There are many resource planning tools out there that can help you pick the right people for the right tasks, track their allocations over time, and make confident decisions about the future of your business.
Keep on reading to learn how easy finding the best resource planning tool for your IT company can be.
What is a resource planning tool?
Resource planning is all about determining which resources (people, equipment, materials, etc.) need to be employed to carry out project tasks, and in what amount.
When zoomed in to your most precious resource - employees - it’s basically the process of identifying the team members you'll need to realize your project.
Resource planning means knowing:
- Which team members you’ll need,
- When and for how long,
- How much they'll be paid or how profitable they'll be if they are assigned to billable hours in a project,
- And which specific abilities they'll need to bring value to the project.
Resource planning essentially depends on the availability of resources.
You need to know whether or not resources are available before assigning them to tasks. If you have no idea whether your senior backend engineer is set to start a project in two weeks, expect problems to arise.
Allocating people to projects confidently means that you avoid multiple reservations, prevent your bench from growing, and eliminate the pressure of last-minute recruitment.
The best kind of resource planning is over the long term
Resource planning considers projects at your company from a long-term viewpoint. This is the key difference between allocating employees to projects and arranging project activities.
Smart resource planning enables you to plan the future like a pro.
You can identify the availability of your people at any given moment in the future. It can be three days or three months from now - you’re equally confident about what they’ll be doing. This, in turn, allows you to forecast their future capacity and utilization better.
Managing unpredictable schedule changes is easier when you have a solid plan in place. Even if you’re dealing with many projects at the same time.
This type of planning also opens the doors to developing a good project resource management strategy that takes into account things like employee performance, talents, expertise, and employee development plans.
Using this knowledge to find the best people for the job helps you to become a more attractive employer - one that actually cares about employee happiness and satisfaction.
And we all know how difficult it is to keep the tech folks on board when they’re showered with attractive offers left and right.
I wrote an article that dives deeper into resource planning; read, read it if you’d like to learn more: Resource planning in project management: why is it worth doing this (right)?
The core challenge of resource planning
Resource planning brings a lot of value into an IT company; there’s no doubt about that.
But it also comes with a few challenges. The most important one revolves around storing, managing, and organizing knowledge about employees and their allocations.
Despite their limitations and high likelihood of errors, many IT companies are still using spreadsheets for resource planning.
Most of the time, that’s simply because spreadsheets are accessible, and everyone is used to them.
But using spreadsheets comes at a price, which can be anything from resource allocation troubles and double booking to adding extra workload to the project manager’s and or HR specialist’s plate.
Another issue I hear about when talking to managers about this is the fear and uncertainty surrounding this knowledge. They’re often not sure everything has been completed in the spreadsheet correctly. And this is the information they use to make allocation decisions.
Spreadsheets often fail to provide enough clarity for what is happening at your company. They don’t give you the bird's eye view of allocations that you need for proper planning.
But there’s something else you can use here: a well-designed resource planning tool.
What problems does a resource planning tool solve for you?
1. Easily plan and edit project schedules
Frankly, allocating resources to a project can be as easy as writing it down on a piece of paper (or in a spreadsheet).
So why do you need a resource planning solution for that?
Here’s the real benefit: it allows you to shuffle things around easily and change your team’s utilization with full confidence that everything important is covered.
You can quickly reallocate your employees to another project that needs urgent attention.
The ability to move and react to issues fast will become your competitive advantage.
2. Eliminate double bookings and scheduling conflicts
A resource planning tool helps you to quickly fix any mistakes or scheduling conflicts by editing the schedule.
But that’s not everything.
These solutions help you to avoid them in the first place. How? Because you can instantly see the availability of your employees.
And I mean all of them, even part-timers and freelance contractors.
By using these insights, you can plan work confidently. You’re not running the risk of getting surprised by someone’s unexpected time off or other commitments.
3. Monitor and optimize resource utilization
Resource managers and PMs need to strike a balance when assigning work to employees.
On the one hand, you want people to have work to do. No software developer is happy when idle.
On the other hand, you also don’t want them to become overwhelmed with the amount of work on their shoulders.
With a resource scheduling solution, you can strike that balance and easily monitor people's workloads and reallocate team members when needed.
This is how you achieve an optimal employee utilization rate that keeps people engaged and happy.
4. Improve project transparency and visibility
A project resource management solution also serves as a single source of truth for all your PMs and employees.
Thanks to this, everyone gains a better understanding of what’s going on at the company.
Managers can easily see the schedules of different projects while making their allocation decisions. And employees see what’s in store for the upcoming days, weeks, or months. This level of transparency works really well for everyone!
5. Plan projects like a pro
When planning a new project, your first step is to estimate its scope and duration. This is the best way to learn which specialists you need to become part of it - and for how long.
At this point, most IT companies use the work breakdown structure (WBS) approach. To make your estimates more accurate, you need access to historical data.
And this is where your resource planning tool comes in. It’s a treasure trove of historical data about your past projects.
You can see how long a given milestone took your team to achieve, how many hours a specialist worked on a given task, and how your estimates compared to reality.
6. Have full visibility of your resources
Allocating successfully is not only about knowing when your specialists are involved in projects and for how long.
You also need to have visibility into their skills and competencies. Not to mention the scheduled or tentative bookings - you wouldn’t want to swipe a DevOps engineer right from under your colleague’s nose just because the client took a long time to confirm the booking.
7. Plan tentative projects
It’s a good idea to plan and allocate people to projects even before signing the deal. You can start doing that right after the prospect reaches a certain step that increases the likelihood of closure.
Why? This gives you a headstart in planning your project. You’ll also have enough time to address the resource requirements.
No more scrambling to hire someone last-minute or putting the quality of your project output at risk.
8. Match the skills to projects during the planning
One of the common mistakes PM make in resource planning is this:
They assign under or overqualified people to projects. Under-skilled resources cause delays; over-skilled ones increase project costs and impact your profitability.
If you don't take the individual interests and skills of employees into account, you might assign them to projects they’re just not interested in.
Lack of engagement and loss of productivity will follow - along with a high turnover rate at your company.
How to pick the best resource planning tool for your company?
A well-designed resource planning solution has a massive impact on the success of your allocation and scheduling activities. It helps you:
- Find the right people for the project
- Forecast resources needed for every day/week/month of the project
- Create a detailed project timescale and resource scheduling plan
- Track resource costs to avoid overrunning your budgets
- Schedule resources to check how they impact project profitability
- Control your budget thanks to automatic hourly rate calculation
- Get a real-time view into the available capacity and utilization of your resources to ace capacity planning (don’t be one of the 55% of companies that can’t track their project performance in real time)
- Balance your people’s workload to keep them engaged and happy
- Automatically calculate actual against planned project costs for more accurate estimations in the future
Take a look at this case study that shows how one of our clients managed to reduce their annual costs by over $200,000 thanks to a resource planning process complemented with a high-quality solution.
How to choose the best tool for the job?
Start by asking the following questions:
- What kind of resources do you want to schedule (people, equipment, office space)?
- What do you want to plan (projects, shifts, events)?
- What is your team’s structure?
- What are your team’s habits?
- What are your team’s preferences (for example, do they value transparency)?
Get started the easy way by booking a demo with me. I’ll show you how IT companies like yours use Primetric to boost their resource planning capabilities and increase profitability through smarter allocation.