Managing a project? Read eight rules for effective resource planning

Are you planning a project? Read eight rules to help you identify and manage your resources effectively.

When you’re working as a project manager – whether you’re working for a company or managing your own business – it’s essential that you are able to identify the resources you need, and how you can make the best use of them.

And when it comes to effective project planning, there are countless systems and theories that promise increase effectiveness – from team building, to streamlining and even the metrics used to measure profits. But which ones will work best for you?

Eight rules for effective resource planning

To help you be more effective when you are planning your next project, here are eight rules to follow.

1) Be agile

Technology is slowly taking over; many traditional project management tools are becoming outdated and less viable. Old methodologies are also proving to be the bane of many IT departments. Even the customary paperwork can become overly time-consuming.

In today’s fast-paced work environments, it’s critical that project managers can respond quickly in an ever-changing environment.

2) Don’t micromanage

While it’s certainly important for project managers to remain in control of their projects, you don’t need to be a control freak. Micromanaging every tiny aspect of a task will just slow you (and the project) down.

Instead, your real focus should be on achieving milestones that encourage and motivate others to continue your hard work.

3) Keep communication open

When you’re running a project you need to stay on top of communication. This means encouraging everyone involved to give feedback and updates promptly, so if the timeline slips or you need to reevaluate the project priorities, you can react quickly.

This will reduce any wait time and the risk of mistakes, saving you time and money.

4) Maintain the Big Three: time, budget and quality

Project success can only really be determined once the project is completed. And it’s usually based on whether it’s delivered on time, within budget, and the quality of the delivered goods or services were up to standard.

So it’s essential that you remain on top of all three, and ensure your team and any relevant parties are aware of their importance.

5) Manage expectations

If you’re running a project you don’t just need to ensure it’s successful – you also need to manage expectations throughout. And one simple way to do this is to break down the project into more manageable chunks or milestones.

This way you’ll be able to deliver mid-project updates if all is going well, and give plenty of notice if deadlines have slipped or deliverables change.

Having good reporting techniques in place will also help keep everyone in the loop and happy, and enable feedback between any concerned parties.

It’s also important to remember that each party will have their own needs and expectations, and a good project manager will find out what they are and proceed accordingly.

6) Keep your teams motivated

Motivated teams will go that extra mile to help ensure to deliver a project on time, within budget, and with the appropriate quality. So make sure you keep your team motivated throughout the project with frequent milestones to give tangible measurements of progress.

People also feel more motivated when they know their work and effort is appreciated, so make sure you are generous with your (genuine) praise.

7) Create a great plan

A project without a plan is a project doomed to fail. So make sure your project has a decent chance of success by creating a detailed plan that everyone involved can understand.

A good project will have the following traits:

  • Clearly defined milestones and deliverables for everyone involved.
  • A realistic timeframe for each aspect of the project.
  • A very detailed resource plan
  • An early warning system to provide visibility of task slippage
  • A manner to keep the project team updated and focused on the progress of the project.

All plans should be created and executed carefully. To stay on track, you may want to introduce your team to resource planning software which will help them follow projects from start to finish. In the initial stages, everything will be mapped out and tasks will be delegated to the right employees.

Also ensure that you have some sort of contingency plan pre-built into your estimate (10-15% should suffice for most projects) and a buffer on your delivery deadline. It’s always better to be pessimistic and be able to deliver earlier than promised than be overly optimistic and deliver late.

8) Develop a strong project definition document

A strong project definition document will lay the foundation of the project to everyone who will have a stake in it. A project definition document should cover the following aspects:

  • Overview – the background of the project. Use tangibles as much as possible.
  • Objectives – what is to be accomplished.
  • Scope – what will be implemented?
  • Assumptions and risks – prepare for the worst outcome while highlighting the best outcomes. In the event that something bad does occur, you will be prepared to handle it.
  • Approach – how should the project unfold?
  • Initial effort, cost, and duration estimates – what are they? How often will the be revised?

Having this in place will clarity of roles and responsibilities. The more detailed your definition of the project, the more easy you’ll find it to break down into manageable chunks or milestones. This will also serve as the original timetable for the project, and the general directions for a project.