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Creating an accurate and effective plan for your next project may seem like a daunting task — and, in many cases, it is. But, if you include resource scheduling in the process, planning the timetable and allocating the resources won’t be so intimidating.
In this article, we discuss why resource scheduling is so important, how you can incorporate it into your project workflow, and how you can control your biggest resource of all.
At its most basic, resource scheduling (sometimes shortened to RS) is a methodology used to allocate resources efficiently throughout the life of a project.
Depending on the project itself, resources might include:
In terms of your team, RS helps you assign tasks according to people’s skills and availability to avoid under or overutilization of team members.
If your goal is to complete a task as quickly and effectively as possible, then you’re going to want to allocate the most effective resources. Resource scheduling will help ensure that the right people are tasked with the right jobs.
RS also accounts for time off, training, and other obligations that might need to be scheduled around your workload.
The actions you take as part of the RS methodology are intimately tied to the types of project management tools your business has available, including:
The Inch suite of tools, for example, combines workforce scheduling, task management, communication, and time tracking into one project management solution that makes coordinating the activities of your team easier than ever before.
With this in mind, we can refine our definition of resource scheduling to be more complete:
Resource scheduling is the tools, actions, and methodology used to allocate resources efficiently throughout the life of a project.
For the remainder of this article, we’ll be using that definition as the basis for our discussion.
Now that you understand what resource scheduling is, we’ll examine why it’s important for the success of your team, your project, and your business.
Planning an effective project is all about getting more done with less to maximize time, labor, and profits.
RS methodologies and tools help control all the assets your business can bring to bear — from inventory and technology to skills and work capacity.
With more command of those variables, when to roll them out, and in what quantity, your business and your team will be better equipped to see any project, large or small, through to its successful completion.
Sure, you can tear through a project with little regard for the caliber of work being done. But this means that the final deliverable may be well below expectations.
Resource scheduling not only maintains control of all the assets available during the project but also improves the quality of both the process and the final product.
More specifically, RS methodologies help identify the employee or employees with the skills to get the job done right the first time while maintaining the quality work your business needs to satisfy its customers.
When your team can get more done with less while still maintaining the high-quality standards that you and your clients demand, you’ll save money over the entire life of the project.
With a good planning process in place, you’ll begin to identify areas where you can, perhaps, cut back on certain resources without lowering the caliber of the work being done.
Even if those cutbacks are small, few, and far between at first, they can eventually add up to big savings and decreased costs for your business.
Additionally, you can apply what you learned from the previous project, take those cuts to the next project, and find even more ways to save money.
Modern RS tools, such as Inch, also help reduce delays and ensure the timely completion of the project.
When your team has the necessary tools right from the get-go, they’ll be better able to work through the beginning phases of the project when many of the speedbumps first present themselves.
Giving your team a good head start by allocating assets effectively before the work begins is one of the best ways to set your project on the path to success.
Along with quality, productivity is one of the cornerstones of every successful project.
But how can you ensure that your team maintains its productivity during the weeks and months they’re focusing on the smaller tasks that make up the larger undertaking?
By using RS methodology and software to be as accurate as possible scheduling time-on-task.
When you give your team enough time to complete tasks without making them feel rushed, they’ll be able to maintain their productivity over the entire life of the project.
And, when their productivity remains high, they’ll be better equipped to deal with the other variables on this list — getting more done with less, finding ways to improve quality, decreasing project costs, and overcoming delays.
As we touched on briefly above, your schedule may have to be adjusted due to the possible availability of resources.
The two strategies of resource scheduling that battle the limits of resources and time constraints are resource smoothing and resource leveling. Let’s take a look at each in more detail.
Resource smoothing, or time-limited resource scheduling, is used when the time constraint takes priority. The objective is to complete the work by the required date while avoiding peaks and troughs of resource demand.
This is when flexibility may come into play. You may have to adjust what you use to get the job done so that you finish by the end date of your project.
Resource leveling, or resource-limited scheduling, is used when limits on the availability of resources are paramount. This may mean the dates of the project need to change and that how you get there varies.
Typically, there is a need for both smoothing and leveling. And resource leveling is usually performed before resource smoothing when trying to compress your schedule.
It’s important to have well-defined requirements and outcomes for a project before starting. Without specific requirements, it can be difficult to establish a project plan and do proper resource scheduling.
Your team may take action and miss something especially important. This could mean going back and making revisions, which can throw off your schedule and deadline.
To avoid this hassle, get specific requirements from your customers at the beginning of the project. A written document with a list of exactly what should be delivered will help with every phase of project management.
This will also help prevent issues that arise from changing a project’s scope at any point. A detailed agreed-upon set of requirements means that you and the client will be operating from the same understanding.
Then, if someone tries to change the scope of the project, it would mean the requirements also have to change. That allows you room to discuss changes in cost and schedule rather than fielding concerns over a misunderstanding.
For any project to be successful, in addition to a clear set of project requirements, you also need everyone to understand a project’s intent.
This intent should be communicated effectively to your team before you begin resource scheduling. Having a solid communication plan in place will help team members know why the project is important, what the goals are, and how it will help the company.
Each project should start with a meeting to establish what everyone’s role is, how their contribution will be evaluated, how it fits into the bigger project goal, and what the payoff will be at the end.
