Your resource schedule is your team’s timetable.
Without one, there is a very high chance you, as a project or resource manager, are:
- In the dark about timelines, unsure who is working on what and when tasks are due.
- Fending off endless questions about what tasks should be prioritized.
- Constantly worried about missing deadlines.
If that sounds like you, this article will introduce you to what resource scheduling is and is not, and why you need it (trust us: you do). And that’s just the introduction—keep reading to also learn how to build a resource schedule that guides your team and ensures projects stay on course, timelines remain clear, and you stay updated on project progress.
What is resource scheduling?
Resource scheduling is the process of assigning resources to projects and tasks within a specified timeframe. A resource schedule should clearly define who needs to do what and when, and make that information available at a glance to all project managers, resource managers, and team members involved.
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Effective resource scheduling helps businesses ensure their team knows what tasks are coming up, preventing project delays. It also helps them track how their teams use time, making it possible to reallocate tasks among individuals to address over- or underutilization.
Here’s a simple example.
Say you’re running a design agency, your team is working on a website design project, and the mockups are due in exactly two weeks. With an effective approach to resource scheduling, you book specific time slots for one of your UX designers to create the wireframes. They know what they need to do in advance, which helps maintain a smooth workflow. While the work progresses, you use your project and resource scheduling software to detect delays and bottlenecks.
It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that—but you’d be surprised how many businesses and teams are currently struggling with it.
Note: in project management, the label ‘resources’ usually refers to the human and non-human components used to carry out a project—not just team members but also equipment, software, time, money, etc. In this article, we are choosing to focus on the living, breathing people you work with, so we will use language that shows the humans behind the work. For example, we’ll write “schedule your people’s time in your resource management tool” instead of “schedule your resources in your resource management tool.”
Why is resource scheduling important in project management?
Resource scheduling saves time, maintains quality, and keeps costs down:
- It saves time by ensuring everyone knows what to do and when, which ensures project are always on track. (It’s always a relief when no one has to ping you in Slack to ask who’s responsible for Nike’s website copy that is due in 24 hours).
- Scheduling tasks to skilled and available individuals ensures they perform proficiently and deliver timely work, thereby improving the overall quality of deliverables.
- It cuts costs by reducing idle time (everyone gets assigned to do something) and minimizing project delays that lead to cost overruns.
For example, one of our customers, advertising agency Truus, increased efficiency by 90% by using resource schedules to create clear project timelines. By doing so, the team reduced the hours that would have been spent waiting for instructions and dedicated more time to doing the work (read the full case study here).
Find who is scheduled on what—at a glance
Managing resources becomes simpler using Float's visual schedule. It allows you to view color-coded tasks in flight with precise timelines, keeping you updated on both project and team progress.Try for free
What resource scheduling is not
Resource scheduling may seem similar to other resource management terms like resource planning, allocation, or leveling.
But it isn’t.
Knowing the difference isn't just so you can win the next project management trivia night 😌; it's also to avoid applying the wrong strategies to solve specific problems. For instance, solving a resource planning issue with a tactic meant for resource scheduling might not be effective.
Resource allocation vs. resource scheduling
Resource allocation involves assigning team members to projects based on availability, skills, and interests. In contrast, resource scheduling outlines when these assigned team members will work within the project timeline.
Allocation decides who works on what, while scheduling focuses on when they work.
Resource planning vs. resource scheduling
Resource planning is identifying the needed resources and allocating and organizing work based on team capacity, while resource scheduling is focused on detailing when and how allocated time will be used.
Scheduling happens within the planning process and is considered a part of it.
Resource leveling vs. resource scheduling
Resource leveling focuses on balancing workload to avoid peaks and valleys in resource utilization. In contrast, resource scheduling specifies when and how people’s time will be used during a project.
Leveling balances how much work team members have at different times, while resource scheduling plans when and how their time will be used in a project.
Resource scheduling is the process of assigning resources to tasks within a specified timeframe.
Resource allocation involves identifying and assigning resources like people, time, money, and equipment to projects, considering a team’s availability, skills, and interests.
Resource planning is the process of determining what resources are required to deliver projects and allocating and scheduling the work based on team capacity.
Resource leveling is a technique used to adjust the project schedule by redistributing assignments to maintain a balance between resource availability and resource constraints.
