What Is Resource Allocation: The Ultimate Guide for Project Managers

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Table of Contents

Imagine you’re onboarding a new team member — and it’s their first day at the office. You greet them, walk them into the office, and want to lead them to their desk.

However, every desk is taken — there is nowhere for them to sit. You apologize and scramble into some spare room for an old desk, which you then spend 15 minutes finding a floor space for.

Doesn’t leave a good first impression, does it? As extreme as this example is, it showcases the importance of managers being aware of the resources at hand and how to distribute them to their team.

In this article, we will talk about exactly this — what resource allocation is and how you can utilize it for the benefit of your project.

What is resource allocation - cover

  • Resource allocation is beneficial to your project — resulting in reduced costs, increased efficiency, a satisfied team, etc.
  • Skill gaps and surpluses are listed as the main challenges of resource management, while training and skill development availability are the least challenging.
  • Resource allocation should be done throughout the whole project, adapting to oncoming changes.
  • Using a PM tool increases the efficiency of the resource allocation process.
  • Task dependencies greatly affect resource allocation, so using methodologies that are centered around dependencies will help this process.

What is resource allocation? 

Resource allocation is the process of defining all finite project resources and distributing them as efficiently as possible.

Make sure to pay attention to the word “finite” — almost every resource in your project is limited. There’s a certain timeframe or a certain number of people in your project team . As a project manager, you need to have a detailed understanding of every resource available before allocating any of them. 

This can prove difficult — ProSymmetry’s 2022 The State of Resource Management study shows that participants cited visibility into the availability of resources as the second biggest challenge of resource management. 

Ironically enough, while skills gaps and surpluses are listed as the #1 challenge, training and skill development are said to be the least challenging.

Proper distribution of resources involves matching the right resource to the right task. If your task prioritization skills are not up to par, your resource allocation might be lacking. This is why, especially in larger teams, projects will have a resource manager as a dedicated role.

Furthermore, as the project unfolds, resource allocation doesn’t stop. If a change is made to the project, resources might have to be redistributed.

What are the 3 elements of resource allocation? 

Resource allocation is comprised of 3 main elements — each of these represents a category of resources that you should pay attention to when allocating:

#1: Human resources

Human resources equal your entire workforce.

Pay close attention to every team member’s specific skills and abilities so you can assign the right tasks to them.

Make sure to keep your workload management skills sharp, as you don’t want to overburden someone with tasks just because they are more skilled. 

#2: Financial resources

Financial resources involve your project budget .

You need to carefully allocate the budget to increase profits and growth and decrease costs. This process involves financial planning, analysis, reporting, and cost control.

#3: Material resources

Material resources include the physical resources required for your project.

Whether it’s an office space or technology — you need to make sure it’s in the right place at the right time.

Handling material resources properly can eliminate bottlenecks, increase production, and minimize waste.

Resource allocation example

For this example of how resource allocation may work in practice, let’s say you have a publishing house, and you’re planning a book launch:

  • The first step in resource allocation is to determine your needs and goals — your current goal is to complete the launch of 10 new books. 
  • The next step is to take inventory of your resources. Your budget is $30,000. Your human resources include a marketing expert, 2 sales members, a translator, 2 designers, and you. Your material resources include the book manuscripts, an office phone, and computers with design tools installed.
  • Your next step is to determine which tasks are dependent — making a deal with a printer and designing covers comes before printing, which comes before pitching a deal with bookstores.
  • Now, you can start the tasks that aren’t dependent whenever you’d like — in this case, you can start marketing as soon as the project starts. You can put a faster designer on higher-priority books.
  • Next, you need to make sure that the one office phone is available to both sales members, which means rescheduling so that those tasks don’t overlap.
  • But, let’s say that halfway through the project, you get 5 more great manuscripts, and decide to increase the scope. You need to re-evaluate the resources at your disposal.
  • The budget would have to be increased, by the necessity of printing costs. You’d probably require another designer to avoid putting too much pressure on the current ones.
  • On the other hand, the phone, which seemed like a scarce resource, does not need an increase in numbers — the sales team’s scope wouldn’t increase as much.

