3 Challenges to Building an Effective Resource Plan in Project Management

In this post, we’ll dig into types of resource plans in professional services and three obstacles to overcome on your way to truly effective resource planning in project management. As anyone who has ever managed projects can tell you, the right resources at the right time is critical to project success and it starts with planning resources for your project the right way.

What is a Resource Plan?

A resource plan in project management is the process of assigning people to projects by identifying the type of skills, resource profiles and interests, availability, and staff needed to complete a project on time and on budget.

What Are the Two Types of Resource Plans in Services Firms?

  1. Resource Management Plans – This type of resource plan takes a firm-wide look at the resources available in the delivery organization. Essentially, this type of resource plan encompasses the “supply” side of a delivery organization. You may find resource management plan examples organized by practice areas and/or competencies. This view of the workforce may include skills and certifications, and could be managed by HR or a dedicated Resource Manager or department.

  2. Project Management Resource Plan – In contrast, a project management resource plan looks at the needs of a given project and what resources are required to fulfill and deliver against those needs. An initial project management resource plan might identify the types of resources needed by title or skill, an estimate of the time required to do their work and probably key dates when the resource would need to be working on the project and delivering. These placeholders would then be filled with the staff assigned to the project.

For the sake of this post, we’re going to look more closely into project management resource planning and how to avoid some common pitfalls.

Three Major Hurdles to an Effective Project Management Resource Plan

Planning Resources Challenge #1: Failing to Gain Project Consensus

Properly defining and communicating the project scope is the first key hurdle to overcome on your way to more effective resource planning. Of course, gaining buy-off on project scope from your customer and project acceptor is the ultimate goal to the start of any successful project.

Ideally, the project manager (PM) charged with delivery has had input into the project scope prior to the final contract being signed. If not, starting with “What did we sell?” will accomplish a baseline set of assumptions from which to operate.

Keep in mind that planning resources in project management is about skills and timing but also cost. What you can “afford” for a team is determined by the contracted project budget and also the target profit margin. A successful resource plan for your project will satisfy both measures. Syncing your project assumptions with Finance early on is a great way to ensure everything from billing, reporting and even revenue recognition will go smoothly and according to plan.

Gaining consensus means every stakeholder knows “what good looks like” for them and goals are clearly communicated across the project team.

Resource Planning Challenge #2: Ignoring Risk Factors

Failure to identify gaps in resource plans, scope or risk associated with delivery will affect much more than budget and timing.  Too often, a project resource plan is clouded by overly ambitious resource requests, resulting in staff being over scheduled and unable to complete tasks in a timely fashion.

Creating a realistic resource plan isn’t just the PM’s job. The Resource Management Institute (RMI) surveyed resource managers and found that fully 84% of firms see forecasting and capacity planning as their top resource management challenge. Second to that was managing an inventory of skills. Understanding if your organization is accurately predicting employee utilization helps you understand the risk to your project resource plan. If there is risk that a given resource might be overscheduled, not qualified or simply out on extended leave, get a plan in place to adjust accordingly.

By addressing the many workforce management challenges related to project and staff planning at the start of a project, managers can understand the true potential risks associated with delivery.

Resource Plan Challenges
Source: RMI Survey Series, Inhibitors to Effective Resource Management, 2022

Planning Resources Challenge #3: Focusing on the Wrong Measurements

Measuring progress against timeline, budget and scope are often what most project managers prioritize, and rightly so. On time, on budget and to expectations are the foundational metrics of great delivery and key to customer success. When considering your resource plan and the staff you will manage on your project, there are other professional services KPIs to put in place to give you leading and lagging success indicators.

Consider billable utilization. Projectmanagement.com cites overallocated resources as the #2 reason (behind scope creep) that projects fail.

A historical measure of billable utilization will provide insights into project burn rate, but also how hard your resources are working. Ideally every project manager would have visibility into total billable utilization by resource (not just tied to their projects) to understand what else their team is working on, and how hard. Looking at forecasted utilization will also provide insight into availability should your project scope shift. As it will inevitably do.

Overcoming Hurdles With Resource Planning Software Tools

Systems like a professional services automation (PSA) solution provide resource planning software tools that allow these views into projects and people for utilization and other measures. These views are critical to keeping teams on track and resource planning accurate. But not every measure is quantifiable in a system. Qualitative measures like whether the work your team is doing is what they want to do, or feeds their career ambitions, are also good to capture.

Ultimately the project manager needs to understand all three hurdles, and surmount them, in order to truly create a project management resource plan that will stand the test of the duration of the project. Certainly things will change, and the longer the project the more certain that becomes. But starting from a plan that syncs with resource managers, stakeholders and the team itself will get everyone started on solid footing.

Summary

In summary, ensuring your professional services organization creates an effective project management resource plan relies on many factors, including the avoidance of these three common resource planning challenges:

  1. Failing to gain project consensus
  2. Ignoring risk factors
  3. Focusing on the wrong measurements

By jumping major hurdles around setting project scope, assessing blind spots and risk, and putting the right measures in place, including forward-looking staff planning, project managers will achieve improved results and greater project success. If your organization is looking for ways to more efficiently create project resource plans and overcome these hurdles, reach out to us to get a demo of Projector PSA.

WHITE PAPER: Get The Resource Capacity Planning Starter Guide for Effective Strategies to Better Manage Resources & Drive Profits

Frequently Asked Questions About Resource Plans

What is resource planning in project management?

A resource plan in project management is the process of assigning people to projects by identifying the type of skills, availability, resource profiles and interests, and staff needed to complete a project on time and on budget.

What is resource planning with an example?

You may find resource management plan examples organized by practice areas and/or competencies. This view of the workforce may include skills and certifications, and could be managed by HR or a dedicated Resource Manager or department.

What are three resource planning challenges?

1. Failing to Gain Project Consensus – Properly defining and communicating the project scope is the first key hurdle to overcome on your way to more effective resource planning.
2. Ignoring Risk Factors – Failure to identify gaps in resource plans, scope or risk associated with delivery will affect much more than budget and timing.
3. Focusing on the Wrong Measurements – When considering your resource plan and the staff you will manage on your project, there are other professional services KPIs aside from measuring progress against timeline, budget and scope to put in place to give you leading and lagging success indicators.

Why is a resource management plan important?

Resource management plans are important because having the right resources at the right time is critical to project success, and it starts with effectively planning resources for your project.

What are the 2 types of resource plans in project management?

The two types of resource plans in project management include:

1. Resource Management Plans – This type of resource plan takes a firm-wide look at the resources available in the delivery organization.
2. Project Management Resource Plan – In contrast, a project management resource plan looks at the needs of a given project and what resources are required to fulfill and deliver against those needs.


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