Why is it Crucial to Track Resource Availability and How to do it?

 Why is it Crucial to Track Resource Availability and How to do it?

Imagine taking on new projects or assignments without knowing who will work on them and what resources are available. Many times, organizations and project managers would create a plan without checking the resource availability or having a clear picture of the team's bookings and schedules. It’s like walking in a dark alley with no insight into where you’re going and where you will reach. This lack of clarity into availability results in messy resource management and a lot of challenges along a project’s development lifecycle. Aiming to know the resource availability leads to robust resource management, which, in turn, leads to efficiency and higher productivity as neither time, effort, or money is going to waste. Read on to learn how crucial it is to monitor resource availability and how you can go about it.

Resource Availability: Definition

Before delving deeper into this topic, let’s understand what is meant by resource availability. The term refers to gaining clarity into the resources you can use, the timeline for which you can use them, and if there are any conditions. Resources in business include human resources or people who are needed for a certain project. But it also includes material objects or tools and equipment, finances, and facilities needed to execute the project. Gaining insight into resource availability means checking which employees are not assigned work and are available on your project timelines. It also includes checking the availability of all the tools and machinery, as well as any software or finances you would require for executing the project. Usually, a resource availability matrix is a good place to check the team’s workloads, vacation plans, time off, etc. However, it’s important to note that while you check the availability of the resources you need, you must check the resources required as per the skill set or competencies, expertise, and experience.

Importance of Tracking Resource Availability

Effective monitoring of resource availability is imperative for various reasons:

1. Optimal resource allocation

By monitoring or checking the resource availability, managers can allocate resources optimally and efficiently, which further reduces the chances of any resource shortages or bottlenecks and enhances overall project efficiency.

2. Budget control

Tracking resource availability at the initial planning stages helps project managers control costs by avoiding needless overtime or resource overstocking.

3. Schedule management

Monitoring resource availability enables setting feasible and practical schedules by aligning project and task assignments with the resources at hand.

4. Risk mitigation

It also aids project leads and managers to identify any resource gaps, shortages, or conflicts much ahead of time, thus allowing them to proactively find solutions to these issues and minimize or eliminate any risks to your projects.

The Benefits of Monitoring Resource Availability

There are various benefits to finding out the resource availability before scheduling or allocating them to projects. Let’s explore what they are.

1. The decision to scale business operations

Tracking your resource availability is important as that can help you decide when to scale your business operations or not. If enough resources are available, your organization can take on more projects and gain greater returns. Whereas if new business is accepted and there aren’t enough resources available to execute the work, then it can lead to challenges and losses.

2. Clarity in project planning

As most organizations are either working remotely or as distributed teams post-pandemic, it’s imperative to understand the significance of human resources and how profitability is linked to their optimal utilization. profitable for the business. Keeping a tab on resource availability helps optimize resources and calibrate in newer ways as you gain more clarity which helps streamline the project planning process.

3. Over-booked or over-utilized resources

At times, project managers do not check a team member’s availability and existing bookings and end up over-allocating work to a single resource. Overbooking an employee without checking their availability can lead to poor quality work because of doing it in less time, frustration, and at times, even attrition.

4. Under-booked or underutilized resources

As resources have an attached cost, it is important that they are productive and do not waste their time in unproductive tasks. Tracking resource availability before project and resource planning enables project managers to avoid under-allocating employees and allocate resources wisely, thus fully utilizing their potential.

5. Resourcing conflicts

There are many instances where due to resource shortages, various departments in the organization would want some skilled resource to be on their project. It’s very important to have schedules and resource plans in place to avoid these resource clashes and utilize the top talent efficiently and optimally.

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Top Factors that Impact Resource Availability

The resources that you have in hand for your projects are mostly determined by the projects in the pipeline, the availability and leave plans of employees, the planned productive tasks, and the non-productive and mundane tasks. Resource availability is mostly impacted by all of the following factors:

1. Assigned projects/tasks

For a distributed team or employees working as a part of shared services, usually a resource could be aligned on more than one project at one time. They divide their effort and time across projects and hence their availability becomes a challenge. At times, they take up more time to do the allocated projects because of scope creep or delays, and that eats up their available time.

2. Project prioritization

When you are planning resources for any new project, don’t you first allocate the best talent or the most skilled employees you have? Or if you think you do not have such a skill set in your team, you look for those people in other teams in your organization. However, resources are also allocated as per the priority of projects. For instance, if a new project requires some coders and you see that there are a few resources with those skills in another team, but if those resources are needed for another high-priority project, then you won’t be able to utilize them.

3. Meetings and administrative tasks

It is a known fact that employees also need to spend anywhere between 1 to 2 hours on tasks such as meetings administrative duties and other mundane tasks. Though meetings and other administrative and repetitive tasks are important, the fact that they require a good part of your day hampers your availability for productive tasks.

