Resource planning for multiple projects is not an easy feat. Forward-thinking project managers embrace effective resource planning that helps deliver projects in sync with required project results.
On paper, resource management may seem like a walk in the park. Simply create tasks, allocate resources, and set due dates, right? Not really. Resource planning and management refer to juggling multiple projects, prioritizing tasks for each resource, and tracking progress against scheduled workflows.
You can overturn potential risks related to resource planning using some key strategies coupled with a reliable resource planning tool that support your strategic goals. With these strategies and the tool in place, you can buckle down on your laundry list of tasks and manage fast-moving teams without the last-minute rush to deliver projects on time and within budget.
In this blog, we will explore what resource planning is, its types, things to avoid, and the best resource planning strategies to manage multiple projects.
What Is Resource Planning?
Resource planning refers to identifying, allocating, and prioritizing resources for the successful completion of a project. It involves optimizing resources such that no resource is either wasted or overworked. A resource may include people, equipment, tools, material, and time required to deliver a project within the defined schedule and budget.
Effective resource planning helps exceed project quality expectations, leading to improved project outcomes and happier clients and customers.
Also, here is where an efficient resource planning tool comes into play. We will learn more about this later. First, let us understand the types of resources involved in a project.
Types of Resources in Projects
When you’re off to manage multiple projects simultaneously, it is important to understand the types of resources that you will be dealing with. This will better equip you to organize, allocate, and prioritize them effectively.
1. Human Resources
A project manager may involve different types of human resources depending on the requirement of the project.
Let’s take a look at them.
A. Permanent Employees
Permanent employees do not have a definite end date for employment in the organization. They are actively involved in achieving the overall strategic goals of the company. Such employees may be both full-time and part-time. Also, they may enjoy benefits such as subsidized healthcare, paid leaves, insurance plans, corporate discounts, and much more.
B. Contractual Employees
Contractual employees, also known as on-demand or contingent employees, have a definite end date for employment in the organization. They are hired for specific work or for a specific time period that is clearly stated in the contract. Such employees are most often hired when organizations face changing work requirements. So, when an organization has a lot on its plate, the best way to manage multiple projects is to go in for a contractual worker who works for the organization sans any overhead expenses, i.e., the company does not have to spend on their healthcare, insurance, etc.
Freelancers are independent workers who get hired for specific work or time with greater flexibility. This means that freelancers are allocated tasks that they can work on at their will and not necessarily during office timings. They are only required to submit the work allocated within a predefined timeline.
A freelancer may get paid by the hours or days they put in or by the tasks they complete. Also, since they are hired based on their expertise, not much investment is required in terms of training them for the work that they do. Besides, it requires no investment to spend on their healthcare subsidies, insurance, or corporate discounts too!
2. Material Resources
Material resources are items that are used for the successful completion of a project. These may include raw materials, tools, machines, equipment, and property. These resources may either be owned by the company itself or purchased or leased to execute the project. Multiple project management practices in terms of material resources refer to identifying, procuring, using, and monitoring these resources. This is done in an optimized manner, ensuring that no resource is wasted or overutilized.
3. Cost Resources
Cost resources pertain to the budget of a project. The cost within which a project is to be accomplished is estimated and pre-determined by the stakeholders before the project’s onset. Once this is done, the objective is to complete the project without exceeding the defined budget. This cost may include the cost of hiring human resources, bringing in project materials, and travel expenses if any.
4. Time Resources
Time resource implies the timeline within which a project’s tasks and milestones are to be delivered. For this, project managers create a project schedule that clearly defines by when each task is to be completed and by when the entire project will be achieved. Creating, following, and monitoring this schedule is the best way to organize multiple projects and deliver them on time.
Read More: Creating a Project Budget – A Complete Guide
What to Avoid When Planning Resources for Multiple Projects?
It’s not surprising that 11.4% of all resources are wasted due to poor project management practices. With resources distributed across multiple projects, tracking them and assuring their optimum use throughout the project can be challenging. . Considering a project’s ever-evolving nature, project execution hardly goes as planned. In this case, your best bet is to be braced with best practices for effective resource management.
So, if you’re wondering how to manage multiple projects and resources simultaneously, you must first be aware of the things to avoid when planning resources for multiple projects.
Here are common resource management challenges that you must avoid for desired project outcomes.
1. Lack of Real-Time Visibility
Most often, resources are assigned across multiple projects at any given time. So, when resources are assigned to different tasks and projects, it undeniably becomes difficult to track multiple projects and the resources that they deal with.
