Resource Scheduling Made Easy: A Beginner’s Guide

Improve employee attendance

By carefully allocating resources, creating detailed schedules, monitoring usage, and fostering collaboration, project managers can optimize efficiency, meet deadlines, and deliver high-quality results. But how do you make sure your team has what they need yet costs remain in control?

Taking a methodical approach can simplify the process and give you confidence your objectives are on track.

This guide shares a straightforward framework for getting organized, setting priorities, and adapting to changes. Whether you’re just starting or have been juggling schedules for years, these basic techniques will help bring order to the chaos and give you a clear view of what’s coming down the pipeline.

What Are Project Resources?

Project resources are assets required for successful project delivery. They can be storable (finances, equipment) and non-storable (time, people), renewable (tools, space), and non-renewable (project budget) – all these assets are required to carry out project tasks.

Lack of project resources can become a constraint on the completion of project activities, therefore proper resource planning and scheduling are key to successful project management.

What Is Resource Scheduling?

Resource scheduling is the process of creating a timetable or schedule for the use of resources to ensure they are always available when needed.

To understand this definition better, let’s see what resource scheduling is not:

Resource allocation vs. resource scheduling

Resource allocation refers to the distribution of resources in an organization, project, or team in a way that helps achieve specific goals. It involves determining the optimal use of resources, assigning tasks to team members, and ensuring maximal efficiency.

While both resource allocation and resource scheduling are critical to project management, the former involves strategic thinking and decision-making, whereas the latter is more practical and focuses on logistics.

Resource planning vs. resource scheduling

Resource planning involves identifying, acquiring, and allocating the resources required to complete a project successfully. This includes human resources, such as team members and specialists, as well as physical resources like equipment, materials, and tools. By carefully planning and allocating resources, project managers can ensure that all necessary elements are in place to execute tasks efficiently and effectively.

Scheduling, on the other hand, involves creating a timeline that outlines when each resource will be needed throughout the project. A well-structured schedule helps in sequencing tasks, managing dependencies, and avoiding bottlenecks that could delay project progress. By aligning resource availability with project timelines, project managers can optimize workflow and maximize productivity.

Resource scheduling
Resource planning
Resource allocation
What is it?
The process of creating a timeline or a plan for when resources will be allocated to tasks
The process of managing resources based on long-term organizational goals and needs
The process of assigning resources to secure their efficient and effective use
Type of activity:
Tactical
Strategic
Strategic
Deliverables:
Resource schedule
Well-rounded resource plan, including schedules, forecasts, budget, etc.
Resource allocation plan

Why Is Resource Scheduling Important?

Poor resource scheduling can lead to the following consequences:

  • Cost overrun and delayed project delivery. If you find yourself in a position where you lack resources for ongoing or upcoming project tasks, you are likely to overschedule your people or outsource the workload, which is highly likely to snowball into missed deadlines. If you have tasks with dependency delays, the whole project plan can go sideways.
  • Damaged relationships with stakeholders and clients. If you fail to move the project forward within budget and in a timely manner or fail to deliver at all, your mistakes will cost you, clients, reputation, and money.

In contrast, strong resource scheduling brings the following benefits:

  • Higher productivity: When you have all of the necessary resources lined up and ready to go, you can hit the ground running and get your work done much more efficiently. No more wasting time scrambling to find the right tools or people!
  • Better time management: With a clear schedule in place, you can prioritize tasks and allocate resources in a way that makes the most sense. This means you can avoid getting bogged down in unimportant or low-priority tasks, and focus on the things that really matter.
  • Reduced costs: Resource scheduling can also help you save money by preventing unnecessary downtime or delays. If you can avoid overbooking resources or double-booking people and equipment, you can make sure everything is being used to its fullest potential.
  • Improved communication: By having a clear schedule in place, everyone involved in the project can stay on the same page and avoid misunderstandings. As a result, there’ll be fewer mistakes or delays, and a more efficient workflow overall.
  • Better quality work: When you have all of the necessary resources in place and everyone knows what they’re supposed to be doing, you can focus on producing high-quality work that meets all of your goals and objectives.

Why Is Resource Scheduling Difficult?

Effective resource scheduling requires a combination of strategic planning, effective communication, technology utilization, and adaptive leadership, as various challenges can arise throughout the process.