Benefits of resource allocation

Properly managing your resources can bring many benefits to your project, some of which include:

  • Increased efficiency — properly managing which resources are assigned to which task can result in reduced deadlines and better outcomes.
  • Reduced costs — allocating resources efficiently prevents you from wasting them over the course of the project. If you’re inefficient in your resource use, you’ll most likely need to acquire more, which will increase costs.
  • Improved project planning — knowing how to properly handle resources improves your project planning capabilities. If you have a better understanding of what you’re working with, you’ll increase the accuracy of your project management plan .
  • Improved team satisfaction — properly managing resources also means that no one in your team is overworked or lacking in resources they need to complete their tasks. As team satisfaction increases, so will productivity.
  • Better collaboration — if resources are properly utilized, it’s easier to collaborate because there isn’t a clash in who does what or what resources they need in their work. This will, in turn, improve project collaboration .

resource allocation in project management

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resource allocation in project management

How to allocate resources 

Resource allocation is a complicated endeavor, filled with moving parts. So, we’ve rounded up the best tips to make your resource allocation easier.

Tip #1: Identify the project scope

The first step in resource allocation is to identify the project scope . How do you cover all the work? What’s the size of your budget and your workforce? These factors will then determine the material resources you need.

The project scope is also important for time management. If you have a long time to finish a project, you have more leeway to reschedule tasks when needed.

Always keep in mind, however, that scope is subject to change during the course of a project. You need to keep track of any scope changes in order to appropriately change the way in which your resources are allocated. 

Tip #2: Track task dependencies

The ways in which your tasks relate to each other will always have an effect on resource allocation.

This is most apparent with scheduling. If 2 tasks are dependent, you must schedule one after the other and can’t do them simultaneously. So, the ways in which you can utilize human or time resources are limited. 

So, task dependencies will greatly influence your resource allocation decisions.

Tip #3: Track resource dependencies

Apart from task dependencies, you also need to mind resource dependencies — which show how your tasks are dependent on certain resources. For example, you can’t start construction without the proper tools. Or, you can’t bake a pie without flour.

You want your resource dependencies to be as few as possible — so that in the event of a resource shortage, your whole project isn’t halted.

What resources are available? How important are they for certain tasks? Are they replaceable? All of these questions help determine resource dependencies.

Tip #4: Avoid over-allocating

Over-allocating and under-allocating pose a large risk when prioritizing tasks. As you determine which tasks are of higher priority, you will want to pour more resources into them. However, if you go overboard, this becomes an issue.

If you have a highly skilled team member, you might feel tempted to give them more responsibilities and assign as many priority tasks to them as possible. This can lead to burnout or an unbalanced workload compared to the rest of the team. Instead of being rewarded for being more skilled, the team member is overworked.

It’s important to remember that whenever you add resources to one part of the project, you’re taking them away from another part. If you increase the budget for your marketing department, you have to decrease the budget for something else.

Tip #5: Avoid parallel tasks

Parallel tasks are created when one large task is split into subtasks, each assigned to a different team member and completed at the same time.

While multitasking might be tempting, in most cases, it causes more harm than good. With parallel tasks, you need more resources since you cannot share them between the two tasks — one forklift is enough to transfer one material at a time, but if you want to speed up the process, you might be tempted to get 2 more. The issue is, this might cause the storage area to become overcrowded, and if there’s no room for 3 forklifts — they’ll work slower than one.

While sometimes creating parallel tasks is necessary, avoiding them will aid in a more efficient use of your resources.

How to allocate resources with Plaky

The best tip for resource allocation is to use project management software . PM software allows you to have all your project information in one place and easily track where your resources are needed.

Adding assignees to a task in Plaky

In Plaky, you can create a separate board for resource planning, which outlines our 3 main elements: 

  • Human, 
  • Financial, and 
  • Material resources. 

You can either have an assignee field or add a separate field detailing which team is responsible for that part of the project when working with larger scopes.

With custom fields in Plaky , you can also define the difficulty level of the tasks, allowing you to assign the right person to them. 

Adding difficulty levels to tasks in Plaky

Material resources are easiest to track with tags, as there are usually many of them, and multiple are required for one task. You can use different colored tags to distinguish the type of resources needed for each task. 

There’s an added benefit to this — the summary row at the bottom of a task group indicates which resources are most needed.

Resource allocation in Plaky

The Plaky resource planning template 

If you’re unsure of how to start from scratch, Plaky also offers a resource planning template . It allows you to keep all resources in one place and discern which are needed for which task.

