Resource allocation helps project managers schedule the best team for the job, and optimize how work is assigned.
Project managers have to match team members to the right tasks to deliver projects on time and within budget.
Effective resource allocation—the process of assigning tasks to the right team members—is at the heart of every successful project.
But there is a fine line between assigning tasks to the right people and overworking some team members while underutilizing others. According to Float's Global Agency Productivity Report, 74% of workers say they are overbooked once a month. And 26% say having too much on their plate is a regular occurrence. Burdened with too much work, team members might feel exhausted.
While resource management isn't always easy, it is essential. In fact, 83% percent of executives said the allocation of resources was the most critical management lever for growth. In 2021, it was the third biggest project management challenge for businesses.
We created this guide to show how you can develop a resource allocation process that empowers your team, prevents burnout, and saves money.
What is resource allocation in project management?
To better understand better, let's start with a resource allocation definition.
Resource allocation is the process of assigning the best available resources to tasks and projects.
Resource allocation manages workloads to ensure under or overutilization doesn't happen. Then, if needed, people are reassigned based on current resource availability and project timelines. It goes hand in hand with capacity planning.
The benefits of resource allocation
There’s a reason resource allocation is a top priority among enterprises, small businesses, and everything in between. Without it, things can get out of hand and lead to employee burnout, poor performance, and missed deadlines.
Let’s look at the advantages of efficient resource allocation.
Helps you plan
Resource allocation can prevent overspending on resources you don’t need or stop you from running short of them halfway through a project. When you have the right tools, you can quickly see the availability of resources and timelines for projects in the pipeline and plan accordingly.
Resource allocation software also gives a better view of your talent pool. It simplifies selecting the best people for each project and task, which improves the likelihood of success.
The bottom line? More profit for your business.
Improves team well-being and morale
Poor resource management can lead to burnout among your workforce. When that happens, productivity and performance decrease and happiness disappears. Consider that:
- Employees who are burned out are 26% more likely to call in sick.
- 76% of employees agree that workplace stress affects their mental health.
- Workplace stress is estimated to cost businesses anywhere from $221 million to $187 billion.
When you allocate resources effectively, you can avoid all these negative effects. This requires taking into account actual availability—not just what’s written on paper. For example, rather than calculating 40 hours per week per full-time employee, you consider potential sick days, vacation time, and other work tasks on their to-do list.
Taking this approach minimizes the chances of overloading employees and maintains their well-being and morale.
Keeps everybody in the loop
When collaborating on a project, it is essential to track progress. That usually means regular updates on the status of tasks, issues, and milestones. If you’re using manual tools, this will eat up your time and increase the odds of making mistakes.
However, with resource allocation software, you can reduce errors and promote transparency. Every member of the team can track the progress of tasks, and you can quickly send reports back to stakeholders.
It may even help you cut back on daily meetings (and make the ones you do have more productive 🤗).
How to build a resource allocation process
Here's a 6-step resource allocation process that will get your team working smarter—not harder.
1. Map out your upcoming project
If you don't have a clear picture of what tasks are needed to complete a project, it becomes challenging to allocate resources effectively. This is why we recommend mapping out new projects in advance.
With the project spec in mind, try to come up with answers to the following questions:
- What tasks are needed?
- When is the project due?
- When is each task due?
- What skills are required to complete the tasks?
- Who on the team has the required skills?
- What is their availability (i.e., who's going on vacation)?
- Are there any task dependencies?
- How does each task dependency work (i.e., finish to start, start to start, finish to finish, start to finish)?
- Where are there skill gaps due to unavailability or lack of knowledge?
Visually seeing what (and who) you need makes decision-making easier. Maybe you have limited resources and need to hire new employees or temporary contractors to fill in gaps. Perhaps you need to assign more than one person to a task to prevent bottlenecks.
Using a resource management tool like Float, you can create tentative projects and plan ahead of time. This helps you estimate timelines and identify available resources before starting a project.
2. Get to know the availability of your resources
Once you've mapped out any upcoming projects, knowing your team's availability top to bottom before kick-off is crucial to success.
Your business is likely juggling multiple projects at once—not to mention you are managing your team's overall availability. Sick leave, time off, and public holidays all affect your team's availability. If you use a spreadsheet, it makes it more difficult to spot these gaps and you could end up booking someone on a project only to discover they are not available.
