10 headache-inducing resource management challenges (and how the pros solve them)

Tactical advice from people planning pros about overcoming resource management challenges like optimal resourcing, balancing team workloads, and task prioritization.

Graphic illustrating resource article

Playing Tetris. Flying by the seat of your pants. Being an air traffic controller. All these are analogies our customers have used to describe the many challenges of resource management.

Yet none fully capture the issues of managing who can handle what work and when. Beyond planning your team’s time, you must match the right people to the right projects, measure (hard to grasp) utilization rates, distribute workloads effectively, and juggle shifting priorities.

It’s a lot 🫠

To help you manage these common challenges, we share advice and tactical tips from our planning pros, including a team of capacity planners managing 200+ people, a busy accounting firm that always hires at the right time, and a senior resource manager who fields more than 60 resource requests weekly. 

Read on to find out how they tackle challenges like: 

1. Managing heavy workloads

⚠️Warning sign: team members are constantly overwhelmed with work 

In a recent poll we conducted on LinkedIn, people planners voted workload management as their biggest resource management headache 😩.

LinkedIn poll on Float page showing resource management challenges
Workload management gives the majority of our people planners a headache

For Pascal Josephy, the Managing Director of digital agency novu, this resource management issue is all too familiar. 

“We can’t give employees more work than they can handle, but we also need to make sure every employee has a project so their schedules are full. At the same time, we have to be careful not to promise too much to our clients so that our employees aren’t overwhelmed.”

How to fix it 

1. Monthly planning meetings

Take a page out of the Accounts and Legal team’s book. The consultancy firm meets monthly to plan their workloads, setting up all tasks in Float to distribute work evenly. 

Clara Tooth, Manager at Accounts and Legal, pointing at team schedule in Float
Clara Tooth, Manager at Accounts and Legal, relies on Float to stay on top of the team’s workload

2. Daily check-ins

In addition to monthly meetings, consider scheduling more frequent discussions. For example, the Accounts and Legal team holds daily check-ins to monitor task progress and workloads. 

However, daily standups might not suit everyone. You can opt for weekly meetings instead, like we do 😁

Encourage open communication during these discussions so team members bring up delays or issues early on, making it easier to adjust workloads before they become a problem.

3. Monitoring capacity by role

Monitoring capacity by job role helps Accounts & Legal quickly identify when people with specific skills are nearing their limit or bottlenecks are on the horizon. This allows the team to proactively decide whether to hire more staff or adjust the workload among the existing staff.

2. Gauging resource capacity

⚠️Warning sign: little to no knowledge of capacity, resulting in overloading or underutilizing team members

Whenever we talk to our customers about resource management, capacity often comes up— especially how hard it is to determine or track it. 

Emily Feliciano, Senior Creative Resource Manager at Atlassian, used to rely on meetings and feedback from her team to gauge capacity, but she found the process inefficient. She explains: “My brain remembered where things were and how many things people were working on. I was in so many meetings to ensure I was up to date on every single thing that happened and understood each designer’s needs. All I had was to trust their word. So if they told me they were maxed out, I knew that’s sort of where we were. It was a very long process.”

But as Justin West, a former program manager at A–B, points out, it’s difficult to quantify capacity simply based on a team member’s word: “A lot of people say that they might be busy, but we have no way of quantifying that.” 

How to fix it

1. Establish baseline capacity for each team member

A common error in resource capacity planning is having unrealistic expectations about team members’ availability—like expecting the team to have 40 hours a week available to work without accounting for time spent on administrative tasks, sick leave, personal time off, and unexpected work requests.

Michael Luchen, our Director of Product here at Float, suggests that administrative work and management tasks should also be accounted for when planning capacity. “For example, if the design lead has to do admin work for an hour or two a day and then meet with team members for another hour, that should be allocated on their schedule.”

Calendar of a Float team member showing time blocks for admin tasks
Recently, the content team at Float started blocking out time for admin tasks–spot the bright green blocks 🟩

2. Use the right tools to track and plan capacity

Project management tools don’t usually track availability, which means you might be left in the dark about your team’s capacity.

As Co-CEO Nick Patterson told us: “It was really difficult for us to get a big picture, look at how busy we were, who was being scheduled on what, especially if multiple tasks were going on in one day.”

Before switching to Float, the team at STORM+SHELTER used Asana to schedule work, but the tool didn’t surface actual team capacity or give a clear view of the team workload and schedules. 

