Resource availability guide: how to track resources & manage shortages effectively

Effective resource availability tracking can be the difference between your project's success and failure.

Graphic illustrating resource article

Imagine overseeing a high-stakes project with a tight deadline, only to realize that a key team member already has their hands full. You suddenly find yourself scrambling for a replacement while the deadline looms.

If this sounds familiar, then you know how important tracking resource availability is. It can be the difference between your project succeeding or failing. But often, tracking resource availability is hard to determine due to a lack of visibility, outdated data, or using the wrong tools.

In this short guide, you’ll learn what resource availability is, the factors that affect it, and how to track it to ensure your projects get delivered without a hitch.

What is resource availability?

Resource availability refers to the accessibility and readiness of various resources, such as people, time, money, materials, or equipment, to be used for a particular purpose or project. It is an essential part of effective resource management.  

Resource availability is a key factor that impacts your project’s success. If essential resources are lacking, it can lead to project delays, increased costs, and failure.

5 factors that affect the availability of your resources

The number of resources available for your projects is often determined by prioritized projects, time off, admin work, and planned work. Availability of resources is often affected by a combination of these factors.

Diagram showing the factors that affect resource availability

1. Scheduled projects/tasks

If multi-project work is the norm in your organization, the people on your team are likely to have their time divided across other projects at the same time. With people working on multiple projects, their availability will vary based on their schedule and the tasks they’re assigned to—and if they start their work from a fixed capacity (say, 40 hours/week), scope creep and project delays from other projects can also eat up their time.

2. Prioritization of projects

When planning resources, the most skilled people are allocated to projects that align closely with business goals.

If a high-priority project involving a cross-functional team is launched, there’s a chance your team will be pulled in to work on it.

3. Administrative tasks and meetings

According to Asana’s Anatomy Of Work Global Index 2022, workers lose nearly 3 hours in meetings daily, which is about 15 hours in a 40-hour work week. The same report shows they spend about 58% of their time doing admin tasks.

While meetings and admin are important, they can take up chunks of time that could be used for project work. Include time spent in meetings and on administrative tasks when calculating your team’s availability. For instance, if your team typically works a 40-hour week, you should allocate a portion of that time for meetings and admin.

4. Time off

Your project might grind to a halt if a team member working on critical project tasks takes time off. Especially if you have not scoped the timeline accordingly or made arrangements for freelance help. In a global team, holidays might vary, which means some people might be out of the office when you least expect them. Aside from planned time off, sick days and emergencies might make an integral team member in your project unavailable at the last minute.

5. Employment type

Each team member’s employment type affects their available hours for project work. Part-time workers or contractors may only have a limited time compared to your FTEs, and are not always available on demand (or they may be, at an extra cost).

How to track resource availability

Although resource availability is constantly changing, there are ways to monitor it, spot shortages before they happen, and make informed decisions to ensure successful project delivery.

Monitor team allocations and time off in a centralized location

Keep track of who is working on what and when in a central location.

Project management software does not provide a clear picture of your team’s availability. While they are good at assigning and managing tasks, you are left without information on your team’s capacity.

This is why capacity management tools like Float are a better option for tracking resource availability. Float combines real-time data from calendars, project management tools, and Slack to provide an overview of your team’s allocations, work hours, and availability. It also includes information on employment type, skills, work hours, and location.

Float schedule showing team allocations and availability

Estimate resource requirements using scenario planning

How many people do you need to complete your next project? What skills and roles are needed? How many people with those skills have availability during the project duration?

Scenario planning is your only bet at answering these questions. It shows you what project resources you’d need and if they are available when needed, enabling you to make informed decisions.

Let’s walk through how to create a tentative project in Float.

First, create a new project or use a template that matches your project.

In the project side panel, click on Status and select Tentative.

Then, start creating tasks and scheduling resources. All the tasks in your project would appear on the schedule with a color outline to differentiate them from other projects.

Once you are done setting up your project, you’ll have a clear picture of who you need to work on the project and when.

Keep an eye out for overallocation when scheduling

People who are working across projects might be assigned more hours than they have available. To avoid schedule conflicts and overloading your team members, you must always be on the lookout for resource overallocation on your project schedule.

Let’s say you have assigned a contractor who works for only 4 hours a week with a task for 8 hours across 3 days in Float. The overtime indicator (the area in red) and the work hours displayed beside their profile will alert you to the overallocation of resources immediately.

