My Projects

December 1, 2006 2479 comments so far

Resource Planning: The Basics

So you know what you want to achieve, you potentially also already have a simple work plan of some kind and suddenly, your boss assigns you a number of team members to your project - what now? Let's take a look at the basics on how to practically assign resources to planned activities.

Let's first narrow down the type of project we talk about: We are only considering projects which mainly involve "knowledge workers", i.e., unique, human resource intensive projects with no or very little material planning. The major reason for this is that I simply do not have enough experience with construction-type projects, i.e., with projects involving a lot of material-based planning, and different rules might apply there.

Basically, there are three general rules which apply for assigning (human) resources:

  • Resources must be assigned manually - never let an automated resource leveling tool do your job: Resource planning is a core competency of the project leader
  • Assign the best resource for a given activity (or at least as good as it gets): Only the right person with the right set of skills will get the job done quickly and accurately
  • Do not forget to also check the social implications if multiple persons must work together: Ideally, choose people who you know can work together and who work efficiently as a team, but this rule is still number three (it is only to be considered if it does not break the previous rule)

As you might have already guessed, the trick is to find a good balance between rules number 2 and number 3: In a perfect world, you have lots of highly skilled, socially competent team members, but unfortunately, the reality is (most of the time) very different. In fact, from my own experience, it is often the case that you have to choose whether to take the person who will do the better job, or if you choose a different person, who is not as skilled, but will function better together with the rest of the team.

Finally, as soon as we introduce also the time dimension, you will have another problem: Resource conflicts. You will need the same resource at the same time for two different tasks and you will have to decide which activity to delay (or whether you can find an equally skilled person which is available at this point in time).

We won't go into details now, but there is one "trick" on how to make it easier to resolve such resource conflicts later on: Try to only assign single resources or actual teams (which do not change a lot during the project) to activities; if you find yourself tempted with assigning a few otherwise unrelated persons to the same activity invest the additional work to split up the activity instead. The advantage is simply that you can control the resource utilization easier this way and you will have automatically less potential resource conflicts.