Your best bet is to use a resource management tool. Float gives you a bird's-eye view of your team's schedule (including meetings) and their capacity. You can even filter team members by customizable tags to find out who is available to take on work.
3. Assign tasks and get feedback from team members
After determining your team's availability, the next step is to delegate tasks to each person.
For your project to succeed, team members have to know their responsibilities, dependencies, and due dates for each task. Float's integrations with project management tools make it easy to drag and drop imported tasks directly onto your team's schedule. The resource allocator has a full view of availability and can easily detect an overloaded workload and prevent double booking.
Let's say you think a design brief should take roughly two hours to complete, and you assign the task as a block into their resource calendar. You check in with the designer, and you find out that your estimate is off and they need an extra hour to finish their task. All you have to do is adjust the team member's schedule, so they immediately get more time to get the task done right. 🙌
Use Float to save time on manual follow up with @mentions in the notes of any task, time off, or project. Simply type "@" followed by their name. Depending on their settings, notifications are sent via email, Slack, or mobile push. For example, you might alert your manager when you schedule new tentative time off or to check in on a teammate's progress on a task.
4. Choose a resource allocation tool
Keeping track of everything your team is working on isn't easy, so it makes sense to use resource allocation tools to shoulder some of the load. Software creates a level of transparency that meetings and whiteboards simply can't.
Project managers can put things like budget tracking on autopilot while keeping a close eye on their team's calendars in real time. Erin Ward is a studio manager at web design agency Mixd. She manages an ever-expanding team and ensures on-time delivery for all studio projects. One of her strategies is providing the team with an endless supply of homemade cakes (jealous! 🍰). But she also says keeping projects on track comes down to their agency operations. This is possible by using a dedicated planning tool (in their case, Float) to allocate project resources.
"Team visibility is important for us at Mixd. We can see at a glance where our resources are tied up, both in the immediate and near future, which is invaluable when planning future work. We need a simple tool that doesn't get in the way of this important part of running a busy studio. For us, Float is exactly that."
Float is software designed specifically for resource allocation. It works hand-in-hand with your favorite project management tools like Jira, Asana, Trello, Teamwork, and WorkflowMax via direct integrations.
Project managers can plan tasks in their project management tool and then use Float's visual calendar to allocate them based on their team's workload. The calendar makes it easy to see who's maxed out and who can take on more work. And in cases when you need to schedule a new task, the cost (e.g., the hourly rate x billable hours) is subtracted from the project budget. The budget summary will display red when a project is over budget.
5. Monitor the progress of the project
After assigning tasks, you will likely need to make changes as the project progresses. You might discover that you have too many resources at your disposal—or worse—you might have overloaded your team and are in danger of missing a deadline.
Knowing how many people are available to work on a project can make the difference in getting it delivered on time and within budget. In cases where that's not possible, it's essential to remain flexible and ready to make changes when necessary. According to McKinsey, a fundamental goal of resource reallocation is to make moves as opportunities shift. To overcome internal problems with your most important resource (your people), it's important to:
- Communicate clearly to your team that dynamic reallocation is a priority and that decisions are final unless there is a material external change.
- Create a common language around resource reallocation that integrates it into the culture of "how we do things" and stresses its importance in realizing growth aspirations.
- Consider organizational changes to create more flexibility in your team, such as creating shared resource pools or making it easier for your teams to cross-collaborate.
Look out for team members who are overcapacity—especially those working on multiple projects at once. One way to spot overloaded team members is by looking at their time logged. If you notice someone is working more than 40 hours a week, it might make sense to take some work off their plate and allocate it elsewhere.
Let's say your agency has a new project to work on, but your senior designer has a full calendar for the month. Instead of overloading them, a project manager can look at the availability of all the team's designers and find someone with free time. Or you can adjust the timeline for the project to a time when the designer will be available.
6. Run a post-project evaluation
At the end of any project, host a post-project evaluation to see what worked (and, more importantly) what didn't. Some basic post-project questions to consider are:
- Were there delays or setbacks during the project? If so, what were they?
- Did your team handle their tasks efficiently, or were they overloaded?
- Were the project details, such as the scope and deadlines, clear?
