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Resource allocation definition

Why resource allocation is important

Reading time: about 8 min

When you get the urge to bake some cookies, there are a few things you should consider before you begin mixing ingredients. For example:

  • What kind of cookies do you want to bake? 
  • Do you have a recipe?
  • Do you have the ingredients you’ll need? 
  • Is there enough money in your budget to buy the ingredients that you need?
  • Do you have the time to bake cookies? 
  • Do you have the right tools and equipment to mix the dough and bake it?

How sad would it be to discover after you’ve started your cookie baking project that you don’t have any eggs, that your mixer is broken, or that you don’t have enough time to bake cookies before you have to leave the house for the evening?

This same type of thing can happen in business. You don’t just start development on a project without knowing what you want to produce, who will produce it, which tools will be used, how long it will take to complete, and how much it will cost. Running a project without knowing these things is a recipe for failure.

And that’s why resource allocation in project management is an important, but sometimes overlooked, part of the job. 

In this article we will give you a resource allocation definition and some tips for allocating resources to ensure that your team’s work is distributed evenly, the work is efficient, and your team doesn’t feel overwhelmed.

What is resource allocation?

In any project, you need to know what resources are available to be used. Your project resources include anything you need to get the project done, such as people, time, tools, raw materials (if you are managing manufacturing projects), and money.

Resource allocation is the process of distributing the best of all available project resources across your project. The goal is to balance the workload and ensure that:

  • No resources are overworked or underutilized
  • Tasks are completed on time
  • The project is completed on time
  • The project stays within its budget

Then you need to constantly monitor the project’s progress and reassign or add resources as needed to keep the workload balanced and ensure the project is completed on time.

Resource allocation planning: finding the right resources

There is more to the resource allocation definition than simply distributing available project resources across your project. It also includes the art of finding the right resources for the job.  

For example, if you have a UX design project that needs five people, do you want to assign the first five available people to your team? Probably not because you might end up with people who don’t have the necessary skills to do the job.You'll want to make sure that you find people who have the most experience with UX design. 

The type of resources you need will vary depending on the project and the industry you work in. But generally your resource allocation planning will focus on:

  • People: Who are the people who have the skills that the project needs? How many people do you need? Who is currently available?
  • Time: How much time will you need to take the project from start to finish? And, how will you break up the time for individual tasks to keep the project more manageable and on track?
  • Tools: Will you need new software or hardware? Is the team using the same technology stack?
  • Capital: Determine how much money you will need to complete the project. Or, figure out how to make your project fit in a specified budget (by changing scope, adding more people to teams, etc.).

What can negatively impact resource allocation?

No project runs as smoothly as planned. It seems that there is always something that will put a project at risk. For example:

  • Changes to the timeline: Adding or removing time can both have a negative impact. Adding time might mean you end up with underused resources. Removing time can mean that some resources are overworked or you need to allocate additional resources.
  • Changes to the scope: Like changes in the timeline, scope changes may require you to find more resources to complete added tasks, or you might have underused resources because tasks were removed.
  • Resource availability: Resources you were counting on for your project are suddenly not available anymore.
  • Project dependencies: A piece of work in your project can’t start until work from another team is completed. This can impact the project timeline, resource availability, and scope.
  • Project urgency: Nobody likes to think that their project is not as important as another team’s project, but sometimes, other projects will have priority over yours. This can impact timeline, resource availability, and scope.
  • Teamwork: When teams communicate and work together, it’s a good thing. When they don’t, it can lead to disaster.

Some tips to help you with the resource allocation process

The following tips can help you to manage your project’s resources so it remains organized and stays on track.

  • Know your scope: You can’t know who you’ll need, how many people you’ll need, what tools they will need, how much time to allocate, or how much your project might cost until you know its scope. The scope defines what will be developed, the key features and functions it will have, and the objectives and requirements needed to complete a project. A clear, well-defined scope is essential to helping you determine which resources are right for your project.
  • Know your resources: Understand who and what you need to complete your project. For example, if you need a conference room, find out the availability and schedule it for the days you need. This also involves getting to know the people on your team. What are their skills? What is their availability? Do these people work well together? Do you have enough hardware and software resources to accommodate the team you are putting together?
  • Map your plan: Visuals are very important to giving team members an overview of the entire project. Use Lucidspark to create an online scrum board to plan, execute, and track your project. You’ll be able to collaborate effortlessly and provide transparency into the project for all team members.
  • Don’t leave resource allocation to chance: An important part of project planning is planning for possible problems. This is true of resource allocation planning as well. You can’t always count on the resources you start the project with to be the same resources you finish the project with. You’ll probably have to reallocate some resources after the project is underway. Note where you might have a resource allocation problem and plan how you will resolve it. It’s a lot easier to have a backup plan in place than it is to scramble to fix a problem in the middle of the development cycle.
  • Think holistically: You need to manage the whole project, not just the processes or the current progress.You need to monitor the status of your resources. For example, is somebody home sick? Has a computer failed? Has a software license lapsed? These may be little details, but overlooking them can cause problems down the road.
  • Know your resource dependencies: Sometimes dependencies on other teams or equipment can cause bottlenecks that slow progress. In your resource allocation planning, make sure you know which resources are dependent on other resources.Your plan should help you to avoid having too many resources dependent on a single resource, which can cause some unwanted downtime and other problems down the line.
  • Track time: Part of resource allocation is monitoring and managing workload. When a resource is overloaded, a task that normally takes one day to complete might take two or more days to complete. Keeping track of the time helps you to reallocate resources to balance the workload.
  • Use project management and resource management tools: Project management software helps you to stay on top of the project status with real-time updates. You can see where resources are allocated, see if they are on track, discover bottlenecks, and easily see where resources might be more effective.
  • Don’t overload your resources: People like to think that they can do more than they can actually do. And managers love to hear employees say yes. This can lead to team members being overworked and can lead to burnout, mistakes, and sloppy work. Be realistic. Understand what your team members are really capable of achieving in a day or a week. Also, don’t allocate more resources than you actually need. It’s nice to have somebody “on the bench,” but if there is nothing for them to do, reassign them to another team that needs help. 
  • Analyze the project: As you monitor and manage the project, you should look for ways to improve and streamline the workflow. When the project is completed, you’ll want to determine what went well and what didn’t go so well. Use this information to plan your next project and to help you find the right balance of resources to keep your project running smoothly.
Resource allocation definition

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