What is resource allocation? Learn how to allocate resources

Porträtt av medarbetare Julia MartinsJulia Martins
15 januari 2024
8 min. läsning
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Project managers and teams can struggle to make balanced resource allocation decisions, often opting for too much or too little. But the key to navigating this delicate balance is continuous adjustment and real-time responsiveness to project needs. This approach ensures that resources are optimally utilized, preventing both surplus and shortfall and steering towards project success with precision and efficiency.

When you think of the most important elements of project planning, what comes to mind? You probably think of the project’s main objectives, the timeline for achieving those objectives, and the scope of what you can accomplish within the project. 

But achieving any of these elements hinges on one thing: the resources available for your project. 

In project management, resource allocation can help you ensure your project team has the assets—whether that’s budget, tools, or team members—to hit the project’s objectives. Effectively allocating resources can help you achieve your project goals on time and on budget. 

If you’ve never created a resource allocation plan before, this article is for you. We’ll walk you through five steps to allocate resources effectively. Then, get a preview of common resource allocation challenges and what you can do to get ahead of them.

What is resource allocation? 

Resource allocation is the process of identifying and assigning available resources to an initiative. Effective allocation of resources helps maximize the impact of project resources while still supporting your team’s goals. To create a resource allocation plan, identify the right resources—including team members, tools, budget, and more—you need to accomplish your project deliverables.

Create a resource allocation plan template

What is a resource? 

A resource is anything that helps you complete a project. This can include:

  • Team members

  • Budget

  • Project timelines

  • Ideas, intellectual property, or specific skill sets

  • Equipment

  • Tools or software

  • Automated processes that reduce work about work

Who is responsible for allocating resources? 

The person responsible for resource allocation varies based on the size of your organization, but it’s usually the individual in charge of the project’s decision-making. For smaller companies, the project manager or team leader typically manages the budget, resource scheduling, and project work. 

Alternatively, at larger companies, the project manager and project budget owner are often different people. As a result, you may need approval from important project stakeholders or your project sponsor before allocating resources. 

If you aren’t sure who should be allocating resources, ask yourself these two questions and identify who is best equipped to answer them:

  • What is the budget, and who is approving it? You’ll need a budget for tools, technology, freelancers, and equipment. 

  • What are the team’s priorities, and who has time to work on this initiative? Before you allocate human resources, think through each team member’s capacity and priorities. How can you help team members do their best work and have the highest impact?

If you aren’t sure what’s on everyone’s plate, use a workload management tool to view team member capacity, get ahead of upcoming projects, and spot burnout before it happens. 

Benefits of resource allocation

Effective resource allocation is more than just a task; it's a strategic approach that can improve project management by ensuring resources are used efficiently and judiciously. This leads to better alignment of tasks with available resources, smoother workflows, and more effective handling of project constraints. 

As a result, projects are more likely to be completed on time, within budget, and to the desired quality standards, directly contributing to the overall success of the project.

  • Streamlined workflow: Proper allocation of resources leads to a more streamlined workflow. It ensures that each phase of the project aligns with the necessary project requirements, reducing delays and increasing efficiency.

  • Mitigation of bottlenecks: By anticipating and planning resource usage, bottlenecks can be identified and mitigated before they impact the project timeline. This proactive approach keeps projects on track, enhancing client satisfaction.

  • Simplified project management: Merging the use of dashboards with automation transcends traditional methods like spreadsheets. Dashboards provide a visual and intuitive overview of resource distribution and utilization, while automation streamlines the tracking and allocation process. This combination enhances overall project management efficiency, allowing for real-time adjustments and more informed decision-making.

  • Resource optimization: A well-crafted resource allocation strategy is key for project success. It ensures the best resources are utilized where they are most needed, aligning with the project's goals and timelines. By optimally using both physical and human resources, projects are more likely to meet their objectives and satisfy client expectations.

Read: What is resource management? Your guide to getting started today

How to allocate resources effectively

An effective allocation strategy identifies the project’s goals and priorities and collects resources to fit your needs throughout the project's lifecycle. Resource allocation should be an early project consideration—ideally, aim to allocate resources during the project planning phase. 

Create a resource allocation plan template

1. Start with the end in mind

In order to understand your project’s priorities, how important it is, and how it should be resourced, you first need to outline the project’s objectives. This is the first step to any project. Project objectives are attainable, time-bound, specific goals you plan to achieve by the end of your project.

If you haven’t already, align on:

  • The project’s main goals and objectives

  • The project’s key deliverables

  • Relevant milestones

  • A high-level timeline or project roadmap

Läs: Hur man skriver en effektiv projektavsikt, med exempel

2. Identify available resources

In resource allocation, a resource is anything that helps you achieve your project objectives. Depending on your project’s needs, this includes the project team and any tools, budget, equipment, or skills you need to hit your project deliverables. 

Before you actually allocate resources, understand what’s available. There are a few dependencies to look out for, including:

  • What is the project’s priority level? This influences how it should be resourced. Is this an all-hands-on-deck project that’s contributing to a company OKR, or is it a lower priority initiative? Come up with an internal tier system for project priority to guide how you’ll staff each project. 

  • Who is available to work on this project? Take a look at your team’s capacity to understand what they’re working on. If this project is more important than their current work, try resource leveling. See if there’s anything you can deprioritize or reschedule to accommodate this new work. 

  • What budget or tools are available? Does this project have a budget? Are there additional tools you need to invest in or develop in order to complete this work? 

  • What additional resources do we need? Do you need any cross-functional team members to work on this project? Alternatively, are there unconventional resources—like very unique skill sets or new equipment—you need for this project to succeed?

