Your guide to getting started with resource management

Making sure your team doesn’t feel overworked or underutilized is a challenge most leaders experience. In a world where organizations are moving fast—and are often virtual—sometimes employee workload becomes an oversight. Developing a resource management plan gives you ongoing visibility into the workloads of your individual contributors as well as your team. It allows you to balance all your resources effectively and to see the full picture on how your team will achieve its goals.

What is resource management?

Resource management is the process of planning and scheduling your team’s resources and activities. A resource can include everything from equipment and financial funds to tech tools and employee bandwidth—basically, anything that helps you complete a project.

When you’re trying to decide how to manage or assign your team’s resources, consider a few questions:

  1. What is the availability of each resource?
  2. What are the timelines for each activity?
  3. How many resources will be required to accomplish each activity?
  4. Who is the best person to accomplish the activity effectively?

Ok, so what is a resource management plan?

A resource management plan is used to manage and assign every type of resource you need for your project. An effective plan outlines the specific resources (including human resources, financial resources, technical resources, and physical resources) and activities necessary during the course of a project or initiative. Your plan will guide you, the de-facto project manager, by giving a holistic view of all of a project’s moving pieces: budget, staffing and workload requirements, tech stack limitations—you name it. You can easily manage, schedule, and assign every resource, while maximizing resource availability. Learning how to manage resources will empower you (and your team) to run projects effectively.

Why your team can benefit from a resource management plan

Oftentimes we don’t realize our team members are drowning in projects until it’s too late. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Resource management allows you, the manager or team lead, to make sure your team members are confident with the amount of work on their plate, as well as the tools they need to accomplish each task.

An effective resource management plan not only helps you properly assign resources to keep your projects running smoothly, but it also prevents employee burnout. When resource management is done right, you’re empowering your team to produce work at a sustainable rate, with higher quality. Better yet, by knowing they have the capacity to do their best work, your team will feel satisfied at the end of the day.

FAQ: Should I create a resource management plan for my project?

The short answer: yes. Resource management in project management isn’t just a nice-to-have. It’s a must-have to support your team and prevent burnout. The benefits of resource scheduling will far outweigh the time it takes. In fact, the number of projects your team can handle, along with the quality of each, depend on it. As project leader, resource management is your opportunity to optimize efficiency, prevent overwork, and effectively manage your team’s workload.

5 benefits of resource management

If you’re not already convinced that resource management is critical to your team’s success, let’s dig a little deeper. Check out these advantages you don’t want to miss out on:

1. See the whole picture

When you have a pulse on what your team is working on, you can best assign resources for new projects that pop up. Maintaining a resource management plan from a central source of truth gives you an insider’s look. You can make changes to your resource management plan to prevent overwork and maximize your team’s efficacy. This high-level overview helps you connect the dots from resource to individual task to project timeline and decide if someone’s workload is too heavy or light. This is your opportunity to spot potential problems up front.

2. Distribute work appropriately

You likely know the strengths and weaknesses of each of your team members. As you’re assigning resources, it’s important to keep in mind who will be the most successful with each task or activity. Regularly check in with your team and allow them to be part of the decision-making process. They’ll feel empowered from the start. Be sure you’re using their time effectively by monitoring who’s overloaded on other projects and who has extra bandwidth.

3. Keep your team on the same page

Being transparent with your team ensures that no one is in the dark. This is important because when everyone knows who’s doing what by when, confusion decreases and team members have clarity around their responsibilities. They can see how their part of the project fits into the overall vision for the team or the company. And when a team works well together, projects automatically run better—plus they’re more fun to work on!

4. Set realistic goals

There’s no point in setting goals that you know can’t be reached. Instead, project resource management gives you an opportunity to map out what you can realistically get done, and by when. Having everything spelled out, including all necessary resources, helps you pinpoint any dependencies and make adjustments if need be. Sometimes, that means resource leveling your team: readjusting due dates and priorities to a more reasonable due date. Though no one likes missing due dates, proactively resource leveling can prevent your team from missing a deadline all together.

[Read: Four tips to master tight schedules and shifting priorities]

5. Improve future planning

If you’re maintaining a pulse on what each of your direct reports is working on and assigning available resources based on that knowledge, you’ll get better at it over time. As you become more familiar with the resource management process, you’ll be better able to estimate and forecast upcoming bandwidth. This can also help you make a case for more budget or people when a similar project hits your desk while making informed decisions when planning headcount.

5 steps to create a resource management plan

You can create a resource management plan in any tool—in fact, you could theoretically even use a spreadsheet to maintain insight into resource utilization and availability. But the best resource management tool is one that acts as your team’s central source of truth.