You can then adjust by looking for a resource with similar skills and availability.

You can also spot and manage heavy workloads using the utilization reports in Float.  

To see the reports, navigate to the Report dashboard on the top left.

Click on the Filter option to choose what utilization levels you want to see. You can pick from the pre-filled filters like a person, project, or department or type in your own tag.

Once this is done, Float will automatically calculate the overtime hours for you.

If you want to find a specific project or person with overtime, you can use the filters to narrow your search.

Establish rules to govern the tracking process

Your project team needs to know the expectations around tracking availability to keep the information updated and accurate—this requires you to establish a governance process to cover:

  • What information is logged in your project planning tool (e.g. resource allocations, paid time off, and planned work)
  • What tools should be synced to the software (e.g., Google Calendar or Slack)
  • When data should be logged into the tool (e.g., at the end of the week)

For example, you might ask that everyone request their time off in your resource planner so managers can approve leave in the context of your team’s work. Put someone in charge of ensuring these expectations are adhered to (that would likely be the project manager or someone you decide to delegate to).  

Set guidelines for taking time off

Having a time-off policy helps you manage leave in the workplace. It ensures that there are guidelines workers follow when requesting time off work. It also helps you minimize the disruption that taking leave last minute might cause, especially when you’re in the middle of critical project milestones.

If there are no rules in place about taking time off, consider setting some in place. Here are some of the key factors you should include in your time-off policy:

  • Have a notice period: There must be a required notice period for employees taking time off. It will also minimize any disruption that an employee’s absence might cause to your project plan. We recommend a minimum of a week’s notice to give them time to wrap up unfinished tasks and for you to find someone to fill in for them if necessary.
  • Set an approval process: Ensure that a manager reviews and approves team members’ requests for time off before they sign off. For instance, time off requests in Float are sent to the manager for approval.
  • Set holidays beforehand: If you use floating holidays, get team members to set their holidays in your project planning tool at the beginning of the work year or project.

5 challenges of keeping track of resource availability

For many project managers, resource availability is a game of hit or miss. This is due to a lack of visibility of team capacity and the factors that affect it.

1. Limited visibility into your team’s current and future capacity

While planning a project, you check a team member’s schedule on a spreadsheet, and they appear to be available for 30 hours a week. But in reality, they have even less time because they spend 2 hours in daily meetings, 3 hours doing admin tasks, and have a day off planned.    

Hidden elements can impact the availability of your team members and make planning difficult.

It’s even harder when you can’t tell what your team members will be working on in the future. You might schedule them for a project during the planning stage only to find out they have other tasks lined up or have planned time off.

Emily Feliciano, Creative Resource Manager at Atlassian, encountered a similar challenge. Without a dedicated resourcing tool, she had to depend on a mix of project management tools, meetings, and the word of team members to gauge availability. With Float, she could easily access an up-to-date team schedule, allowing her to assess capacity accurately.

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<sme-author>Emily Feliciano</sme-author>

<sme-position>Creative Resource Manager at Atlassian</sme-position>

<sme-quotes>After years in the industry (both in-house and agency) and using everything from Excel spreadsheets to automated resourcing software, Float is effectively the most nimble and aesthetically appealing tool on the market. I work with creatives, and we need to look at data in a digestible way. Float makes it easy and efficient to do so. I love the customization options, tools that it integrates with, and how you can get both granular and high-level information. It’s been my top tool for years, and I always try to get new places to adopt it.</sme-quotes>

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2. Using the wrong tools to track availability

Having a team of talented people is one thing. Knowing who is available to take on work is often the hard part. Especially if you don’t have the right tool to give you a clear picture of their capacity. We are looking at you, spreadsheets 😒

While spreadsheets are a popular tool for tracking project resources, they are not the ideal software for tracking resource availability.

They are often siloed and don’t integrate other project planning tools. Manual data entry makes them prone to human error.

For example, the capacity management team at Scholz and Friends initially used Excel sheets to monitor team availability and plan capacity. However, spreadsheets proved inadequate as the agency grew and project demands increased. They couldn’t easily tell which team members had the right capacity and skills to work on projects. And when it turned out that everyone had too much to do, they’d have to scramble to find freelancers to work on projects.

Switching from an Excel sheet to Float’s visual schedule made it easier to predict team capacity and make informed decisions, such as bringing in freelancers when the team was already busy.

