Resource allocation helps project managers to assign the best team for the job, and optimize how work is assigned.
Delivering projects on time and on budget is the number one goal for businesses of all kinds. And at the heart of every successful project is the most important resource an organization has: its people.
On paper, resource allocation is the process of assigning and managing assets to support a team's projects and strategic goals.
If we break that down further: Resource allocation means matching your team members’ skill sets to the right tasks and ensuring you’re able to execute every project in your pipeline.
Easier said than done, right? 🤷♀️
If nailing resource allocation isn't one of the main goals for your project managers, it definitely should be. Data shows that 80% of creative marketers feel overworked and understaffed at their current job, and one in six are actively looking for new employment because of it.
Numbers like those should send a red flag to creative leaders everywhere. It’s evidence that a better way is needed to allocate their team's time to avoid burnout and turnover.
This guide shares how to create a resource allocation process that empowers your team, prevents burnout, and saves money.
Table of Contents
- What is resource allocation?
- The benefits of resource allocation
- How to build a resource allocation process
- How to handle common resource allocation problems
What is resource allocation?
Resource allocation is the process of assigning the best available resources to tasks and projects. It monitors workloads to ensure under or overutilization doesn’t happen. Then, if needed, people are reassigned based on current resource availability and project timelines.
The purpose is to help resources across the organization maximize their utility. And when done right, it can improve customer and employee satisfaction.
Unfortunately, resource management isn’t always easy, but most know it’s essential. In 2016, 83% of executives said the allocation of resources was the most critical management lever for growth. Fast-forward to 2021 and it’s the third-biggest project management challenge for businesses.
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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 resource allocation.
Create resource and cost efficiencies
It costs money to hire and maintain resources, but it shouldn’t run your budget into the ground. But that’s what happens when you end up hiring resources you don’t need. Or worse, overloading your talent pool and dealing with underperformance and missed deadlines.
When you have the tools, you can see the availability of resources and timelines for projects in the pipeline.
In the long term, resource allocation can prevent overspending on resources you don’t need. And it avoids overworking teams, which can cause members to quit due to burnout. 🙌
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 profits for your organization.
The tags feature in Float lets you add and search for team members by skill, location, employee type and more.
Improve team wellbeing and morale
Poor resource management can lead to a burned-out workforce. And when that happens, everything else goes down the drain:
Productivity reduces, performance levels decrease, and happiness disappears. Reports show:
- Burned-out employees are 63% more likely to call in sick and 2.6x as likely to search for new employment.
- 76% of employees agree that workplace stress affects their mental health.
- Workplace stress costs businesses an estimated $500 billion and 550 million lost workdays.
When you’re allocating resources effectively, it takes into account actual availability—not 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 wellbeing and morale.
Resource allocation software keeps projects on track
The 2021 Global Agency Productivity Report by Float found that agencies with a dedicated resource allocation tool identify their organization as always effective in scheduling their team’s workload and delivering projects on time than those without.Try for free
Keep stakeholders in the loop
Your stakeholders want to be on top of what’s happening with projects. 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.
With resource allocation software, however, you can reduce the instances of errors and promote transparency. It uses automation to track the progress of tasks and sends reports to stakeholders.
Maybe this will cut back on daily meetings—and make them faster when you do have them. 🤗
How to build a resource allocation process
If you’re not familiar with the Project Management Triangle, it’s a diagram showing how scope, cost, and time affect quality.
The triangle is a metaphor for how a project manager should look at their resources. They need to allocate resources to ensure fairness and quality, while also considering factors of planning like project limitations and budget constraints.
Let’s put that into practice and say someone on your team booked time off midway through a project. It's the project manager's responsibility to figure out how it’ll impact deliverables. The person’s absence should be visible on the project schedule so you can reassign the tasks and prevent delays.
Remember: even the best-laid project plans can hit speed bumps that impact your team’s efficiency. The key is to create a process that makes resource allocation beneficial.