4. Personal time off and vacations

The planned personal time off, vacations, and unplanned or unforeseen leaves also impact the resource availability. Though planned time off can be checked by project managers who can plan their project deliveries and resource availability accordingly, unplanned leaves throw the projects out of gear and affect the project schedules negatively.

5. Types of employment

An organization may have people engaged in different types of employment. For example, a team could have full-time employees or FTEs, contractors who work full-time or 40 hours per week, and also freelancers engaged only for part-time engagements. At times, freelancers, part-time employees, or contractors would not be available at short notice or for full project duration which impacts the overall resource availability.

5 Challenges You Face in Monitoring Resource Availability

Because of the lack of visibility of the overall capacity and resource availability, project managers may face a lot of hurdles. Here are the top 5 challenges you can face in tracking resource availability.

1. Limited or no clarity into team or overall capacity

When you’re planning resources for a new project, you may check the schedule for some employees in the database or spreadsheet, and that could highlight their availability only for half a week. However, maybe the numbers updated in that data or spreadsheet aren’t updated and show you the real picture. Some hidden aspects like time spent in meetings and non-productive tasks can also decrease availability and impact the overall clarity around accurate resource availability or capacity of your team, which hinders efficient planning.

2. Not leveraging any tools or using the wrong tools for availability tracking

Imagine a team of skilled and competent team members but still not delivering an output per the client’s satisfaction. Knowing the availability of your resources to take on additional or new tasks is very important before creating a project and resource plan. If you don’t have an insight into the team’s capacity or you’re using the wrong tools or spreadsheets that aren’t very helpful, then there are high chances of your project plan failing. Using a resource planning tool that doesn’t integrate well with other project planning or management tools brings in lots of challenges and only provides you with a high-level clarity of your resources and not detailed information on their availability.

3. No guidelines for the resource management process

Your organization may be using resource planning software, but in case there are no guidelines around resource availability tracking, there is a huge possibility of inaccurate information being passed around. Unless the tool is updated with information such as the skill set, assignments, availability, or schedules of team members, pulling out reports or data won’t show a clear or accurate picture of resource availability. Therefore, having rules or guidelines regarding tracking the availability and use of resource planning tools or the overall resource management process is very important.

4. No visibility into the overall team capacity

Imagine having no clear insight into your team’s overall capacity. How will you know if there are any resource gaps or conflicts or if some team member has personal time off planned or may be allocated to some other critical project or task? Having no visibility into the team’s capacity or plan in the near future can lead all your resources and project plans into jeopardy.

5. Unplanned leaves or unforeseen scenarios

Dealing with unplanned or sick leaves and any unforeseen situations where too many resources aren’t available on a project can leave you in a sticky situation. At times, the client may expect a lot more than what was agreed upon and that may lead to scope creep. Or there may be unforeseen situations or project delays that are not in anyone’s control and can eat up their time.

Top Tips on How to Monitor Resource Availability

Here are the top 9 tips on how to monitor resource availability:

1. Align all resources to various projects in a central location

Start by gaining visibility of your entire employee pool, including which resource is assigned on which project and when. When you do this, all your resources will be associated with some or the other projects for a specific timeline, and it will become easy for you to check their availability. The next step is to do this matching of resources to different projects in a centralized location so that you don’t have information about your projects in one place and resources and tasks in another place. If that’s the case, then it will be very cumbersome to find out who’s working on which task or project and when they’ll be free. Therefore, you should either allocate resources to some tasks or projects for better visibility. Task allocations will need manual work but would be more suitable if the type of work is known and can be planned ahead. Whereas project allocations are better suited for organizations that follow an agile way of working. It’s important to note that allocating resources to tasks and keeping a tab on their workloads will not work on a usual Google Calendar and, hence, you may need a different strategy of task tracking.

2. Calculate the resource requirements through provisional planning

Before starting a project, it is important that you estimate the number of people you would need to execute it and what competencies, expertise, and roles are needed for it. Then, you will have to check if you get people matching your requirements and if they are available on your project timelines. You can do tentative planning and answer these questions to determine the resource requirement and their availability and accordingly make well-informed decisions.

3. Create a resource schedule

Creating a resource schedule is the next possible step, as it aligns your projects, tasks, and sub-tasks with team members. Such a schedule offers a clear picture of the entire organization’s resource allocations and availability, which in turn gives you much-needed visibility into your team’s current and planned workloads. But to create a resource schedule, you first need to calculate your projects and tasks, and establish start and end timelines. A realistic resource schedule ensures that you have incorporated the available days of all your team members, estimated the deadlines, and then calculated the number of tasks that can be completed in that time frame. This strategy ensures that you gain optimal productivity and deliver your projects on time and within budget.

4. Seamless communication channels

Setting up open communication channels in the project team is imperative to keep a tab on your resource availability. Employees should be motivated to openly communicate their workload, status of tasks and projects, availability, and any possible red flags that could delay their committed tasks. For instance, establishing a communication procedure where resources can easily update their tasks’ status and progress, their availability, and other challenges regularly, will enable efficient project and resource management.