Challenges in Resource Scheduling
Strategies to Overcome Resource Scheduling Challenges
Limited Resource Availability
Regular Monitoring and Adjustment
Conflicting Priorities
Breaking down bigger tasks into smaller chunks
Dynamic Project Scope
Clear Communication and Collaboration
Uncertain Demand Forecasting
Resource Management Tools
Skill Set Mismatches
Cross-Training and Skill Development

Let’s dive deeper into the common hurdles in resource scheduling and explore actionable strategies to overcome them effectively.

  1. Securing the necessary resources, whether it’s skilled personnel, equipment, or materials, can be a major challenge. Resource scarcity can lead to bottlenecks, delays, and ultimately, hinder project progress. That’s why you need to continuously monitor resource utilization, project progress, and key performance metrics to identify potential bottlenecks or inefficiencies. So, regularly review and adjust resource schedules based on emerging needs, feedback, and performance data.
  2. Balancing resource allocation across multiple projects or tasks within a project is often a juggling act. Conflicting priorities can arise when resources are shared among different teams or departments, leading to inefficiencies and project delays. But by prioritizing smaller and high-impact activities and aligning resource allocation accordingly, you can optimize resource utilization and minimize conflicts.
  3. Projects rarely unfold exactly as planned, with changes in scope, timelines, and requirements occurring frequently. Adapting resource schedules to accommodate these changes while maintaining project momentum can be a significant challenge. Foster open communication channels among team members, stakeholders, and resource managers to ensure transparency and alignment. Regular updates on resource availability, project priorities, and changes in scope can help mitigate conflicts and facilitate informed decision-making.
  4. Forecasting resource requirements accurately is inherently difficult, especially when project demands are unpredictable or subject to change. Overestimating or underestimating resource needs can lead to resource shortages or excesses. Leverage project management software and resource scheduling tools to streamline the scheduling process. These tools can help centralize resource data, automate scheduling workflows, and provide real-time visibility into resource availability and utilization.
  5. Ensuring that team members possess the right skill sets for specific tasks is crucial for project success. However, mismatches between required skills and available expertise can hinder productivity and quality. Invest in cross-training programs to enhance the versatility of your team members. By developing a diverse skill set within the team, you can mitigate skill shortages, foster collaboration, and increase flexibility in resource allocation.

How to Create a Perfect Resource Schedule in Just 3 Steps

Step 1: Start with a detailed resource plan

Simply put, resource planning establishes the foundation for the creation of an efficient resource schedule. It involves identifying the right resources needed to complete a project, determining the quantity of each resource required, and outlining when these resources will be needed.

To create a resource plan for your project, follow these steps:

  • Define the scope of your project: You need to know what your project is all about, what it aims to accomplish, which tasks it is comprised of, and what resources are required to achieve the set objectives.
  • Identify your resource needs: List all the resources you require to complete your project, including people, equipment, materials, and tools.
  • Estimate resource availability: By reviewing past projects, you can determine the average time, costs, and resources required for similar projects. This provides you with solid benchmarks that can help you estimate resource availability for your current project accurately.
  • Consider any potential roadblocks: For instance, delays in delivery, scarcity of resources, or even inclement weather can significantly impact resource availability. By examining potential risks and contingencies, you can develop contingency plans to mitigate their impact on the project and ensure that resources are always available.
  • Allocate resources: If a resource is available for only three days out of five, allocate it according to its availability. However, if a resource is available for the entire period, allocate it based on the skill and expertise required for the task.

Step 2: Create a schedule

Once you have your resource plan in place, you can begin working on a resource schedule itself.

  • Create a timeline: When it comes to displaying information clearly and compellingly, there is no doubt that a visual timeline is the way to go. People are more likely to remember information when it’s presented in a visual form than when it’s simply written, listed, or spoken. Besides, a visual timeline allows the viewer to see how events relate to one another chronologically, which can provide a more holistic understanding of the project and task duration.
  • Match the planned tasks with the required resources: This step requires meticulous planning and organization to ensure that all resources are utilized optimally and the tasks are completed on time. To accomplish this, follow a structured approach and keep in mind what resources are needed at each stage of the project and when they are available.
  • Get a resource schedule template for an easy start: There’s no need to create an entire schedule from scratch – feel free to download our free template and customize it in line with your needs. It is sure to help you speed up the resource scheduling process and make it seem less daunting.

Download your free resource schedule template here 👈

Step 3: Use actiPLANS to simplify the process

actiPLANS is a flexible resource scheduling solution that provides a centralized platform where you can manage all your resources and their availability in one place. This saves you time and effort by eliminating the need to juggle multiple spreadsheets and calendars.