Resource planning template - Plaky

You can track the budget plan, assignees, teams, documents, and more using this template. 

This template also serves to boost collaboration, as other team members will have insight into how the resources are allocated.

The template is fully customizable, so you can change and update it with the information that is relevant to your team. 

What are 4 methods suitable for resource allocation? 

Resource allocation can be approached in many different ways, with the 4 best methods being:

  • The Critical Path Method (CPM) — while it focuses more on time management than anything else, the critical path method is great for deciding task priorities. It involves finding task dependencies within your project and identifying the longest line of dependent tasks. Every task outside of the line can be delayed without much issue. Tasks that are on the critical path are higher in priority — so resource allocation gives priority to those tasks.
  • Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM) — even though it’s similar to CPM, the CCPM gives more consideration to other resources. It takes into account not only task dependencies but resource dependencies as well. The main idea of the CCPM is to ensure that there are extra resources on the side, i.e. buffers. The buffers serve to keep the project timeline and schedule safe from delays.
  • Resource leveling — resource leveling focuses on changing the project timeline to account for resource availability. If a resource isn’t available for a task at the desired time, reschedule the task. Even though this solution sounds simple enough, its use is limited — overdoing it will delay the project too much. This is why resource leveling works much better in more flexible projects.
  • Resource smoothing — resource smoothing is the opposite of leveling. Its goal is to try to not change the timeline. Instead, in smoothing, you will likely add additional resources as needed to avoid rescheduling. Still, try not to go overboard with smoothing — do this too much, and you’ll eat through your resources in no time.

Critical chain diagram

Allocating resources will ensure that your project runs smoothly

By now, you should be aware of the ways in which resource allocation improves your project and the dangers that come with neglecting it.

Bottlenecks, late deadlines, conflict, and scope creep can all be prevented by just using the right resources in the right places, at the right time.

But, if you manage your resources properly, your project will run like a well-oiled machine.

Resource allocation is easy with the right tools. With Plaky, you can keep track of all the available resources in one place, assign them to the right projects, and share the information with your team. Sign up for Plaky for free and get organized today.


Luka Bogavac is a project management author and researcher who focuses on making project management topics both approachable and informative. With experience in entrepreneurial projects, education, and writing, he aims to make articles that his younger self would appreciate. In his free time, he enjoys being outdoors hiking, or staying indoors with a good film or video game.

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Resource Allocation – The Guide for Project Managers and Resource Managers

Resource allocation helps you to choose the best available assets for multiple projects and manage them throughout the work, so you can avoid under or overutilization of your employees. Sadly, not all project managers use it to their advantage. 

What will you get thank to this article:

  • How resource management software solves resource allocation obstacles
  • How does it look resource allocation in project management
  • Differences between resource allocation, resource scheduling, and resource management
  • Common resource allocation obstacles
  • How to implement efficient resource allocation in your organization

Only 26% of companies always use resource management to estimate and allocate resources, and 36% of them do it often, according to the PMI survey (“Pulse of the Profession”).  At the same time, less than 60% of projects meet the original budget and barely 50% of them are being completed on time, the same study says.

The functions of resource allocation in project management processes

Resource allocation in the context of project management and its process.

Many project managers who want to introduce what project management is, use the Project Management Institute (PMI) definition. According to the last one, project management is about using whatever it takes to deliver something helpful to people – as they say, to “deliver value to people”. 

To be more precise, the APM believes that project management is about using some competencies, abilities, talents, expertise, tools, machines, instruments, software, methods, techniques, and processes to “deliver value to people”. 

Resource allocation and project management process

The phrase “value to people” stimulates us to suppose that outcome of project management could be everything. A house, an app, a park, or even some social movements, including a crusade, LGPT, or religion. Anything which is useful for some digit of individuals.

The above-mentioned comments are the reason why we – the business-embedded people – use the definition proposed by the Association for Project Management (APM). The proposed understanding of project management contains criteria that help with splitting just management from project management. Let’s take a look:

Project management is the application of processes, methods, skills, knowledge, and experience to achieve specific project objectives according to the project acceptance criteria within agreed parameters. Project management has final deliverables that are constrained to a finite timescale and budget.