5. Keeping track of overallocation

There are times when employees working across various projects are assigned extra work than is possible in their available time. How can you avoid this overallocation or scheduling conflict? Most importantly, you must keep a tab on any overallocation or over-booking on your project schedule. For example, if you have a part-time resource who has only 4 hours a day, then specifying the availability in the resource planning tool will always help ensure there is no overallocation. Tools such as eResource Scheduler have a resource overload indicator which will alert you if there is any over-booking. Accordingly, you can make the adjustments and ensure your resources are optimally utilized.

6. Use previous data to forecast

Analyzing previous project data can give you a clear idea of how resources are utilized and what patterns or challenges to watch out for. This information helps in forecasting availability for upcoming projects. Additionally, this data-driven way of forecasting helps project managers make well-thought-of decisions regarding resource allocation software.

7. Monitor resource utilization with a resource planning tool’s dashboards

It’s also a good idea to use the right resource planning tool to plan your resources and projects and then track their availability and utilization. Real-time dashboards in such tools keep providing you with data in real-time and automatically display it in visual formats such as graphs and charts. What’s more? You can keep track of time, budget, and other important aspects by pulling out reports and a dashboard.

8. Gain insight of the non-project time

While creating a resource schedule, you also need to include the time spent in non-project activities, such as meetings, training time, and even personal time off. Not incorporating this time may result in over-allocating and over-burdening people leading to frustration and stress. To enhance your team’s productivity and operational efficiency, you need to constantly keep track of the resource availability. This aids you in identifying an appropriate schedule for your projects and enables you to avoid resourcing conflicts. To gain an insight into how your entire resource pool aligns with the projects and activities, you should monitor the availability of your team and individual resources.

9. Implement the right resource management software

Project and resource management tools, such as eResource Scheduler, have built-in features to keep track of and efficiently manage your resource availability. Such a tool offers you a clear snapshot of visibility into availability, resource allocation, and overall capacity and enables project managers to make data-driven and informed decisions while allocating tasks and projects.

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Features of eResource Scheduler that Help Track and Assess Resource Availability

Learn more about the features of eResource Scheduler that assist in tracking and assessing resource availability.

1. Real-time updates on resource availability

This best-in-class resource management software offers a scheduling chart that displays your organization’s resource availability in a single view. That’s not all. This data on availability is updated in real-time and the schedules are created and modified automatically if there are changes in resource plans. Information on resource availability helps identify relevant and best-suited resources according to the project requirements, which in turn ensures that only the available resources are allocated for project work and workload is distributed in a balanced manner.

2. Resource overload indicator

Besides the real-time updates and visibility of project and task demands and capacity, eResource Scheduler also helps to avoid resource overloads or over-booking with its resource overload indicator. This resource planning software enables reordering assignments as per the overload indicator and immediately triggers by changing a current booking and making a new one.

3. Gantt charts enable easy visualization of schedules

Simple and easy-to-understand Gantt charts help you to quickly view the current schedules as per the resource or individual and also according to projects along with details on availability.

4. Find the best-fit and qualified resources

This tool offers advanced and comprehensive filters that aid in finding the most skilled, qualified, and suitable resources with ease by using custom details that are stored in resource forms. For instance, you can find people as per their experience, roles, competencies, certificates, qualifications, and more.

Track Resource Availability for Efficient Scheduling with eResource Scheduler

So, if you are aiming to track your resource availability easily and optimize resource utilization, choose eResource Scheduler. The tool also helps you make the best resourcing decisions for your projects and find and allocate the best people for a relevant job. This resource planning and management tool offers real-time visibility of your projects and resources and helps to augment utilization by almost 18% to 30%. This cloud-based tool also acts as your single online platform or centralized repository for all your data on current projects and resources throughout the organization. Additionally, the tool aids in load leveling across several resources and offers precise scheduling estimations that are based on previous actuals. Drafting an efficient and feasible hiring plan is not a simple task, but eResource Scheduler helps craft hiring plans that are based on forecasted resource shortages and excesses. Still, have questions on how you will benefit by implementing this tool? Try eResource Scheduler with a free trial and start making the best resourcing decisions today.

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Marketing Consultant
Nikita Sharma
Nikita Sharma, an impassioned Marketing Consultant at eResource Scheduler, has been shaping the digital marketing landscape since January 2021. With a rich background in web development and digital marketing strategy, she's a beacon of innovation in the field. Nikita has achieved remarkable milestones, including reaching over 1 million social media users for the Jaipur International Film Festival and 3 million-plus SERP impressions for Enbraun Technologies. Her tenure at Nexa as a Digital Marketing Strategist in Dubai, certified by Google and Hubspot, underscores her profound expertise. Nikita's educational journey in Computer Science from Rajasthan Technical University and advanced programming courses have been pivotal in her career. She exemplifies dedication, creativity, and a deep understanding of digital trends, making significant impacts across diverse industries.

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