This may lead to confusion regarding where a resource is currently allocated and which tasks a particular resource will move on to next. Thus, the lack of real-time updates hampers decision-making for managers to enable resource optimization right from the project’s initiation to its closure.
This may even lead to improper resource allocation for upcoming tasks, impacting the appropriate utilization of resources. Also, noting down where each resource is allocated manually is both time-consuming and impractical, especially if you’re dealing with big projects and innumerable resources.
2. Shortage of Resources Such as Manpower, Equipment
A situation where you face a shortage of resources may arise if you fail to map out the accurate time and effort required to complete a task. So, if you’re creating schedules based on assumptions, you’re simply setting up your project for failure. Thus, unrealistic or tight timelines will not fill in the gap but result in demand for more resources.
3. Internal Conflicts Within the Team
How often has it happened that a team member interrupts your work with more tasks and responsibilities? What did you do then? Obviously turned them away politely, right!
Frequent disturbances can impact your workflow and cause clashes between team members. Also, you may encounter times when you disagree with a fellow team member due to inaccurate task allocation or unrealistic project expectations. All these factors result in internal conflicts that impact the overall efficiency of work.
4. Demand Forecasting Problems
Demand forecasting problems emerge when project managers fail to forecast demand vs. capacity accurately. Capacity is the ability of resources to successfully get a job done within the pre-set project schedule and budget. Poor capacity planning due to lack of foresight can lead to project delays and low-performing projects.
5. Lack of Productive Resource Utilization
At times, you boast some of the best resources available for carrying out project tasks and activities. However, project management techniques lack the productive utilization of these resources when it comes to project optimization. While a skilled resource may be allocated low-level projects and tasks, a mediocre resource may be facing burnout due to incompetency in performing the high-level tasks at hand.
Also, there may be situations where a resource may not be allocated work for a significant period due to unclear tasks and responsibilities assigned. As such, resources are either lying idle, underutilized, or overworked. And all three situations are not sustainable in the long run, leading to not just project failure but financial loss too.
6. Inadequate Risk Assessment
Resource planning for multiple projects requires you to be on your toes and prepared with a reliable risk management plan.
As you sit down to estimate resource requirements for different projects, remember to factor in that you may encounter circumstances where an employee may fall sick, go on a vacation, etc. So, it’s better to keep some days as a buffer. That way, you can accomplish work effortlessly without trying to pile up on daily tasks once the employees are back from their leave.
An employee may even choose to switch to another organization in the midst of the ongoing project, which is bound to throw you off suddenly and make you go hunting for a replacement. Also, as for machines and equipment, there are chances that they might break down and cause your activities to halt indefinitely.
7. Neglecting Well-Defined Workflows
Never underestimate the impact of a well-defined workflow. A carelessly-planned workflow means haphazardly laid-out project tasks, inaccurate project resource scheduling, and overlapping task timelines. In short, your workflow is all over the place.
Running projects with a badly-planned workflow will only cause chaos and confusion about who is responsible for what and which tasks are to be completed first as per a sequence. This translates to poor visibility and efficiency throughout a project. And this, in turn, leads to missed deadlines, resource burnouts, and ultimately, project failure. Also, this will lead to poor project quality and execution errors that cannot be revered.
As a project manager, neglecting prior resource planning for multiple projects will put you in a position that is irreparable. Also, you will be unable to spot signs of risks and plan ways to mitigate them beforehand.
8. A Traditional Resource Requisition Protocol
In the traditional way of resource requesting, you sign up for internal conflicts, double bookings, underutilization, or overutilization of resources. This is because you manually identify resources and request their availability from other project managers and team leads. Then the project managers and team leads go about checking if they can share their resources for the defined tasks and dates. This process is time-consuming. Simply put, you are diving into untameable processes filled with confusion, chaos, and complexity.
These Are 7 Best Strategies for Resource Planning for Multiple Projects
Now that you are familiar with what things to avoid while resource planning for multiple projects, you are better prepared to brace yourself up with the best strategies for successful resource planning.
So, without further ado, let’s get into it!
1. Improve Project Visibility
Wondering how to manage multiple projects simultaneously while assuring that resource utilization is adequately optimized? Well, improving overall project visibility is the solution!
Planning multiple projects and their resource utilization is incomplete without gaining 360-degree visibility into resource availability and scheduled tasks.
2. Adopt Resource Planning Software
If managing multiple projects and resources seems chaotic, then a resource management software like ProProfs Project will ease overall management for you. Tools for managing multiple projects are known to enhance day-to-day workload management significantly. These tools also provide impressive features for planning, creating, and delivering projects on time and within budget.