Maike Jahnens is the head of financial operations and capacity management at Scholz & Friends Commerce
Maike Jahnens, the head of financial operations and capacity management at Scholz & Friends, uses Float to manage resource availability.

Unfortunately, project management tools are no better as they only provide a high-level overview of what your resources are doing, leaving you unable to predict availability. For example, Asana can tell you who is assigned to what task, but not if they have two-hour meetings every Thursday.  

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Use a project planning tool that syncs with all your favorite apps

Float automates and streamlines managing your team’s availability by bringing together their work hours, planned work, and upcoming time off into a single source of truth.

<cta-button>Try for free</cta-button>

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3. Absence of governance around the resource management process

You can have a resource planning tool, but if no rules dictate how availability is tracked, you will end up with inaccurate information.

Imagine what would happen if no one allocated resources in the tool until a few hours before the weekly resource meeting. Anyone looking into the tool beforehand would get the wrong idea of resource availability.

4. Sick time and other unexpected circumstances

People might catch the flu, be involved in a project with scope creep, or experience project delays that take up their time. These events are often beyond the project manager’s control and can impede project delivery.

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Use Float to get a full view of your team’s availability while planning your next project.

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What to do when your people are unavailable

First, don’t panic. Resource constraints happen.

Below are some actionable tips you can use to manage resource shortages:

Request more resources

If there’s a resource shortage, you should ask for more people to be allocated to the team. For example, you could request support from a freelancer for a project for a specific duration.

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Float allows you to add placeholder roles when planning a project in case you don’t have someone available for that specific task yet.

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Depending on your organization, you might have to file a resource request with the resource manager. If you don’t have a resource manager, you can ask department heads for additional people to help out.

Before going in, gather enough data to back up your request. If you use Float, you can collect data on utilization rates to show how overwhelmed your team is.

Utilization rates in Float
Float keeps data about your team’s utilization so you can make better planning decisions.

Once your request has been reviewed, the resource manager or department head might assign someone with similar skills to what you require or bring a freelancer on board.

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Learn how the team at Accounts and Legal reduces resource shortages by using Float to understand their hiring needs.

<tip-button>Read now</tip-button></tip>

Change the project schedule

If your project is already in progress and the resources are locked, you may have a limited amount of leeway.

Consider changing the project schedule to make the best use of your team’s time without overworking them. In resource management, this process is known as resource leveling, a technique that is ideal when resources needed to complete a project are limited.  

There are several ways to use resource leveling in your project. You could:

  • Delay start times
  • Extend the project duration
  • Remove tasks that aren’t crucial to project’s completion
  • Split tasks up to reduce workload
  • Bring tasks forward
  • Do tasks in parallel using fast tracking

Reassign tasks

Redistribute the pending tasks to another team member who is available.

Take the Buzzfeed video post-production team, for example. They often handle two to three-week video projects, with new assignments frequently coming in. To prevent any delays, they use Float’s Schedule to identify available team members with the right skills and then reassign the tasks accordingly.

Keep tabs on the who, when, and what with Float

Resource availability is constantly shifting and staying on top of it is crucial for successful project management.

It is only possible to stay on top of it using a tool that automates capacity management like Float.

In Float, you can integrate your team’s calendars so schedules are always up to date. You can set your team’s default work hours to serve as a baseline for capacity. You can customize individual work hours, ensuring that work is only scheduled at times when people are available.

You can also ease leave management by choosing your team’s time off types and adding your company’s leave balances and policy.

Ready to accurately track your team’s resource capacity? Try Float for free today.

FAQs

How can I assess resource availability?

You can assess resource availability by conducting a thorough inventory of all relevant resources, including their quantities, schedules, and constraints. Tools such as resource management software can also help in tracking and visualizing resource availability.

What are the consequences of resource shortages?

Resource shortages can lead to delays in project timelines, cost overruns, decreased productivity, compromised quality, and missed opportunities. In severe cases, resource shortages may even result in project failure or organizational setbacks.

How can I communicate resource availability effectively?

Effective communication of resource availability involves:

1. Providing clear and timely updates on resource status

2. Setting realistic expectations regarding resource availability and constraints

3. Establishing channels for stakeholders to raise concerns or requests regarding resources

4. Collaborating with stakeholders to find creative solutions to resource challenges