A Quick Guide To Resource Calendars
A full project pipeline may sound like a dream come true to most creative agency leads, but what happens if your team doesn't have the capacity to get all those projects finished and delivered on time?
That dream can quickly turn into a nightmare!
According to Float's Global Agency Productivity Report, 74% of team members are overbooked on projects at least once a month, and 26% say it happens five or more times a month. Finding a way to prevent that is crucial to the health and productivity of your team.
That's where a resource calendar can help.
A resource calendar makes it easy to organize your team and take on new projects with the confidence that you'll be able to complete them on time and on budget. It also plays a crucial role in ensuring that your team isn't overworked and in danger of burning out.
What is the purpose of a resource calendar?
A resource calendar is a tool you can use to plan and manage resources more effectively and efficiently.
It can help you visualize what tasks a team member is working on and when they'll be working on them. It should also go one step further and break those tasks down by the time and day a team member is tackling them, so team leaders have an accurate bird's-eye view of what everyone is working on.
Among other things, a resource calendar will break down:
- Vacation time
- Public holidays
- Leaves of absence
- Start/end dates for different project milestones
When a team leader has this information on hand, it's much easier for them to make decisions about projects that come into the pipeline.
How can a resource calendar be used in project management?
Dovetail Games is a developer and publisher based in Kent, U.K.
As the agency has a relatively small team of around 20 people working on various projects at any given time, they initially organized their projects using an Excel spreadsheet. They eventually realized that they couldn't manage projects with the elasticity needed using a spreadsheet alone.
They needed a way to quickly block out time if a client asked for a feature or upgrade to a project. They also wanted their developers to be able to communicate and add notes to tasks while working on them. And finally, they needed a better way to plan for their holidays (after all that coding, the team had backlogged some well-earned cocktails on the beach 🍹).
Assistant Development Manager Ioannis Archontakis started looking for a better way to plan the team's resources and ditch those pesky spreadsheets once and for all. The obvious solution was to turn to software that specializes in resource calendars and project management.
They chose Float because it allows their team to block off parts of their calendar for specific tasks, project future capacity needs, and, yes, plan for those getaways to the beach!
"We used to get by using Excel; then we invested in Float, and it has taken the company's project planning to the next step."
- Ioannis Archontakis
Team members now see precisely when projects and tasks are due, and Float's reporting analytics paint a clear picture of how projects are progressing, and whether or not they are staying on budget. Detailed reports break down each team member's capacity and their scheduled billable hours, as well as every project in the team's pipeline.
This detailed breakdown makes it easy for the team to plan ahead and say "yes!" to projects as soon as they roll in.
3 ways to create a resource calendar
There are many ways to plot your resources on a calendar. While an Excel spreadsheet or Google Calendar may be fine for some, others might choose to invest in specialized software that is more robust and can do things like track capacity or budget projects.
Whichever platform you choose, it's essential to make sure that you are allocating tasks around your team's availability.
1. Invest in a resource calendar software
The right resource management software gives you the tools you need to organize your team's calendar quickly and accurately.
It provides a platform to create simple, collaborative calendars that are easier to work with than Excel or Google Sheets. You can create new projects and schedule tasks on your team members' calendars so they know what they should be working on and when.
With a resource management software like Float, you can:
- Assign and update tasks as soon as a project enters your pipeline 📝
- Manage time off and team capacity 🕐
- Mark your team's skills and other identifying info (e.g., their location) with people tags to keep track of everyone 🌎
- Keep everyone on the same page with a live activity feed and notifications sent through email, Slack, or mobile push notifications via the Float mobile app 💡
Whenever a new project enters your pipeline, you can pull up your resource calendar in Float to check how many people you have available to work on the project. If your team has enough capacity, you can start assigning tasks by adding them straight to their calendars.
Your team receives a daily or weekly email with their complete schedule, outlining the assigned tasks they should be working on.
Before investing in resource management software, Byte London Tech struggled to effectively track their team's time and schedule tasks. Principal Engineer Richard Coates says he needed a way to schedule his team of developers that was flexible but unobtrusive, but also complimented their existing tools.
They chose Float.
"The user interface allows for both high-level looks for managers, and individualized views for employees," says Coates. "The integration with Outlook also makes logging time from calendars really simple."
2. Create a resource calendar in a spreadsheet
Depending on your scheduling needs, you might be able to build a basic resource calendar using just a spreadsheet.
Excel and Google Sheets both have pre-built templates to build out a resource calendar quickly. Here's what a Google Sheets template looks like for planning a major project:
The good news about using a spreadsheet to create a resource calendar is that it's easy to edit and share with the rest of your team. Unfortunately, many other aspects are quite limiting. Not only do you have to schedule everything manually, but the more people the spreadsheet is shared with, the more difficult it is to manage.
Nick Lépine of Dynamo used to meet with his team weekly to devise a plan for the following week's assignments. He found it helpful to allocate the team's task across a.m. and p.m. slots for the week using a spreadsheet.
"We came up with our own time-blocking system, which has been working quite well so far: we work with 2 blocks per day. A block of 3.5 hours in the morning, and another block of 3.5 hours in the afternoon. This means we allocate 10 blocks per team member on a regular week, " says Lépine.
Although Lépine says organizing the team this way "did the trick," it left his team feeling squeezed when it came to flexibility. They decided to ditch their spreadsheets for a resource calendar software that showed who was working on what in clear time blocks.
Their tool of choice? Float, of course!
"For most of our projects, we can be flexible and let our humans choose which days they prefer working on specific client projects."
– Nick Lépine
🔀 Making the switch: MetaLab's team of 150 was also working out of a spreadsheet to organize their calendars until they found a better way. Find out what led them to switch from spreadsheets to Float for their resource management and capacity planning.
3. Use Google Calendar to build a resource calendar
Finally, you can use Google Calendar to create a resource calendar in real time.
The great thing about Google Calendar is that you can use your team's individual calendars to assign separate tasks and deadlines. Because the calendar is also connected to Gmail, it's easy to integrate apps like Zoom and Hangouts and add meeting blocks to their calendars automatically.
If you have regular team meetings or you want to block out specific spots on your calendar, you can do so by setting up a recurring event. After you hit save, the meeting or block of time will be automatically updated across in your calendar.
The problem that team leaders run into using an app like Google Calendar is that if everyone has separate resource calendars, it's difficult to get a truly accurate overview of who has space on their schedule to take on more assignments and who is up against it.
You can have your team set weekly alerts to remind them to update their resource calendar to reflect their schedule, holidays, etc., and you can also hold weekly meetings (like the team at Dynamo) to sync up your calendars and see how everyone's workload is trending for the following week.
But there's an easier option for teams keen on sticking with Google or Outlook Calendar: a resource scheduling software with a 2-way sync option! With a tool like Float, you can automatically send every event on your Google or Outlook calendar straight to the schedule in Float.
If everyone on your team integrates their calendar with Float, you'll have a truly accurate picture of your team's overall capacity without the need for the weekly meetings or reminders.
The benefits of using a resource calendar
A resource calendar helps everyone stay on the same page, and serves as the single source of truth when it comes to your team's availability, capacity, and workload.
While a simple calendar or spreadsheet that provides the basic benefits of a resource calendar may be enough for some, most teams are better off using a dedicated resource management software like Float. Not only will it make managing your team's capacity easy, it will also help simplify your workflow.
The more accurate your resource calendar is, the happier and healthier your team and business will be in the long run.
That's a real game changer.