3. Lacking visibility into resource utilization

⚠️Warning sign: not knowing what your team is spending their time on

When managers don’t have a clear view of what their team is working on and how much time they spend on tasks, they can’t accurately assess whether their team members are overworked or underutilized—and this lack of visibility was one of the main challenges Feliciano experienced when she started at Atlassian. Coming from an agency that used timesheets to track resource utilization, she found it particularly difficult to manage in-house people without dedicated tools. 

How to fix it

1. Use a resource management tool to measure and optimize utilization rates

Timesheets are not the only way to track team utilization. 

Feliciano now relies on Float’s visual schedule to get a clear picture of her team’s utilization. 

“Unlike rigid timesheet tracking, Float allows a more intuitive approach to managing tasks. It lets me work on both detailed and high-level tasks while giving a comprehensive overview. This helps me understand team capacity and ensure it stays balanced, avoiding burnout and underutilization.”

Emily Feliciano looks at her team's schedule in Float
Aided by eye-catching capacity indicators, Atlassian’s Emily Feliciano can keep resource utilization at the right level

2. Monitor capacity indicators

In Float, Feliciano uses features like overtime alerts to easily spot when utilization is too low or excessively high. These indicators help her take timely actions to rebalance the workload before it becomes a problem.

Capacity indicators in Float showing team member's overtime
Float lets you spot when your team is stretched past capacity

3. Assess actual workloads

Besides looking at schedules, Feliciano examines the actual tasks assigned to each team member to determine if their number and weight accurately reflect capacity. Someone with ten tasks might be under-utilized if the tasks are simple or short—whereas someone with just one task might be at risk of overutilization if that task is particularly demanding.

4. Keeping track of skills

⚠️Warning sign: no knowledge of who has which skills on the team

Keeping track of each team member’s skills becomes more challenging as organizations grow. It’s much harder to know who does what in a team of 100 compared to a team of 10 🫠

Just ask Maike Jahnens, the Head of Financial Operations and Capacity Management at Scholz & Friends, who manages over 200 creatives. “It’s quite difficult to get to know everyone on a big international team,” she says. “Sometimes, you see people in the office. You don’t know their roles and their names.”

How to fix it

Store information about skills in a centralized tool 

​​Storing information about roles, specialized skill sets, and task-relevant certifications in a centralized tool can significantly help manage large teams. 

For example, the Scholz & Friends team uses People Tags in Float to keep track of the 200+ creatives on their team. 

With Float's tagging system, you can easily identify a person's skills by filtering by specific roles like motion designers or copywriters. “You can quickly help out if someone is in need of a specific skill set,” explains Jahnens. 

These insights offer Scholz & Friends two key advantages: they make managing a large, diverse team easier by quickly identifying the right skills across offices and ensuring that all team members are engaged in work they enjoy.

People tags in Float
People tags help you keep track of what skills the people on your team have

5. Navigating changing project requirements and priorities 

⚠️ Warning sign: consistently reassigning team members between projects

Managers often have to become expert jugglers to balance shifting project priorities

If you often feel like every project has far too many moving parts, you’re not alone. Alek Thomas, the Head of Projects at full-service agency Impression, says, “The greatest challenge in this role is keeping all multiple plates spinning. We receive numerous requests from clients, have various goals we want to achieve, and need to convey complex technical details. Juggling all these elements is tricky.”

And for Feliciano at Atlassian, new projects frequently arrive while others are still in progress, complicating project prioritization. On average, she receives over 60 resource requests in a week

How to fix it

1. Allocate time for ad-hoc work

It's almost impossible to stop priorities from changing; unexpected tasks and ad hoc initiatives will always come up.

But you can prepare by allocating time for unforeseen tasks, giving your team the flexibility and adaptability they need to take on unexpected work without disrupting their scheduled projects too much. 

The engineering team at Float blocks out time on its team members’ calendars to account for potential and unforeseen customer issues, reducing disruptions in the team’s schedule. 

2. Negotiate resources and push out timelines

If a new project comes in and the team is already at capacity, Feliciano suggests evaluating the new project’s importance by asking key questions: 

  • What is the priority of this work? 
  • Is there a significant budget attached? 
  • Are we trying to fix a relationship with a client?
  • Is this a new opportunity with a potential client we’ve been wanting to work with?

Understanding the new project’s importance and urgency helps you decide how to accommodate it.

If the project is critical, the next step is identifying the ideal team members for the job and negotiating timelines for the current projects they are working on. 

