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How to do resource allocation in project management

Managing multiple projects with a limited pool of resources can be a bit of a roller coaster. Project based organisations face two conflicting challenges; there must be sufficient and appropriate resource available for each and every project, so that all client milestones will be met, but high levels of resource utilisation must be maintained, if operational profits are not to fall. Having spare resource sitting on the bench just in case, is a very expensive option! This blog focuses on how to do resource allocation in project management, so that both challenges can be met

It works best when different roles focus on each of the two challenges. In matrix organisations, project managers strive to ensure that each of their projects are correctly resourced, whilst team leaders focus on maintaining high levels of utilisation. Successful resource allocation in project management relies on good collaboration between them.

Typically, resource allocation in project management consists of the following steps:

  1. Demand management. Before committing to key project milestones, check that there is sufficient spare capacity in the skills required. There’s no point in searching for individuals with specified skills and experience when they are already committed. Hiring contractors, recruitment or retraining may be required.
  2. Project manager requests resource. As projects get more technically complex, project managers increasingly need to request skills with specific competency levels and experience. A comprehensive skills matrix that maintains current details of each person’s competencies, levels and relevant certifications is increasingly required.
  3. Team leader proposes. As requests for resources arrive, team leaders will search for available candidates and propose the most suitable.
  4. Project manager accepts or rejects. Before accepting a proposed resource, project managers will want to be sure that the proposed candidates satisfy their requested skills and competency levels. Any non-compliance should be clearly highlighted. Rejecting a candidate must automatically resubmit the original request.

And, naturally, as soon as the project gets underway, dates and work profiles will change. The resource allocation process needs to enable re-estimates to be easily managed. Weekly demand management meetings can be crucial in fast moving environments, when change is endemic.

Resource management tools have a big role in underpinning resource allocation in project management.  They enhance collaboration with updated comments fields for each step of the allocation process, and provide an audit trail to show who changed what, by how much and when, as the project gets underway.

Resource allocation in project management is getting increasingly complex. Good resource management tools play an important part in maintaining the collaboration necessary for success.


Barry Muir is a Director of Innate Management Systems Ltd. We have been implementing resource management software in a wide variety of professional services organizations for more than 20 years.
Posted in resource management software

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