource plan. Acquiring all necessary resources is a hollow victory if they arrive too late or are unexpectedly required by several projects at once.
A resource schedule goes beyond team members’ work schedules — although those are vital — to include the assignment of specific tasks, delivery of newly purchased materials, how equipment needed by multiple projects will be shared, and more. It should also incorporate risk management practices so you have the leeway needed to handle any issues that arise. Handling these complexities requires a resource planning and management platform that pulls in data from across your enterprise and integrates with other key HR and scheduling systems.
Scheduling blends naturally with allocating resources to specific projects, tasks, and teams. While resource allocation will never be perfect, all the steps you’ve taken up to this point make it much simpler. With the right resources dedicated to the most important projects, your organization is well-positioned for success.
5. Monitor resource use
Resource planning is a dynamic process without a set end point. Instead, use your resource planning platform to monitor resource use in real time, seeing if your forecasts match reality and adjusting the plan when needed. This is especially important when sharing resources between multiple projects in your company’s portfolio, as one changed variable can have a cascade effect across your organization. Frequent data collection and analysis helps ensure that all your enterprise’s resources are utilized as efficiently as possible.
Finding the right resource planning tool
Resource planning is a big job, but you don’t have to go it alone. Resource planning solutions provide the capabilities needed to produce accurate resource plans swiftly and confidently. Enterprise-wide resource plans need the insights into demand, availability, and capacity that only an integrated resource planning and management platform can provide.
Resource planning tool features
When evaluating resource planning software options, there are several key capabilities you should look for.
Visibility into capacity, demand, and availability
Resource capacity, availability, and demand are the three key concepts your resource plan is built around. Your solution should give you a firm grasp on each with direct access to relevant data for all projects in your company’s portfolio. It should also let you generate capacity and demand plans for specific types of resources, so you can dig into the details as needed.
Resource performance benchmarks
Without establishing resource performance benchmarks, it’s hard to know whether you’re utilizing resources as expected. Set expectations from the get-go with a platform that allows you to use resource performance benchmarks when building your plan and when monitoring project progress afterwards. As projects move towards completion, you can more easily identify changes needed to keep them on track.
Resource breakdown structures
Resource breakdown structures are visual aids that display resources as a hierarchy based on attributes like rates, locations, and skills, so you can get a better understanding of these details at a glance. Look for a resource planning tool that automatically builds and updates resource breakdown structures while offering the ability to customize the attributes they display whenever necessary.
Resource planning relies on accurate forecasting. Leverage a solution that brings in data from across your enterprise, including other key platforms and external sources, to develop forecasts you can rely on using whatever forecasting methods suit your business best.
Team members want to focus on getting the job done, not filling out paperwork to get the resources they need for it. Your resource planning platform should make submitting, managing, and approving requests for resources simple with an intuitively designed portal featuring customizable approval workflows.
Integration with existing systems
Resource planning relies on information from all parts of your organization, and your solution should make obtaining that data easy. Find a platform that can incorporate all capacity and demand sources by integrating with tools like human resource information, scheduling, and construction management systems to ensure your resource plans are built on the most comprehensive, up-to-date information available. And if your resource planning software natively integrates other key PPM capabilities in a single platform, like budgeting, scheduling, and risk management, you can leverage these important processes to build a more intelligent resource plan.
Make resource planning easier with EcoSys
Effective resource planning is within the reach of even the largest enterprises handling the most complex projects. EcoSys is an integrated enterprise project performance solution backed by a team of experts who specialize in helping organizations improve resource management and PPM. It takes a holistic approach to resource planning by integrating with other key process areas and external systems, so everyone stays aligned and working towards your enterprise’s strategic goals. From data-driven forecasts to automated project monitoring, EcoSys includes all the features needed to build accurate resource plans that will help guide your projects toward success.
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