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Keen to learn why teams like Atlassian, Scholz & Friends, STORM+SHELTER, and Flight Story choose Float as their resource management software? Kick off a free 14-day trial and find out! 

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6. Planning around unrealistic project deadlines

⚠️Warning signs: consistently missing due dates

Tight and unrealistic deadlines can stress your team and jeopardize successful project delivery. Also, when schedules are packed, team members may struggle to handle unexpected issues. 

People planners like Japie Stoppelenburg, the founder of advertising agency Truus, are no strangers to project teams trying to pack too many tasks into a day. 

In Stoppelenburg’s experience, this type of environment has proven impossible to manage and hardly conducive for doing excellent work. He points out: “Project teams tend to schedule everyone’s day very tightly, fitting in four tasks in one day and really trying to pack it all in. However, this isn’t ideal because it puts people under pressure, causing stress and making it hard for them to improve their work.”

How to fix it

1. Use scenario planning for realistic deadlines

Plan efficiently by proactively mapping out future projects to avoid surprises. 

Angela Faunce Leaf, Executive Producer, Integrated Production at Tilt Creative + Production, proactively maps out future projects in Float to avoid surprises. Even if she’s unsure when a resource will be needed, she works on project planning ahead of time by creating a Tentative Project and using placeholders. Once more details are available, she updates the project with the appropriate team members and their available bandwidth.

Set up of a tentative project in Float
You can start planning projects before they are confirmed by setting them as tentative in Float

2. Use historical data to scope out timelines

Consult team members who have experience with similar projects. They can provide more accurate estimates based on their past experiences. 

Historical data from your resource planning tool can also be a valuable reference. In Float, you can compare logged versus scheduled time to get a better sense of where you may have previously encountered capacity shortages and resource conflicts. 

Report dashboard in Float showing logged and scheduled hours
Float lets you compare logged vs scheduled time to see if a project took longer than planned

7. Identifying the optimal method to track time spent on tasks

⚠️Warning sign: you can’t tell how much time your team spends on work

Your approach to work may require adopting a dedicated method for measuring time and utilization rates, and finding the right one can be challenging.

For instance, Stoppelenburg doesn’t believe in time-tracking for creative work. “I think it’s common for most agencies to have employees track their time, “he says. “I don’t believe in that. I think it creates the wrong environment for a creative agency. I don’t want the creatives to worry about their hours or their time tracking. I just want them to deliver.”

Tiago Duarte, the Project Management Lead at software development agency Significa, shares the same view: “We don’t track time because productivity can vary greatly in creative work, particularly in design. Sometimes, a team member might work 10 hours without producing tangible results, while at other times, just one hour of work could yield two days’ worth of output.”

How to fix it

1. Plan your team’s time in blocks, not hours 

Try an alternative method to time logs. Time blocks allow for the flexibility necessary for the creative process while still maintaining timelines for project completion.

Stoppelenburg uses Float to schedule time in high-level blocks based on estimates provided by senior creatives and account managers. 

He explains: “Creatives try to follow the scheduled estimates as best they can. If they’re done earlier, they’ll let us know, and we might make some extra money in the process. If they take a little longer, our philosophy is that it will probably balance itself out with the times they were done earlier.”

A team's schedule in Float with blocks of time allocated to projects
You can block out time across several days when scheduling in Float

2. Adjust and balance over time

Ongoing evaluation helps ensure that the scheduling remains realistic and adjusts to the team members’ actual pace and productivity.

“If someone consistently needs more time than they’ve been scheduled, the project managers examine whether the estimates are too low or if the person needs to find a way to speed up,” says Stoppelenburg. 

8. Finding the right tool to manage your people

⚠️Warning sign: your team is outgrowing spreadsheets 

Without the right resource management tool, you might find it difficult to do your job effectively. 

For example, spreadsheets are fine…up to a certain point. But as your team and project complexity start growing, you’re likely to spend hours in manual work that’s prone to error. 

Martin Mattli, Head of Operations and Quality Management at Apps with Love reached a point where  using spreadsheets to plan resources became too inefficient and time-consuming “It was a lot of work as we needed to manually add in absences, vacations, and public holidays for each employee, and it was just so exhausting,” he says.

Martin Mattli looks at team projects in Float
Now, Float streamlines Martin’s resource management workflow—look at that beautifully color-coded Schedule!

How to fix it 

The solution to this one is quite straightforward: 👇

Use a built-for-purpose resource management tool like Float.