Here’s how it works:

  • Create custom project activities or tasks in line with your unique needs
  • Process employees’ leave requests so you can take into account their availability while scheduling resources
  • Allocate the planned tasks across dates and employees using a visual timeline
  • Activate automatic email notifications to reduce time spent on team communication regarding schedules
  • Run detailed reports to get valuable insights into employee absences, resource utilization, and more.

Feel free to check out this post for more information on resource scheduling with actiPLANS 👈

5 Common Approaches to Resource Scheduling

As such, resource scheduling doesn’t require any special technical or scientific know-how. Just figure out which tasks you have to work on and how many resources are required to complete those tasks effectively, estimate the time required to finish the planned work, and schedule it all on a timeline in a tool of choice.

However, if you want to adhere to a specific framework when scheduling your project resources, we know a couple of options for you to consider:

  • Time-based scheduling: This approach is based on allocating resources according to a set schedule or timeline. Tasks are broken down into smaller, manageable units of work, and each employee (or other resources) is assigned a specific block of time during which they are responsible for completing that work.
  • Priority-based scheduling: This approach prioritizes resources according to the importance and urgency of each task. Resources are assigned to the highest-priority tasks first, and then allocated to lower-priority tasks as the more urgent work is completed.
  • Resource-driven scheduling: With this approach, resource availability is the primary factor driving scheduling decisions. Resources are allocated to tasks based on their availability and capacity, and the schedule is then adjusted accordingly.
  • Agile scheduling: This approach involves working in short, iterative cycles, with resources allocated to each sprint or iteration based on the tasks planned for that cycle. This approach is popular in software development companies and other industries where rapid iteration and continuous improvement are highly valued.
  • Critical path scheduling: This approach involves identifying the sequence of tasks that will help you complete the project successfully within the shortest timespan, i.e., the critical path. Then, resources are allocated to ensure your team follows the critical path and the project stays on track.

Managing Resources in Time: 2 Useful Techniques

Managing projects in time can be quite challenging, especially when dealing with tight deadlines and limited resources. In such scenarios, it is crucial to optimize resource utilization to meet project demands efficiently.

Two useful techniques that have proven effective in this regard are resource leveling and resource smoothing.

Resource leveling

Resource leveling is the method used to promote an equal distribution of resources over a period. It aims to balance the workload among all the team members and manage the team’s resources effectively. For example, if one resource is overloaded with work in a certain period, the task might be postponed or delayed to even it out. In other words, initial task and project deadlines can change as a means to improve the use of resources.

This technique is particularly useful when a project has limited resources, and you want to ensure that all required resources are available for each task, minimizing overutilization or underutilization.

Resource smoothing

Resource smoothing is a technique used to adjust resource demand by either delaying or expediting certain tasks to eliminate peaks and troughs in resource usage. This technique is useful when dealing with fluctuating demand and can help ensure a steady flow of resources over time. It can help avoid costly overutilization and underutilization of resources and reduce the risks associated with resource allocation.

Resource leveling
Resource smoothing
Definition:
The process of re-scheduling project activities to ensure that resources are evenly allocated across the entire project timeline
The process of adjusting resource utilization to avoid peaks and dips that may occur in resource demand
Problems addressed:
Over- or underutilization of resources
Uneven workload distribution
Approach:
Proactive
Reactive
When to apply:
When resources are limited
When time is limited

Ready to Upgrade Your Resource Planning and Scheduling?

Project-intensive businesses tend to save up on resource management software and use spreadsheets or home-grown tools instead. These solutions are cumbersome., demanding in terms of maintenance, and limiting, which often leads to over- or underutilized resources, improper project planning, low staff morale, and other negative consequences.

The good news is that resource management tools don’t have to be expensive and you should definitely consider trying and implementing one.

For example, actiPLANS is resource scheduling software that helps businesses manage time off, work shifts, project activities, employee locations, events, and more at a cost of $1.5 per user per month. With its assistance, you can easily process leave requests, auto-calculate everyone’s leave balances, review team availability, plan out project activities, schedule work shifts, and analyze resource utilization using reports.

actiPLANS also offers an integration with actiTIME – time and task management software. It lets you allocate project work to your team, keep track of employees’ attendance and working hours, monitor project costs and profits, and more.

actiTIME - time tracking software

By combining actiTIME and actiPLANS, you will get a complete resource management solution.

Get started today – sign up for a free 30-day trial (no credit card required).

Enjoy a better way to
schedule work
Start Using actiPLANS