A good resource management software enables you to:
- Track resource allocation and availability in real-time, leading to accurate project resource scheduling
- Collaborate via task comments and file sharing
- Track billable hours for employees and generate invoices
- Gain detailed project reports with rich insights
- Set team roles and permissions
- Access project data anywhere and anytime
- View progress via Gantt charts, Kanban board, and more
- Reduce human errors
All these features will help you with project resource scheduling to deliver projects equipped with efficient and productive teamwork.
3. Prioritize Projects and Tasks
Planning multiple projects includes prioritizing their execution from start to finish. This should be in a way that limits multitasking and schedules tasks such that they do not overlap with each other. Thus, project resource scheduling is done in a way that each resource is allocated only one task at a time. If you assign multiple tasks across projects to be done simultaneously, a resource is bound to feel overwhelmed and end up completing each task in a suboptimal manner.
Also, you can prioritize tasks based on their impact. This will ensure that you get done with the important tasks first and do not push them aside to be handled at a later stage. Grouping repetitive tasks and prioritizing them as one task is also a good approach to offload time-consuming or recurring tasks at once.
4. Leverage Resource-Leveling
Another key strategy to optimize project resource scheduling is to incorporate resource-leveling into your resource management techniques. So, distribute resources effectively across different tasks uniformly.
If there are some shared resources responsible for handling tasks from different projects in your team, then ensure that tasks are assigned to them such that no two tasks coincide with each other. Prioritize tasks for them so that they have a crystal clear workflow of accomplishing tasks in a well-planned manner.
5. Enable Seamless out Rotation and Backfill
Sure, you need resources that have the ability to perform tasks and activities across multiple projects. However, for this to go on smoothly, you need a strategy in place that allows team members to carry out tasks from different project workflows in the easiest way possible.
To effortlessly carry out the out-rotation and backfill strategy, resources with similar skills replace the outgoing resources. This way, high quality is maintained and project progress is not hampered at any stage of the workflow. Also, it is important that positions are filled in a timely manner, so that tasks do not get delayed and projects are delivered as per the committed deadlines.
There may arise situations where you encounter peak demand for deliverables. Here, resources need to come in and perform tasks to fulfill requirements on time. This may have the tendency to disturb other project workflows abruptly. To avoid this, you need a process in place that is flexible enough to integrate additional tasks smoothly. And this is possible only with informed resource planning for multiple projects right at the beginning of each project.
6. Encourage Multi-Skill Building
You must have heard the saying, ‘Learn while you earn.’ Right? It stands true for every workspace.
Multi-skill building is essential for resource planning for multiple projects because it significantly contributes to high performance. As managers, you must continuously engage in development in the domains of
- Interpersonal Skills
- Communication Skills
- Strategic-Thinking Skills
You might have hired resources based on their unique skill sets. However, you also need a system that encourages learning while on the job. As employees, one must resolve to inculcate skills such as critical thinking, and communication skills. Over time, the resources will not only benefit from this approach individually, but this will also push for a workplace that is equipped with multiple skill sets, enabling you to allocate additional tasks to different resources. This will prevent you from allocating additional or expert work to the same team member every time, overburdening the resource with incoming urgent tasks every single time.
7. Simplify the Matrix Organizational Structure
Resource planning for multiple projects is incomplete without a good matrix organizational structure in place. Every organization has a set reporting structure. It is important that you define a clear path of reporting and avoid multiple structures for feedback. Multiple reporting structures can cause chaos. It becomes complicated for resources to address conflicting feedback from their reporting managers in such a structure. Also, it may be challenging to communicate across different projects and teams with overlapping tasks and responsibilities.
The beauty of a matrix organizational structure is that it allows sharing of skills via multiple resources. It also enables improved cross-functional collaboration, expediting work across the organization. So. ensure that you have a well-analyzed, simplified matrix organizational structure in place so that responsibilities are clear and workflows are followed, leading to assured project success.
To perform effective resource planning for multiple projects, don’t miss out on optimizing the most crucial aspect of project execution – resources. Resources carry your project on their shoulders, and their optimum utilization literally controls how your project turns out in the end.
As discussed, there are some things to avoid while managing resources. So, while creating your resource utilization plans, ensure that you keep these in mind. Then, there are some strategies that promise to enable the best utilization of resources without any wastage of time and effort. Incorporate these into your everyday resource management practices, and you are bound to accomplish every project with flying colors!
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