Project Resource Planning in 4 steps and Free Excel Template

Resource planning is a crucial part of any project planning activity. Without having adequate resources the project is bound to fail. During the project execution if you fall short of resources then you might not get enough time to on-board resources. On the other hand if you have excess resources the project might end up paying extra cost.

Project Resource Planning
Project Resource Planning
To ensure that the project is adequately resourced a series of steps can be performed before you finalize the final pool of resources you will need for your project. 

Like the saying "more than one way to skin the cat..." there will always be more than one option to resource a project. As a project manager you will have to put the options forward to the stakeholders for a decision.

Step 1 : Tasks and Skills Required

  • Understand the tasks involved in the project. 
  • At early stages of the project it is difficult to get an exact estimate of the work involved. 
  • Use whatever information you can get on your hands.   
  • Work with the team leaders or managers to understand the skills involved.
  • For each skill required understand the level of expertise and the effort involved.
  • You can use a simple table like below for breaking up the tasks and understanding which skills are required.
Project Resource Planning
Project Resource Planning

Step 2 : Create a draft project timeline with high level project phases

  • Discuss with the stakeholders about their expectation on the delivery date. Based on the delivery date you can suggest options to the stakeholders. By default most of the time the delivery date is ASAP. 
  • Drafting a timeline will give you an idea about the different phases in the project.
  • Recommendation is to create a project timeline on weekly basis. You can use excel to create the draft timeline as below. 
  • The timeline assumes the resources will work full time which will be 5 days a week.
Project Resource Planning
Project Resource Planning Timeline

Step 3 : Overlay resources and project phases

After the draft project timeline and effort/skills required is know then a mapping exercise needs to be done.This is the most tricky part of the process as it involves changing and trying different options.

First Option

By default assume that you will have one resource for each skill set. I recommend highlighting the weeks used so that it is visible easily. So, with one resource in each skill set the project is estimated to be complete by middle of April 2016.

If the delivery date is inline with the expectation of the stakeholders then you do not need to consider further options.

Project Resource Planning
Project Resource Planning - Default Option
Alternate Options (Option 2)

The alternate options you provide will depend on your project budget, company resource pool and other factors. For the sake of this article I will add one more Option - 2 which will include additional resources to the development and QA phases to be able to deliver the project early.

To add additional resources increase the allocation to double for development and QA Phases. 

So, the duration for the work to be complete will be reduced by 50%. In the plan I will increase the weekly allocation to 10 which indicates that two resources will be working in that week. 

If additional resources are added to the development and QA phase then the project will be delivered in first week of Feb which is 2.5 months earlier than the first option. However, there will be additional cost for adding more resources.

Project Resource Planning Options
Project Resource Planning - Option 2

Step 4 : Finalize your Project Resource Planning

After drafting your options you have to finalize the resource requirement and costs with each option. For the above timelines it is clear as to when the resources will work on tasks. Ideally, you would like to have the resources available during that time and then off load them.

In reality it does not work that way. In the real world when you get a resource onto a project the resource will generally remain on that project till the project completes. The only exception is when the resource pool is flexible and other projects can use them, 

All of the roles required for the project will be supporting the project is some or other way. For example Developer will be needed in the QA period to fix bugs, Analyst will be required to clarify business requirements. Both developer and QA will be needed to support the system after it goes live.

How long each resource needs to stay on the project is a project team decision and the project manager should take inputs from technical leaders and managers. There is no fixed rule for retaining people on the project. It is generally determined by cost and need of having people on the project. There is a always a cost associated with retaining the resources on the project.

Based on on the project need and demand increase the allocation of the resource in the project resource plan as highlighted below. Adding the support and maintenance effort will give you the actual cost of the entire project. 

After applying the costs to both the options the second option is slightly more but the project can be delivered faster. But it also has an overhead in terms of hiring and training a new resource.

Project Resource Plan Support
Project Resource Plan with Support - Option 2
After you have completed both the options you can discuss the options with senior stakeholders and managers before publishing. Senior managers can always provide useful feedback into the plans. There is a rate and cost column which can be used to calculate resource costs. See our 13 best practices for resource management.

Click Here if you want a copy of the Project Resource Plan XLS

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