A dedicated resource management solution gives you a centralized platform for managing and tracking capacity, schedules, and project information. Your resource plans become more accurate, and you can make changes on the fly based on real-time data.

A team's schedule in Float
“Float is effectively the most nimble and aesthetically appealing tool on the market,” according to Emily Feliciano, Senior Creative Resource Manager at Atlassian

9. Negotiating resources

⚠️Warning signs: consistent double booking and schedule conflicts

Effective resource management requires constant work to ensure everyone is aligned on how projects will be resourced. This includes getting stakeholders who compete for team members to agree on resource allocations. Without a clear consensus on who is responsible for what tasks and when, projects can stall.

How to fix it

1. Plan your team’s time in a central schedule

By using the central schedule in Float, the accounts and project teams at Social Chain can see all scheduled activities. This transparency allows them to efficiently plan campaigns without overlapping, considering both current and future workloads.

2. Have open and regular discussions about the allocation of resources

Regular meetings are crucial for managing resource allocations effectively. For instance, The Scholz & Friends team holds regular discussions to ensure everyone understands team roles and resource availability.

Not all discussions have to be synchronous—the Flight Story team uses Slack to manage and negotiate resources. They request project assistance in a dedicated channel and collaboratively figure out solutions. This method encourages effective communication and allows for flexible resource management.

10. Overcoming the reluctance to adopt new tech

⚠️Warning sign: team members do not use dedicated resource planning tools

Implementing a resource management tool is just the first step. The next challenge is overcoming resistance and persuading everyone to drop their old ways of resourcing. 

Take the A—B team’s transition to using Float for time tracking as part of their resource planning improvements. The initial change didn’t come easy: “The hardest part is the cultural change when you’re going from an organization that’s not really used to time tracking or hasn’t been [logging time] consistently to one where it’s now a requirement,” says West. “Anyone in any organization can attest to that being difficult.”

How to fix it 

1. Choose an intuitive tool

Pick an agency management tool that is easy to use to minimize resistance. West loves Float for its user-friendly features, like pre-filled timesheets and an in-app timer, which allowed the team to track time effortlessly throughout the day rather than remembering everything at the end of the week.

Float schedule showing how to log time
Time tracking in Float is really as easy as clicking a button

2. Make a strong case for the tool and involve people in the process

West successfully got people on board by clearly explaining how time tracking could protect the team’s well-being and enhance project profitability. This approach helped team members see the advantages of adopting a new solution compared to keeping things as they were.

Additionally, by keeping communication open before and after rolling out the new tool, West ensured that everyone was aligned and understood the process, which reduced resistance and confusion.
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📚 Want to learn more about Resource Management?

You’re in luck—we have some additional reading for you:

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[fs-toc-omit]Challenges are easier to handle with the right tools and processes

Whether it is a sudden change in capacity, several new projects coming in, or balancing increasing workloads, resource management issues are sure to show up. 

What has helped our customers continue delivering projects is having effective processes and a tool they can rely on (that’s us 👋)

Will Float work for you as well as it does for them? We have a feeling it will! Float can help you monitor and plan team capacity, plan for incoming projects, stay on top of resource forecasting, keep track of utilization rates, and spot the need to adjust workloads.  

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The #1 resource management tool trusted by 4,500+ of the world’s top teams

These resource management pros chose Float as their resource management software—and you should, too! 

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FAQs

Some FAQs about the challenges of resource management

What steps can organizations take to improve resource management?

Organizations can improve resource management by:

1. Tracking resource availability and utilization in a resource management tool
2. Holding regular meetings to update and rearrange how resources are used
3. Tracking capacity and ensuring resource utilization is at a sustainable level
4. Managing risks by creating contingency plans e.g. allocating time for ad hoc work to accommodate emergencies
5. Using project data to determine deadlines

What technologies can help reduce challenges in resource management?

Tools built for resource management give a unified view of all resources and their allocations, enabling managers to assess availability and capacity quickly. They also automate the scheduling process so that resources can be easily assigned to projects based on availability, skill sets, and project priorities. In turn, data from projects managed using these tools can improve future planning.

How can businesses identify issues with resource management?

Businesses can identify resource management issues through the following indicators:

1. High or low resource utilization rates

2. Consistent project delays or cost overruns

3. Negative sentiment from employees about workload or capacity

4. A mismatch between skills and project requirements

5. High turnover rates of workers

6. High dependency on external resources

7. Inaccurate resource forecasting