Why resource allocation important is? Good managing resources help with bringing the project success

When we compare both the APM and the PMI definitions, we see some nearness. Both are about running things and using knowledge, experience, methods, etc get the things done.  But only the last characterization of project management is – we’d like to say – businesslike. 

The time, budget, and “project acceptance criteria” are the aspects of – let’s say – the real project management (and of course, resource management or resource allocation processes). All we know is that in the business relations world any project has its objective. And any has to be done at a certain time, within a given budget, and must be endorsed by the principal – whether a customer or a director in your company.

And here is the main distinction between management and project management. Just management is a continuous, ongoing process. Project management has its final outcome provided within a finite time span and budget. 

This distinction has the consequence that project management is not just a process, but a structured process. It is called the project management life cycle and it usually takes the form of 5 phases. 

  • Initiation and conception
  • Project planning
  • Launch and execution (including resource planning and resource allocation)
  • Monitoring and controlling
  • Project closure

Just like the Ganntic company – our competitor in the resource allocation systems market – resource allocation and resource planning (its an alternative term for resource management) are aspects of the project management life cycle process. They are responsible for planning, organizing resources (employees), and measuring their productivity (yes, it’s the 4th phase of the project management process mentioned above). 

Resource allocation – the most difficult part of the project management process

Now we know where to find resource management in the context of the project management life cycle. It’s time for understanding resource management. Why? Because resource allocation is part of resource management, and resource management – as you already know – is part of project management processes.

Thanks to the APM Body of Knowledge, we know resources are understood very widely. Money, tools, machinery, technology, and – the most important one – people and their skills. Resources mean everything that is requested to finalize a task and project.

So what’s the connection between resource allocation and resource management (resource planning)? Let’s take a look at the definition given by the APM. For them, resource management is: 

(...) acquiring, allocating and managing the resources(...) required for a project. Resource management ensures that internal and external resources are used effectively on time and to budget.

As we see, identical to the definition of project management, time and budget are those aspects that are critical in this process. And we shouldn’t exclude “acceptance criteria” as well. 

Nevertheless, resource management is understood as the process of planning, selecting, scheduling, and allocating resources to meet the acceptance criteria and finish the project.

In resource management and resource allocation as the element is about identifying available and sufficient resources, and matching them with appropriate tasks at the right time. And the function of the resource or project manager is to identify the employees with relevant skills and experience (so-called, resources) to deliver the work, (its part of planning), and decide when the particular resources will be required (via resource allocation or resource scheduling).

This article could force some less experienced ones to think it shouldn’t be difficult to do. So, at the end of this chapter, we’re going to use the annual report that comes from Wellington company.

resource allocation in project management

Very serious and very various images of resource allocation in project management

Before we will talk about the meaning of resource allocation in project management, let’s begin with an understanding of one of the most important terms in this article – resources. Thanks for this introductory paragraph you will better feel the differences between some definitions of resource allocation mentioned in the paragraph below.

As you can imagine, resources can be absolutely different – from material to non-material. And is no different in the context of resource allocation but understanding what “resource” means depends on the industry where is in use.

  • Equipment and tools
  • Facilities (workspace, offices, etc.)
  • Materials (gas, fuel, desks, cars, etc.)
  • An employee, a team member, and her/his skills – here are the resources in project management

Resource allocation in project management and project schedule it's the main role of project management tool

Resource allocation – the meanings’ comparisons and propositions

In this chapter, you’ll see many brands – including our business competitors.  We compare a few definitions and meanings presented by Brittanica Dictionary, but also our well-recognizable competitors – Wrike, Resource Guru, or TeamGantt company. The meanings from more general to more exact and related to project management activities.

Cambridge Dictionary informs that resource allocation is

a process of dividing money, skills, etc. between departments of an organization.

More strict in another very recognizable Brittanica Dictionary, that suggests the economical background of our term. Allocation of resources is understood as an:

apportionment of productive assets among different uses. (Brittanica Dictionary)

An effective resource allocation process assume a great resource allocation plan to avoid resource conflicts

But – as a part, let’s say, a project management industry – we will be focusing on meaning connected to this branch. So, Float – our competitor and well-known resource allocation in project management software provider – informs us in one of its blog articles that r esource allocation is the process of appointing and handling assets to help a team’s tasks, projects, and strategic objectives.