Asana is a work management tool designed to help teams stay in sync, hit deadlines, and reach their goals. With Asana for resource management, you have easy insight into what everyone on your team is working on, what resources are available, and how to prevent team burnout. With Portfolios and Workload, you can gain clarity into your team’s bandwidth and assign resources from there. Then, once a new project crosses your desk, here’s how you can use your pre-existing understanding of your team’s resources to best staff that project:

1. Define the project goals

In order to best assign your team’s resources, you need to know what the project's goals are. For example, is this a simple blog or article, or a more involved campaign? What metrics will be used to measure the success of your project?

2. Align on project scope

What is the scope of the project? If possible, meet with project stakeholders to align on how much time and resources you should be dedicating to this initiative. That will give you the best sense of the project plan, and help you decide what resources are best suited for the job. At this stage in the process, it can be helpful to practice resource smoothing—which means making sure you won’t have any resource shortages during the project scope and timeline.

3. Identify the types of resources you’ll need

As we mentioned earlier, a resource in your resource management plan can include team equipment, software, budget, or employee bandwidth. Part of creating a resource management plan is identifying what types of resources you’ll need, so you can then identify what resources you have available.

4. Identify available resources

This is the meat-and-potatoes of resource management. Ideally, if your team manages projects in a work management tool like Asana, you have a clear sense of what’s on everyone’s plate, and you can easily identify who should be staffed on this project. Depending on the project scope, you might have to resource level and deprioritize other work in order to avoid putting too much on your team’s plate.

5. Check in on project progress

To be a great resource manager, check in with your team frequently during the project’s lifecycle. How are they doing? Are they feeling overworked, or, conversely, is the project overstaffed? Clarifying that you support them and—most importantly—understand what’s on their plate is a great way to continuously support your team.

Resource management best practices

You’re on your way to creating a resource management plan. But do you want to become a resource management master? Try these 11 tips to get started.

  1. Measure realistic timeframes. Know how much time it takes for each employee to get things done. Planning down the road will be easier.
  2. Set start and end dates. Having a duration set for each task offers a realistic time frame for how long it takes each team member to complete a task. By making sure you set the right start and end dates, you’ll be able to provide an accurate timeline for the entire project.
  3. Know your employees’ skill sets. Understanding who is great at what helps determine the best resource for each task.
  4. Prioritize work. Decide upfront what takes priority when it comes to your team’s workload. Build your timeline around your top priority tasks and determine which resources will get you there.
  5. Help your team increase their utilization rate. Utilization rate is the amount of time your project team spends on actionable, strategic, or “billable” work. On average, employees spend 60% of their time on work about work like chasing approvals or searching for documents. Reducing work about work is the best way to empower your team to get their best work done, and increase their utilization rate.
  6. Adjust for efficiency as you go. Project management, in general, is an ongoing effort. Tasks and timelines may change as challenges arise. Don’t be afraid to move resources around as necessary to be as efficient as possible.
  7. Keep some time slots open. While resource management planning is critical to do from the beginning, you can’t plan for everything. Keep time slots available for new work that might come up and be flexible.
  8. Pick the resource management style that fits your team. You know your team better than anyone. Use your knowledge to determine the best resource management methodology, such as workload by hours, points, or task count.
  9. Check in on your team. Make sure you have a real-time pulse of your team’s workload and that each team member feels their work volume is fair and achievable. This can help you with future planning and improve how you assign resources.
  10. Connect your resource management plan to your operational plan. Operational planning is the process of creating a detailed map of exactly what action your team will take on a weekly, or sometimes even daily, basis. Build yoru resource managemetn plan into your operational plan in order to effectively manage your team's time.
  11. Get the right work management tool. Using a spreadsheet is a surefire way to quickly make resource management confusing. Instead, try using a work management tool that includes portfolio management features like easily measuring team workload. You’ll get a high-level view of your team’s project, and be able to drill down to see more granular tasks—all in one spot. In Asana, you can even see individual tasks, and drag and drop them as needed.

Resource management advice from four team leads

What’s better than reading a guide on how to assign resources in project management? How about hearing from four team leads—with different backgrounds and challenges—who are immersed in the practice every day? Read on as they weigh in on how to tackle a resource management plan and give real examples. Meet Jenny, Ariel, Eric, and Reigan.

Jenny Thai, Head of Content, Marketing

What is the biggest challenge you face when it comes to resource management and what’s your solution?

A big challenge I face when it comes to resource management involves getting a high-level view of my team’s workload. I need to have an accurate look at every project coming down the pipeline.

I tackle this by first looking at the roadmap of upcoming product launches and campaigns and then figuring out staffing needs at the project level versus individual deliverables. I manage everything in a work management tool where I have a portfolio of all the projects my team is working on each quarter. For smaller copy projects or ad hoc work, I’ve set up a process in the same work management tool for people to request copy support. Now, I can easily manage new requests that come in and identify what the needs, deadlines, and priorities are.

When it comes to staffing projects or assigning resources, there’s both an art and a science to it. I try to make sure that someone’s available bandwidth matches the scope of work assigned and I also think about assigning projects that align with individual skills and career goals.