2 resource scheduling methods you need to know about
When scheduling tasks, two situations are likely to occur:
- You might have multiple projects to complete and very little time
- You might have a limited number of people to assign tasks to
In either case, two resource scheduling methods can help optimize your people’s time and complete the project:
1. Resource-constrained scheduling
When you do resource-constrained scheduling, you plan tasks within the limits of available resources. In the context of managing people, it means planning within the limits of your team members’ capacity so you don’t overload them.
Say you have a project that ideally requires three people to complete, but you only have one person available. This type of scheduling helps you make the best use of your available person’s time without overworking them or missing the project deadline.
For example, you could delay a project's start date until more people are available, or you could stretch out the length of tasks so that your one team member has enough time to finish them.
A drawback is that projects might last longer than the minimum duration.
If this sounds like one of your projects, check out this article on resource leveling–a technique for managing resource constraints.
2. Time-constrained scheduling
Time-constrained scheduling is used to schedule your team's time when there are fixed deadlines.
For example, your team is working on a landing page that needs to be launched before Black Friday. Halfway through the project, you realize the team isn’t moving fast enough to meet the deadline. So you hire a freelance developer to help speed things up.
While time-constrained scheduling can come to the rescue when there’s little time left to spare, it doesn’t come cheap. The project’s cost might increase when you bring new people on board at the last minute.
If your project is constrained by time, learn how to use resource smoothing to complete projects on time.
How to do resource scheduling in 5 steps: A real-life example
When scheduling your team, you take into account resource capacity along with project timelines, dependencies, and deadlines. Then, you pick the best time for them to work so the project finishes on time.
We know it sounds like a lot, but this process is much easier when using the right project and resource scheduling tool.
This is why this section will show you how to schedule your team using Float (that’s us 😃). We wrote it after specifically asking [a bunch of our customers] to take us through their scheduling process, so we can offer you an example based on practice and not just in resource scheduling theory!
Step 1. Create your project in Float
If you haven’t already, begin by creating a project within Float.
Click the + button in the top-right of Float and then Add project.
Add in project information in the Info tab, select your team members for the project, set your milestones, and list out tasks.
Step 2: Assess your team availability before assigning tasks
This may sound obvious, but before you do anything else, check your team members’ availability during the anticipated project duration.
Here are some things to look out for on your team’s schedule in Float:
- Is there any holiday coming up?
- Is anyone taking their annual leave soon?
- Is anyone working part-time?
Capacity indicators in Float help you easily see if a team member has PTO upcoming or if someone is overloaded so you avoid allocating work to them.
If a team member is unavailable, you can use the Filter function to find people with similar skills. But first, you need to set up People tags in Float.
Once that’s done, you can search and filter people based on skills, seniority, language proficiencies—or any other characteristic you may want to surface quickly.
Step 3: Allocate work and set timeframes
Navigate to the top right click the + sign, and select Allocate time
Block out time for tasks by selecting the number of hours and the duration, e.g., four hours daily for the next ten workdays.
Then, choose the team members and click Create Allocation to book time on their schedule.
Step 4: Monitor allocations and adapt when necessary
Keep an eye on any changes in team availability and project timelines.
If a due date is moved up or a team member is reassigned to another team, use the drag-and-drop function in Float to make changes to the schedule.
Step 5. Track the actual time spent on tasks and activities
Here’s a bonus step: Keep a record of the number of people allocated to projects and the time taken to complete tasks. This data will help you refine your future resource schedules.
For example, if you set up time tracking in a visual planning tool like Float, you can see when a project is taking longer than expected by comparing logged hours with scheduled hours.
You can easily see if any of your team members are working overtime and make changes to the schedule.
Time tracking in Float is an easy, accurate, and reliable way to record how long each task typically takes. You can schedule tasks, track time in one place, and use this data as a reference point for future projects.Try for free
Finally, you can detect when your team’s time is being used inefficiently.
The Report dashboard makes it easy to see when non-billable hours are more than billable hours. This data can help you resolve schedule conflicts and schedule projects that help your team work more effectively.
Schedule resources based on your team’s real capacity
Planning and managing your team’s capacity in real time is critical to successful resource scheduling. Resource management software gives you the most accurate view of your team's availability, workload, and project pipeline to schedule resources confidently.