There’s a reason why “too many cooks spoil the broth” is one of our most enduring idioms. It’s just true! Concentrating too many resources in one place is a recipe for disaster. The same holds true for over-allocation in a professional project.
If you have too many people working on a project, it can quickly become bogged down and end up taking longer than anticipated. On the other hand, if too few people are working on it, you run the risk of not being able to complete all of your tasks on schedule. Both scenarios are a drain on efficiency and motivation — and they can end up costing big bucks to fix.
It’s no secret that project managers have a lot on their plate. Juggling deadlines, budgets, and team members is a constant balancing act, and under- or over-allocating resources can easily throw everything off balance. So, what’s the secret to getting it right? Allow us to explain…
What is resource allocation?
Simply put, resource allocation is the process of assigning people and resources to specific tasks to ensure you complete a project on time, on budget, and up to performance expectations.
But wait, isn’t this just another way of saying “managing” or “balancing?” Well, yes…and no.
After all, every project manager is responsible for ensuring their team has the right tools to complete work on time and within budget. But resource allocation goes a step further. How? By taking into account the specific skills, experience, and hours required to complete each task.
In other words, resource allocation is all about making sure you have the right people working on the right tasks. You also need to properly prioritize those tasks in order to meet project goals.
Why is resource allocation important?
First and foremost, using resources wisely is a key part of finishing a project on time and on budget. When done well, this promotes communication between team members and creates an efficient workflow across all tasks.
Finally, proper resource allocation helps to guard against unforeseen hurdles and stumbling blocks by ensuring your team has the necessary skills and experience to complete their work successfully.
Common problems with resource allocation
One of the biggest obstacles in resource management is learning to lower the risk of over-allocation or under-allocation. While having too many people working on a project can slow it down, having too few can result in missed deadlines and an inability to meet your goals.
Here are some other common issues:
- Failure to properly prioritize tasks
- Inconsistencies in the level of experience brought to each task
- Failure to match skills and experience with specific requirements
- Disagreements between team members about who should be responsible for different parts of the project
How do I avoid or resolve over-allocation?
There are a number of strategies you can use to resolve the most common over-allocation issues.
Conduct one-on-one meetings with team members
One of the simplest strategies is to conduct regular one-on-one meetings with team members and supervisors to discuss concerns they have about their responsibilities or workloads. You could also form cross-functional task forces to share knowledge and best practices.
As part of checking in, conduct regular project status updates to ensure everyone has the resources they need. That way, you have the opportunity to identify bottlenecks or workflow issues in advance and take corrective action before it’s too late.
Top tip: if you’re working with remote team members, use video software and chat apps to keep in touch. The more you can get a sense of how people are doing, the better you’ll be able to manage resources.
Prioritize your projects and tasks
It’s time to banish the mindset that all our projects are top priority.
Deciding which projects you need to tackle first is a core skill for every project manager. When you’re allocating resources, be sure to keep your priorities straight. More importantly, don’t hesitate to revise them as needed based on new information or changes in circumstances.
Above all, your goal is to focus on the most important aspects of a project, making it beneficial to identify tasks you can delay or cut out with little impact. Working out these details early on allows you to make adjustments without panicking if you run into problems later. Project management tools can help you with this. Try setting up a Gantt chart or using the Critical Path Method to identify your most crucial tasks.
Be flexible with your allocations
It’s important to remember that resource allocation is not a one-time event. As your project progresses and new information arises, you’ll need to stay flexible and make changes to your initial choices.
Work out your project dependencies
Project dependencies are the tasks and events that need to happen in a certain order because they’re related in some way. In other words, they’re the building blocks of your project plan.
Work out all of your project dependencies in advance. This will help you to avoid any potential conflicts. You can also use dependencies to speed things up: linking tasks and completing them in parallel can save time and resources.
Determine the level of experience required for each task
Not all tasks are created equally. Some require a higher level of expertise than others, and it’s important to take this into account when allocating resources.
For example, if you’re working on a complex software development project, you’ll need experienced developers working on the most important tasks. On the other hand, if you’re working on a more straightforward task, like data entry, there’s no point taking up your top developer’s time when a lesser skilled person could do the job just as well.
Don’t panic and resist the urge to over-allocate
When resource allocation issues arise, it’s tempting to over-compensate by throwing more resources at the problem. But hold your horses — this could be a bad move.
Not only will it put unnecessary strain on your budget, but it can lead to even more problems down the line. You might mismatch talent to the job, demotivating highly skilled workers by matching them to low-skill tasks. Or, you could put too much pressure on low-skilled workers to do jobs beyond their expertise.
The key is to stay calm and take a measured approach to resource allocation. Try to achieve a more balanced and sustainable outcome without creating any additional problems.
Track and manage time spent
Keeping track of the time your spend on all projects can help you prevent over-allocation. This will help you work out the efficiency of your current processes and team members, which, in turn, should guide your allocation strategy.
Project management software is a big help here: time tracking and automated progress reports make it easy to monitor time spent on individual tasks. It can also provide you with both detailed insight and a big-picture view.
Account for risks and setbacks
When planning your allocations, consider potential risks and setbacks that may arise, and plan accordingly. For example, you might want to over-allocate resources temporarily while working on the most complex or risky parts of the project, and then scale back once things settle down.
The trick is to create a risk mitigation plan before project kick-off. That way you can plan ahead proactively, rather than reactively.
Resource leveling is a technique used by project managers to even out workloads and ensure that everyone has what they need when they need it.
It involves making small adjustments to the timing or sequence of tasks in order to ensure you allocated resources efficiently.
There are several key steps to resource leveling:
- Keep track of all tasks in your project and the level of resources required for each task. You can use a spreadsheet or project management software to manage this process.
- Work with your team to identify any potential conflicts in the allocation of resources. For example, if you need two people for a specific task but only one is available, this could cause a bottleneck.
- Make small adjustments to the timing or sequence of tasks in order to resolve any resource conflicts. This may involve changing the task order or delaying the start of certain tasks.
- Keep track of all changes made to the project schedule, and communicate these changes to all team members. Make sure everyone is aware of the new sequence of tasks and can plan their work accordingly.
- Check out our guide to resource-leveling, and manage your team like a pro.
In the end, the key to effective resource allocation is to keep an eye on your project and address issues as soon as they arise.
By developing a clear plan for managing resources, you’ll be able to maintain better control of your team, avoid costly work delays, and complete each task on time — three things essential to project success!