What are your top three tips for building and managing a resource management plan?
  1. Be proactive about finding out what projects are in the pipeline. Most of my team’s projects are kicked off by other teams, so it’s important to reach out to cross-functional partners and get a holistic view of what’s coming up.
  2. Make sure each team member has at least one big project (e.g., a marketing campaign) on their plate and round out their workload with week-to-week and day-to-day tasks. This minimizes context switching while giving some variety.
  3. Check in frequently with your team so you know each person’s bandwidth and make adjustments as you go. If something unexpected comes up, keep the lines of communication open to ensure that your resource plans stay on track.

Ariel Ross, Integrated Brand Producer, Design

What’s the biggest challenge you face when it comes to resource management and what’s your solution?

The biggest challenge I face when it comes to resource management is having an accurate view of what my team is working on, what our bandwidth is, and what the status of projects are. There’s a lot of nuance that comes with this because each individual contributor has their own pace and strengths. I need to identify who is the best person to assign to each project.

It’s key to constantly improve communication with team members. I make sure everyone is on the same page by having regular check-ins, stand-up meetings, and face-to-face discussions. I also try to get a high-level overview of everyone’s tasks so I can better approach conversations. By building timelines for the team’s production process, I get a clear view of who’s in charge and what their next steps are.

What are your top three tips for building and managing a resource management plan?
  1. Get cross-functional stakeholder input on your workback schedule. By doing so, you can ensure your team is aligned and set realistic expectations and timing upfront.
  2. Follow progress in your work management tool (in particular, your timeline). See what work is delegated to your team members and use your timeline to determine if you can help with any roadblocks.
  3. Understand how your team uses your work management tool. Some team members might look at the bigger picture, while others will focus on viewing one task. Adapt your working style to accommodate how your team operates.

Eric Pelz, Engineering Manager, Product

What’s the biggest challenge you face when it comes to resource management and what’s your solution?

One challenge is that my team does work in parallel. I need to ask myself, “How can I maximize value with my engineering team?” I have to focus on achieving a balance based on our goals and the risk of the work.

I have team meetings and use the time to collectively lay out everyone’s work in a list. The list helps us see what we’re doing in the next few weeks and understand how team members feel about the work. Then we take what we’ve learned and apply it in our work management tool. We make it a priority to clearly document everything in one spot.

Everything is tracked in our work management tool, including out of office notifications. We can always see what resources will be available. This gives me the opportunity to be strategic about timing. We’ll avoid starting a big project right before the weekend or when multiple people are out of the office.

What are your top three tips for building and managing a resource management plan?
  1. If you have a project or task that is risky, immediately write it down. By keeping these type of notes, you are protecting yourself and avoiding any worst-case scenarios or risks.
  2. Be flexible. Don’t think about your plan as a one-off task that you can simply check off your list. Always be learning, replanning, and recalibrating; optimize your resource management plan as you go.
  3. Make team thinking a collaborative activity. Every person on your team should be encouraged to share their opinions, make recommendations, and let others know when they’re bandwidth is tight. Resource management is not one person’s job; it’s a group effort.

Reigan Combs, Former Head of Life Cycle Marketing and Global Campaigns, Marketing

What’s the biggest challenge you face when it comes to resource management and what’s your solution?

A big challenge I face when it comes to resource management is getting a clear understanding of a request and knowing who on my team is the most suited to take on the work, given their current bandwidth. I often ask myself, “Who is the most equipped and knowledgeable to take on this specific request?”

I have my team map out their top five priorities every month so I can evaluate their bandwidth. It’s all about identifying which projects make the most sense for each person. For example, a project involving an existing initiative might be a better fit for a new hire. Whereas, a more complex project might make more sense for a longer tenured employee.

Recently, I created a project in my work management tool that gives me an editorial calendar view. I can see all the email campaigns my team is working on and get a quick glance of when one is going out and who is responsible for it.

What are your top three tips for building and/or managing a resource management plan?
  1. Streamline your work process. It can be overwhelming when multiple requests are thrown on your plate. Try simplifying your process by using digital forms, especially if they integrate with your work management system.
  2. Have a meeting with your team on a weekly basis. Understand how your team members are feeling about their current bandwidth and get a clear understanding of how much workload they feel comfortable with.
  3. Manage priorities. Look at your team’s top five monthly priorities to see what type of work each person is focused on. Monitor your team’s priorities on a weekly basis to see if anything has changed and reprioritize if needed.

[Download: A remote manager’s guide to work management]

Ready to build a resource management plan?

Resource management should always be a part of your overall project management plan. While it can seem overwhelming at first, assigning the right resources at the right time will make work much easier as you move forward. Take it step by step and commit to using a work management tool, like Asana. Your team will thank you!

Once your resource management plan is in place and you’ve assigned resources, always remember to identify and highlight employee wins. Celebrating your team’s success helps keep your employees engaged and productive. To use the same tool Jenny, Ariel, Eric, and Reigan are using, take a look at Asana and get work done faster.

Simplify resource management with Asana