How to Solve Resource Allocation Problems

As many project managers and firm owners know, resource management isn’t always a walk in the park. With staff taking time off, being over (or under) scheduled, excelling at certain tasks and not others. It can be a real challenge to figure out who and how much time to put into a project. Resource allocation in project management, while tricky, is super important to growing your bottom line and keeping clients happy with on-time deliverables. 

What is resource allocation? Before we dive into a few common problems many professional services face with resource allocation, let’s first go over the resource allocation definition. Resource allocation is the process of assigning the best available resources to tasks and projects. And if you want to run a successful project, then it’s important to have the right resources. These resources can include people, money, tools, and more. 

You might also know the term, capacity planning. Resource allocation and capacity planning go hand in hand — it manages workloads to ensure under or overutilization doesn’t happen. Then, if needed, people are reassigned based on current resource availability and project timelines.

Quick refresh on benefits of resource allocation: 

  • Projects are delivered on time
  • The best results are achieved due to having the needed resources
  • Boosts employee engagement 
  • Increases productivity
  • Keeps budgets on track

Keep on reading to discover common resource allocation problems that you might already be dealing with, and how to solve them. Your staff and clients will thank you.

Problem: Knowing the scope of a project

Solution: Before you can even start allocating resources, you first need to determine the scope of the project. What’s the size of the project? Is this a long project or is it going to be pretty short? When those details are determined, you can then make the decision on what kind of resources you’re going to need to execute the deliverable. The clearer the project scope is, the better you’ll be able to figure out how to allocate your resources. So take the time to get the full picture of the project prior to doing any resource allocation. 

But wait, this doesn’t seem like a resource allocation problem… it is! You need to understand the scope of a project to make resource allocation work for you and your team. 

Pro tip: When you use a tool like BigTime, you get access to historical data from your firm on past projects completed. With real-time reporting, you can see just how much time was under- or over-spent, how many people worked on the project, and how long it took. Measuring past performance is the best way to forecast and understand the scope of a project, all leading to successful resource allocation. 

Problem: Having unclear and/or low staff utilization 

Solution: One of the easiest ways to check whether your resource allocation efforts are working and successful is by tracking your team’s utilization rate. To calculate the utilization rate, look at the percentage of time spent on billable projects vs. the total time worked, in other words, it measures how busy employees are. While an employee may work 40 hours a week, it’s pretty much impossible to do 40 hours of billable work. When you factor in lunch breaks, phone calls, meetings, trips to the coffee machine, etc., it’s easy to see how time can be spent on things other than work. However, when looking at your firm’s utilization rate, it’s really important to get the balance just right. If your rate is too high, it might mean that you need more resources and if your rate is too low, you’re probably not bringing in enough work for the number of people on your team. 

If your firm is experiencing unclear or low staff utilization rates, take a step back and reflect on how your firm is currently tracking these rates, along with your resource allocation plan altogether. Who is managing resources within your firm? Are you using contractors? If so, what is the effect on your bottom line? Is your team accurately and actively tracking their time? By answering and evaluating questions like these, you can start to understand what you need to do to gain better visibility into your staff utilization

Did you know?: BigTime makes it easy to optimize your staff capacity and avoid over/under utilization by giving your team the project visibility they need to succeed.

Problem: Resources become unavailable 

Solution: Whether we like it or not, a lot of things are just totally out of our control. Kids get sick, cars break down, doctor appointments come up, life happens. You can have a project perfectly scoped out, scheduled, and resources allocated, but unexpected things will always happen during a project (unless you’re extremely lucky). When something unforeseen pops up, the quickest way to solve the issue would be to look at your team for a replacement. Does anyone have time to help? If not, it might even be necessary to hire a freelancer, depending on the issue that arises. However, the best thing you can do for everyone involved is to think ahead! 

Prevent this in the future by looking at task dependencies. Specifically, look at other responsibilities (or even time off) team members have currently or that will come up during the duration of the project that might pull them away. Then you can create a backup resource allocation plan in case they don’t show up or for when the unexpected happens. 

FYI: BigTime has a feature called Skills Matching that easily finds the staffer best suited for the job. You can keep track and search your staff list based on their skills, including the ability to search multiple skills at once.

Putting your employees first

Your firm is made up of the people who run it. Without them, nothing would get done. For many reasons, it’s important to think about your employees having a healthy work-life balance. Burnout is real. In fact, a report from Indeed found that 67% of workers believe burnout has worsened during the pandemic. When you actively seek out methods to help reduce burnout, including staff capacity planning, you’re working to create a healthier work environment and culture

Work smarter, not harder

For firms with a growing team and project list, turning to a tool like BigTime that can automate resource allocation and capacity planning can do wonders for your bottom line. 

With BigTime, you can: 

  • Reduce time spent planning around staff capacity
  • Easily find staff available by role or department
  • Eliminate the need for manual spreadsheets and planning meetings to track resources
  • Leverage the utilization dashboard for a big-picture view into operational insights
  • Pull real-time reports on your firm’s health and utilization by department, role, or staffer

Want to learn more about how proper resource allocation can transform your firm and team? Visit our resource library and learn more about BigTime here