Here’s a five-step resource allocation 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.
It should cover the following:
- What tasks are needed?
- When is the project due?
- When is each task due?
- What skills are required to complete the tasks?
- Who has the skills you need to complete those tasks?
- What is their availability (i.e. who’s going on vacation)?
- Are there task dependencies, or tasks with multiple dependencies?
- How does each task dependency work (i.e. finish to start, start to start, finish to finish, start to finish)?
- Where are skill gaps due to unavailability or lack of talent?
Visually seeing what (and who) you need by when 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.
Either way, make a note of team members with other responsibilities that can slow down task dependencies.
2. Get to know the availability of your resources (your people!)
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 managing your team's overall availability. Sick leave time off, and public holidays all eat into your availability.
Knowing how many people are available to work on a project can make a difference in getting it delivered on time and on budget.
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), Yuval Atsmon suggests:
- Clear communication to your team that dynamic reallocation is a priority and that decisions are final unless there is a material external change.
- Creating 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.
- Considering 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.
3. Don't overload your team
Effective resource allocation helps avoid team burnout, which can be a major roadblock for teams.
Let’s say a project lands in your agency's lap. 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.
Not only does this plug the holes in your team's calendar, it also prevents burnout via better workload management. If you identify a skill gap in your team, you can attempt to upskill other team members or look to hire additional staff.
Chicago advertising agency Mosaic uses Float’s resource scheduling software to plan and schedule their team across multiple projects. Project manager Sheila Sexton says using a dedicated resource allocation tool helps them stay on top of everyone's scheduled workloads, and make adjustments to prevent overworking or double-booking anyone.
An example of a team's calendar layout in Float. A project manager can assign, move, and change tasks quickly using drag and drop.
It's easy to assume your team can deal with scheduling conflicts independently. But sometimes, it's better to let a project manager steer the ship. 🚢
4. Time block your team’s calendar
The most important resource an agency has is its people. It makes sense that managing their time is paramount to successful projects.
The first step: Estimating how long it’ll take your team members to complete each task assigned to them. By figuring out how many hours a task will take, it's easier to visualize how they’ll slot into your team's calendars based on their workload.
The fancy term for this is time blocking. Time blocking not only allocates tasks directly into a team member's schedule, it also prioritizes them. Project managers can estimate how long a task will take a creative to finish, then block out that amount of time on their schedule so it's their only focus.
If you think a design brief should take roughly two hours to complete, add the task as a block into their resource calendar.
If your estimate is off for some reason (perhaps the client changed their mind about something), all you have to do is adjust the team member’s schedule. You immediately get more time to get it done. 🙌
Pro-tip: The secret weapon to effective time blocking is resource allocation software. Not only is it 10x easier to organize projects and tasks, but you’ll also be able to track how long it takes for team members to complete them. If you notice the scheduled time for tasks isn’t quite right, adjust and reallocate your resources along the way.
Float’s drag and drop interface makes reassigning tasks a breeze
5. Choose a resource allocation tool
Keeping track of everything your team is working on isn’t easy—hence why you should use resource allocation software to shoulder some of the burden.
With it, project managers can put things like budget tracking on autopilot, while keeping a close eye on their team's calendars in real time. Software creates a level of transparency that meetings and whiteboards can't.
Yet, for many teams, choosing the right tools for a tech stack can be overwhelming. Instead of picking a tool based on its features list (or marketing budget), choose one your team needs to complete the task at hand.
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 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 gives an overall idea of their team's schedule. It’s easier to see who’s maxed out and who can take on more work.
Every time a team member completes a task (in either platform), it’s updated automatically in both, meaning you get the most up-to-date view of project progression.
Integrate your project management software directly with Float, to drag and drop allocating tasks to team members
6. Run a post-project evaluation
The final step in any resource allocation strategy is to conduct a post-project evaluation. Don’t worry, it’s not as scary as it sounds. But it’s vital in determining if you’re allocating resources effectively.