Your team should feel like they are part of something important and be inspired to get to work. This will improve satisfaction and on-time performance so your project remains on schedule.
Time management is a critical part of managing any project. Without time management, there would be no reason for resource scheduling, and your project would risk failing.
A common mistake in time management is that the time estimates are not well-founded. These estimates are used to schedule resources and set deadlines. So, if they aren’t accurate, then there is a great risk of time and cost overruns.
To avoid this problem, meet with each member of the team to understand how they came up with their time estimates.
Project management software can be especially helpful with this because it can provide insight into how the team has performed on previous projects in the past. These actual times can be used to support the time estimates for future projects.
There are also instances when time management can be rushed or misrepresented due to pressure from the client. Everyone wants to get projects done quickly, but misquoting how long a project will take may hurt resource scheduling and end in disappointment.
This mistake can affect risk management as well. Promising a deliverable with an unrealistic date can not only disrupt your overall project plan but may also damage relationships and trust with the customer.
If you are feeling pressure from a client or customer, revisit the expectations you set at the beginning of the project and explain why your process is set up the way that it is.
Detailed plans are great and resource scheduling is beneficial, but being flexible is important to ensure you can deal with any challenges that may arise. That flexibility doesn’t apply to just your team. You may need to adjust your methodology and plan along the way as well.
Unplanned changes could include learning of another scheduling methodology that works better for your project or receiving feedback from clients or team members that needs tending to, for example.
If you aren’t open to adapting when challenges occur, then the project will be harder for everyone and less likely to succeed. Successful planning always includes room for change, growth, lessons, and new ideas.
Continuing the theme of time constraints, a common mistake some managers make during the planning period is improperly tracking time off. This can apply to people working on a project, machinery, computing resources, and physical spaces.
Accounting for when an employee has time off is important so you can keep things moving at the right pace. Along similar lines, if you’re using a public coworking space, for example, be sure to take into account when that space will be available to your team.
Harness the power of cloud computing and software availability to create a centralized resource for your team.
For most project planning and RS activities, this manifests as a single workforce schedule where all team members, managers, and clients involved can find details on the individual tasks and the project as a whole.
In many cases, legacy RS software relied on hard copy to keep everyone up to date on what was going on.
Without these reports or frequent face-to-face meetings, clients couldn’t monitor the progress of the project because they didn’t have access to the in-house network where all the data was stored.
Similarly, team members had to physically be on-site, in the office, to see what was going on and what needed to be done.
But with modern RS software, such as Inch, both clients and employees can access the workforce schedules from anywhere and at any time.
The final workforce schedule and overall project plan are often based on a work breakdown structure (or WBS for short).
A work breakdown structure is one of the first things you’ll do in the planning stages of any project.
It involves creating a branching diagram with all paths leading to the final deliverable. Each branch (and there can be many) represents a sub-task that contributes to the overall goal of the project.
Once you’ve identified all the sub-tasks and their dependencies, you’ll have a more accurate picture of the resources you’ll need — and how to schedule them — in order to get things done smoothly and efficiently with as little delay as possible.
A big part of resource scheduling is analyzing what assets you have (or will have) available at the start of the project.
Remember that project resources are more than just tangibles such as tools, supplies, technology, and inventory. Project resources also include intangibles such as time, skills, and availability.
Before you finalize any schedules or quote a time frame, analyze your available resources — both tangible and intangible — and establish your team’s strengths and weaknesses.
With that information in hand, you can then provide everything your employees need to be successful going forward.
We’ve discussed it in various places throughout this article, but it bears repeating: Employee skills are a resource just like technology and time.
As such, a big part of your RS activities and project planning will be assigning employees with the right skills to the tasks for which they’re best suited.
For some less-important tasks, you can assign employees with less experience as a way to strengthen their skills. But, for the most part, it’s best to give experienced employees the responsibility to complete the more crucial tasks.
When you assign jobs according to skill set, you position your team for success.
In addition to skills, seniority, cost, and availability are important to consider when assigning people to projects. Combine them correctly, and you’ll be able to balance your budget, schedule, and deliverables.
For example, consider the hourly rate of the team members you need. While it may be necessary to spend a good amount of money to get the skilled resources necessary to deliver project objectives, you may be able to deliver your project using lower-cost resources.
The more data you have about how your team works, the better you’ll be able to fulfill the best practice mentioned above (assigning the right people to the job).
You can get that data by tracking both the total time at work and the actual time on task.
With the help of your time clock software, employees can clock in at the beginning of the day, track time on task A, task B, and task C, and then clock out at the end of the day.
Armed with that information, you’ll have a more detailed picture of how your employees work. That can be invaluable when it comes time to schedule resources for another project.
Your team is the biggest and most important resource you’ve got. Exercise full control over that asset — and plan your projects more efficiently and effectively — with the Inch suite of tools.
Our app streamlines the resource scheduling process and makes it easier to allocate labor, time, and funds whether your business is in the midst of planning a new project or managing regular day-to-day activities.
Inch allows managers and employees to:
All of this and more is available anytime, anywhere on whatever device you have handy (iOS, Windows, Android, smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop).
For more free resources to help you manage your business better, organize and schedule your team, and track and calculate labor costs, visit TryInch.com today.
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