  • Who needs to approve the resource allocation plan? If someone other than you is in charge of budget, tooling, or team workload, check in with them to make sure this resource allocation plan looks good. Are there any additional project stakeholders who need to be looped in during the resource allocation process? 

3. Align on project scope

To scope a new project, you first need to understand the project’s goals, deadlines, and project deliverables. This helps you get a sense of your project needs so you can hit your goals on time and on budget. 

A clear project scope also helps you avoid scope creep, which is what happens when the asks and deliverables exceed the pre-set project scope.

Läs: Snabbguiden till att definiera projektomfattning i åtta steg

4. Create and share a project plan

Now that you have a sense of your available resources, surface that information to the larger team. Invite your project team to a project kickoff meeting, and share:

Track all of this work with work management software. It’s important for your project team to know which resources are available for this project—and also to have a central source of truth for this information in case it changes. With a centralized work management system, you can clarify project priorities so everyone understands the context of the work. That way, if something does change, you can reprioritize based on the highest-impact work. 

5. Monitor project progress

Once your project is underway, monitor project progress in case of any unexpected resource allocation developments. No matter how well planned your project is, things can change. Team members go on vacation, a client might be delayed in getting back to you, or your business goals might change. Track project progress in real time so you can adjust if necessary.

Create a resource allocation plan template

Common challenges of resource allocation

When done correctly, resource allocation can help you hit your goals, increase your impact, and maximize your resource utilization. You’ll get better at allocating resources as you go, but if you’re just getting started, here are some common challenges—and how to avoid them. 

Problem: Burnout and over-allocation

The biggest issue to avoid during resource allocation is overwork and burnout. Team members get overworked when they work too hard, too much, or too long. Prolonged overwork can lead to burnout, which the World Health Organization defines as an occupational phenomenon resulting from chronic workplace stress.

Without visibility into what everyone is working on—especially if you’re managing work across multiple projects—it’s easy to assume team members have the time and bandwidth to work on your specific project. This lack of clarity can lead to accidental over-allocation and, eventually, burnout.

To prevent overwork and burnout, proactively evaluate team members workload. With capacity planning, you can get ahead of burnout and make sure team members aren’t overwhelmed or underworked. This is critical because, according to the Anatomy of Work, 71% of knowledge workers reported experiencing burnout at least once in 2020. With proactive resource management software, you can promote balance—instead of burnout.

Problem: Resource dependencies

Sometimes, things change after you identify and allocate available resources. You might be waiting on a team member to finish a project before getting started on your initiative—but what happens if that project gets extended? 

Even the most effective resource allocation can’t predict every business contingency. To avoid unpleasant surprises, use resource management tools, such as project management software, to automate resource tracking in real-time. That way, you can immediately see resource shortages and project delays and pivot your own work accordingly. 

Problem: Low resource utilization

The average knowledge worker spends 60% of their time on “work about work”—things like searching for documents, chasing approvals, switching between apps, and following up on the status of work. That leaves only 40% of each day for skilled work and strategic planning. More often than not, we take this time-consuming “stuff” for granted as part of work, but it doesn’t have to be. That’s where resource utilization comes in. Resource utilization describes the percentage of a team member’s time that is spent on billable work or tasks that contribute to overall profitability.

High resource utilization isn’t about squeezing out the maximum amount of productivity from any given team member. Rather, the key to maximizing utilization is impact. When team members understand the relative priority between different tasks, they can spend their time where it’s most effective—and have the highest impact as a result.

Read: Why social loafing is more about clarity than productivity

Tips for effective resource allocation

Many teams that are new to making resource allocation decisions often struggle to identify and deploy the best resources in a manner that streamlines operations and keeps the project on its critical path. This can lead to bottlenecks and setbacks, potentially jeopardizing the success of the project. 

The following tips offer strategies to transform these initial stumbling blocks into stepping stones for a successful project.

Align location decisions with availability of resources

Deciding where to locate your project requires careful consideration of both its geographic requirements and the availability of resources

Consider a construction project where materials are sourced from the closest suppliers to reduce transit time and costs. To optimize their resource allocation strategy, the team could continually assess supply chain dynamics and foster relationships with local suppliers that can lead to quicker turnaround times and better material quality.

Such strategic location decisions not only ensure that resources are used where they are most needed but also aid in developing a more efficient project structure.

Leverage automation and project management tools

Incorporating automation into your resource allocation strategy can improve the management of project tasks and ensure smoother project progression and timely completion. 

For example, a software development team might use a tool like Asana to automate task assignments based on team members' current workload and expertise. Automation tools can help with scheduling, resource leveling, and identifying potential issues before they become problematic. 

Read: 11 best project management tools and software

By automating routine tasks, project managers can focus more on critical aspects of project management, such as client satisfaction and ensuring project success.

Use real-time data in decision-making

The foundation of effective resource allocation lies in harnessing real-time data. For instance, a marketing agency might use dashboards to monitor ongoing campaigns, adjusting team assignments and resources based on real-time performance metrics. 

Read: 7 important steps in the decision-making process

Employing tools that provide insights into the work breakdown structure and relevant metrics, project managers can make adjustments that keep their resource allocation strategies on track.

Effective resource allocation leads to better projects

Resource allocation can help you set your project up for success from day one. Manage resource availability early during the resource planning process to know exactly what you can support and how you’ll hit your project goals.  

Resource allocation is crucial to reducing miscommunications and getting more work done, faster—especially when you can automate it. In Asana, you can identify resources, track and update them, and assign related tasks—all from one central platform.

Create a resource allocation plan template

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