- What areas could be improved for future projects?
Don't hold back in these meetings—it's crucial everyone involved is open and honest about the triumphs and mistakes of the project. Doing so will help your project managers (and the rest of your team) plan and predict the needs of future projects more effectively.
Using resource allocation software, it's easy to pull data. You'll be able to spot which roadblocks you hit and if the estimated hours allocated matched up with the actual project lifecycle.
How to handle resource allocation problems
Even if you adopt all the right tools and follow resource allocation best practices, you will probably still run into problems. Hiccups are going to happen, so it's best to be prepared!
Let's take a look at some of the top challenges project managers face and how to overcome them.
The project scope changes
You did your best to plan resource allocation for your upcoming projects, but there's still the chance of scope creep. Maybe the tasks were more extensive than expected or required skills you didn't account for.
You need to be nimble and adjust your resources accordingly when this happens. To prevent scope creep, you should:
- Ensure project scopes are always transparent and defined.
- Set clear and defined project goals.
- Strive to do your best work, but don't be a perfectionist if it will cause delays.
- Create a system that allows workers to greenlight light change requests and revisions.
- Monitor team performance to ensure everything is on track.
- Use all the tools at your disposal to speed up progress.
Sometimes it's impossible to avoid scope creep. In such cases, having a scope change process helps you adapt fast and get back on course. It may look something like this:
- Submit a specific form to document change requests (in writing).
- Analyze the revision request to understand the scope creep thoroughly.
- Get approval from the main stakeholders.
- Document the approved scope changes in writing.
Resources become unavailable
Uncontrollable outside forces prevent scarce resources from showing up as expected. A worker's car breaks down, and they can't get to the office. Or maybe they have other priorities in the organization that trumps working on a task you assigned them. What matters is what you do next.
Work quickly to find a replacement within your talent pool. If there's no one available with the skills you need, hiring a freelancer or contractor may be the best option. You can prevent this in the future by looking at task dependencies. Investigate other responsibilities team members have that may pull them away from the project.
Have a backup resource allocation plan if they are unavailable for whatever reason. One option is to have a pool of freelancers you can count on to fill in gaps on a whim. Temporary staff could be the backup if freelancers aren't an option.
Resources need to be shared
It's common for projects to share the same resources. This is especially true in smaller organizations that can't afford to hire an extensive staff roster. As you can imagine, shared resources can lead to issues that bog down the pipeline. Project bottlenecks may occur if resources are spread too thin.
Use your resource allocation software to spot gaps in advance. Closely monitor workloads of team members who move between several departments. It's the best way to prevent over-allocating resources and burnout.
A delay can hit when you least expect it. People get sick, labor shortages arise, and miscommunication happens. That's when scope creep may rear its ugly head. Some issues are within your control, and others, not so much.
The most straightforward way to deal with issues is to try your best to prevent them in the first place. You can:
- Schedule tasks based on skill, not just time. An expert or specialist works faster. Using Float, you can create custom skill tags for team members so you can find the right person for the job in seconds.
- Avoid overloading team members with too many other priorities—especially if the task depends on them to move through the pipeline.
- Offer flexible hours. Some employees work more productively outside of traditional working hours.
- Map out project timelines, break them into phases, and track progress. Software helps to pinpoint potential delays before they become bottlenecks.
The more organized and transparent your resource allocation, the easier it is for everyone to take accountability for their role.
Manage your team’s availability on autopilot with resource allocation software
Integrate directly with Google or Outlook calendar. Set custom work days and hours, schedule time off, import public holidays, and set a status to let everyone know where you’re working from. With Float you get a live view to plan your team’s capacity and workload, to allocate resources with confidence.Try for free
A smarter resource allocation strategy empowers your team
Managing resources effectively can make or break any project. More importantly, it can keep your team (again, your most important resource) from burning out.
Resource allocation may not be rocket science. But it's often overlooked by project managers in terms of its importance. Whether you’re a team of two or 200, allocating your resources successfully depends on your ability to identify and utilize their individual skill sets and manage their availability.
With the right tools and resource management in place, it's easier than ever to keep your team happy and deliver successful projects.
Looking for a tool to help your team allocate resources? Join the thousands of creative teams that manage their remote teams using Float. Start your free trial here.
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