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Tips for Managing Resource Scheduling



Managing a project has many core facets but scheduling resources to get the project work done is at the heart of how to meet milestones, secure timely outcomes, and achieve success.  Let’s face it – you can organize a whole project but until the subject matter experts contribute or ‘do’ the work, there is no project. 


The challenge for many project managers is that resource scheduling often comes with competing objectives.  Resources can be on several projects at the same time, have their normal day-to-day workloads to complete, and report to managers not involved or who have department mandates that may not be aligned with those of the project. 


Here are a few tips for better resource scheduling on your projects:


Use Resource Management Software 

With a plethora of platforms and software available, using a form of resource management software can be a boon to not just scheduling resources but helping to keep track of those resources and your overall project schedule.  

 

Use a Tree Format or Work Breakdown Structure 

Knowing what type of resources you need, how many of them, and for how long is the first step in the process. 


Discovery and conducting interviews to this end, at least for me, is vital.  Collecting every task that leads to the final deliverable might seem a daunting task but using a work breakdown structure can ensure you do not neglect any steps. In short, a work breakdown structure is just a tree diagram with the final deliverable on the top and the various branches (steps) that lead to the outcome underneath.


The more complete the list, the more accurate the resource schedule can become.  Of all the steps in resource scheduling, this is by far the most important. There is no inconsequential task if it needs a resource, time, or effort. 

Discovery and interviews are vital to breaking down the steps in a process! 

Resource Smoothing 

Once you have all the steps, there are many ways to schedule resources. One way is sometimes referred to as resource smoothing.  This approach focuses on the time constraint above all else – the deadline in this scenario is all that counts.  


This approach is best applied when the steps must be completed on time, even if it means delaying other work. While this method removes some flexibility in your schedule, it most definitely makes scheduling more efficient and cost-effective. 


If you are choosing resource smoothing as your prime method, ensure you give adequate time to assessing the actual date or deadline for the project and understand the risks and dependencies for all the other activities. 

Focus on the time constraint above all else! 

Resource Leveling 

Another resource optimization technique is called resource-leveling.  This approach is most effective when you have more than enough resources to complete the project. As the Project Manager, you can then plan to distribute the resources over the work evenly. 


All things being equal, this method can improve morale and sure does make scheduling resources realistic and achievable. An outcome of resource-leveling may be the shortening or loosening of the schedule and the deadline might even change, but as you are not adding capacity, all is good. 

 

Constraints 

Constraints come in many forms on a project, but the 3 musketeers that pose the greatest risk are time, cost, and scope. These three forces are working on your resources, competing for your resources, and can feel like ghosts in the corridor.  It is, therefore, imperative that you define how they’ll impact the tasks so that you can tighten up your resource schedule. 

3 Musketeers that pose the greatest risk are Time, Cost, and Scope. 

How Many Resources Do You Need? 

Now to get practical – go back to your task list and decide how many resources each task will require.  Having completed your discovery and interviews you should have a clearer picture of the steps and type of talent needed. 


Questions include:  What type of resource is it? How many of each will be required to finish the task? This number can be numerical, as in quantity, but it can also be expressed in time. You might need the resource for a certain number of hours or weeks.  Keep notes on your software and double-check constantly where your resources are in their own daily lives as dependencies for your resources can change quickly. 


Availability of Resources 

As a proponent of servant leadership in project management, I am all about the ‘collective’ and the ‘collaborative’ except when it comes to controlling resources.  As a project manager, you must be in control of the future availability of resources. To do this requires you to have a complete understanding of how much capacity you have and your current resource utilization.  In short, how much work your team can accomplish, and over what specific timeframe?   

Understanding your current capacity is vital. 

Knowing your resources’ other responsibilities, duties, vacation plans, seasonal holidays, scheduled training, etc. – to be blunt - anything that takes your resources out of the saddle and makes them unavailable is part of the resource scheduling requirements of the project manager.  The more you know about the availability of your resources, the more you can manage the schedule for your tasks. 


Bottlenecks 

With all the thinking, managing, investigating, and planning aside, now is the time to assign your resources carefully and thoughtfully. Bottlenecks can pose such a downfall to progress and cause confusion and delays.  Critical paths that marry resource scheduling side by side are your best friend.  This, however, is not a one-and-done!  Daily monitoring of resources, utilization, and changes means being ahead of risk, delays, and the dreaded bottleneck.  

Stay ahead of bottlenecks. 

Resource scheduling and management are and will always be crucial to the success of any project, I hope the above tips help your next project. 


 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: DINA O'REILLY

Dina is 4xi's growth lead, project management office and ghostwriter in residence all in one. To learn more about 4xi, you can contact Dina directly at dina@4xiconsulting.com or visit our website to learn more about who we are, what we do, and how we inspire a brighter future, together: www.4xiconsulting.com


 

4xi Global Consulting & Solutions is a team of talented leaders from both the client-side and service provider side, impacting the Human Experience (HX) for people at work, in education, rest, and at leisure.


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