At the end of any project, host a post-project evaluation team meeting 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?
- How did the team communicate with the client throughout the project and was it managed effectively?
- Were the details of the project, such as the scope and deadlines, clear?
- Did departments cross collaborate and share resources when the opportunity arose?
- What areas could be improved for future projects?
“There are occurrences in which a resource arrives at a project and sits idle for a long time. This is bad as the resource is being paid for but not being used. Tracking resource utilization rates is a simple solution to this problem.”
If you're 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.
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.
How to handle resource allocation problems
You adopt all the right tools, follow resource allocation best practice, and still, you run into problems along the way. Hiccups are going to happen, so it’s best to prepare now.
Let’s take a look at the top challenges project managers face and how to overcome them.
The project scope changes
You do your best to plan resource allocation for upcoming projects. But there’s always the chance of scope creep. Maybe the tasks were larger than expected or required skills you didn’t account for.
When this happens, you need to be nimble and adjust your resources accordingly. Having software is critical to quickly find available resources to meet the demand, or identify a need to hire additional help.
To prevent scope creep, you should:
- Ensure project scopes are always clear and defined
- Set clear and defined project goals
- Strive to do your best work, but don’t be a perfectionist if it’s going to cause delays
- Create a system that allows workers to greenlight light change requests and revisions
- Monitor team performance to ensure everything’s on track
- Use all the tools at your disposal to speed up progress
Another option is to develop a scope change process. 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 fully
- Approval from main stakeholders or other authority
- Scope changes approved (in writing)
There’s also the possibility of scope changes in the other direction. For instance, there’s an overallocation of resources after a client removes tasks from the project. Now you don’t need as many people or hours you allocated. What happens next? 😅
This is an issue because you’re overspending on resources you don’t need, which hurts your bottom line. Be sure to adjust your resources in real-time as you review the progress of your teams.
Resources become unavailable
It happens—sometimes at the worst time possible (like when a deadline is looming). 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.
There are uncontrollable outside forces that cause scarce resources from showing up as expected. 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 quickest option.
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 in case they don’t show up (due to other obligations or the flu).
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 back-up if freelancers aren’t an option.
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
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 a large staff roster.
As you’d 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 that in advance. Closely monitor workloads for team members who float between several departments. It’s the best way to prevent over-allocating resources and burning them out.
A delay can hit when you least expect it. People get sick. Labor shortages arise. Miscommunication happens. And scope creep may rear its ugly head.
These and other factors can cause dilemmas with meeting project deadlines. Some within your control—and others, not so much. What do you do about them? The simplest answer is: try your best to prevent them. You can:
- Schedule tasks based on skill, not just time. An expert or specialist works faster.
- Avoid tasking 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 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.
Working with remote teams
Flexible work schedules are a popular discussion today (thanks to the pandemic 😷).
But it takes some getting used to, especially for project managers. Managing remote workers is tricky without the right tools. Invest in a tech stack to keep your remote team productive.
For instance, you can use Slack for communication, Asana for project management, and Google Calendar to sync schedules. An aligned team makes everyone’s role easier. But how do you ensure everyone’s consistently on the same page?
It’s all about transparency and communication. By using shared tools, it’s easier to monitor your talent pool, resource availability, project scope, and team progress.
Float gives you a birds-eye view of your remote team, their performance, and simplifies time tracking. You’ll know when it’s time to bring more people aboard or when to cut back.
Make it so your teams can request time off via the tool so it automates their availability on the fly. This way, you don’t miscalculate available hours each week or month.
Then, if you’re worried about timezone differences, open up a discussion about it. Find out everyone’s best times for working and meetings. Set boundaries and expectations for communication to prevent conflicts down the road.
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 far too 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 your team’s individual skill set (and manage their availability productively).
With the right tools and resource management in place, it's easier now than ever to keep your team happy and deliver successful projects.