But when continuing reading and being more accurate, Float emphasizes two aspects of resource allocation. The first is the matching. Allocation means matching employees’ or team members’ competencies, and experience to the right projects or tasks. And (relevant) matching is one of two key elements of its resource allocation understanding. 

And secondly, ensure each team member, and each employee taking part in the project is able to execute every assignment and any task in the pipeline.

From Saviom’s perspective, another software that is aimed at helping project managers in resource management processes:

Resource allocation, also known as resource scheduling, recognizes and assigns resources for a specific period to various activities.

These activities – as we read in other places written – can be related to the project or cannot. Admin, support, operation, etc. Here Saviom draws attention to recognition as the first important element of a resource allocation process. Second – like many others – assigning. The third element is “specific period”.

Poor resource allocation software won't help in the implementation of any project plan

On the website projectmanager.com we’re informed that the resource allocation term means the same as resource management and resource scheduling (more about that in the next paragraph). And actually, from their perspective, resource allocation is just a resource scheduling that takes into account available resources required by a task or project to be finished with expected results.

Closing this chapter, we would say simply:

Resource allocation simply means assigning resources (mostly people, their skills, including their availability, current or previous performance, and time management skills) across various tasks in a project to work toward your deadlines in the most effective and economical way possible.

Resource allocation de facto involves the availability of resources, current and expected skills, (participating in processes that will ensure the use of available resources, either alone or in cooperation with HR or an external company), experience (both project managers and employees), estimations, dependencies, priorities, and change requests that appear during the whole journey of product development or project management.

From this point is entitled to say that the last one meaning suggests that resource allocation is a result of many choices behind it. The last decision of choosing the right resources is preceded by micro-decisions that influence team performance and determine the project’s success.

Resource allocation vs a few other terms  – they aren’t the same?

This part could be also the part above but because of its importance, we’ve decided to talk about this topic in a separate paragraph. Why? 

Treating “resource allocation” as a synonym for “resource scheduling” (i.e. Saviom) and even “resource management” (i.e. Project Manager) isn’t quite new. But the project manager’s environment and university representative, there is no consent to equate one term with another or a third. For some of them, allocation of resources is a resource management process.  

Systematic resource allocation process and working on existing resources help with finishing project tasks

In Wikipedia, we witnessed such information which isn’t quite close to PMI suggestions:

In project management, resource allocation or resource management is the scheduling of activities and the resources required by those activities while taking into consideration both the resource availability and the project time. 

From the Project Management Institute’s perspective, it’s not quite true. A few of the aspects presented above definition are true: availability of resources and project time. But what about the budget? Mostly the budget determines the time when something can be done. Because, if you have the budget, you can get decide the accessibility of resources – people participating in the project and any other resources (tools, equipment, etc.).

Resource allocation also takes into account the availability, capacity, and utilization of resources across a firm but should not be confused with resource scheduling.

From the visual-planning.com perspective:

Resource scheduling refers to the set of actions and methodology used by organizations to efficiently assign the resources they have to jobs, tasks, or projects they need to complete, and the schedule starts and ends dates for each task or project based on resource availability.

Float suggests resource scheduling is a process used by teams to organize and structure their employees so the tasks they need to complete are scheduled based on availability and capability.

But Resource Guru emphasizes the role of recognizing or identifying the accurate wink when resources should be assigned. They understand resource scheduling as a process of identifying precisely which resources are required and then scheduling when they’re needed. From this perspective, properly allocated resources are the result of very good identification of employees with relevant skills (or just suitable skills among available employees) that assure the project will be done with expected requirements. Of course, this assumes a project or resource manager that can perfectly, or at least very well, assess employees’ potential and their helpful role in a particular project. 

Nevertheless, keeping the above considerations in mind and those about resource allocation in project management, it’s hard to resist the feeling that understanding the role of allocation of resources has appeared many times as a part of project resource management or even the resource scheduling process. But treatment as a synonym is also legitimate.

The most important metrics for resource allocation in project management?

  • Availability 
  • Resource utilization – the utilization rate planned for employees to be realized during the project against their total capacity.
  • Estimated vs. actual cost per team member (aka resource cost variance)
  • Estimated vs. actual hours worked per team member
  • Billable vs non-billable hours

Problems faced by r esource allocation in project management 

Resource management is prone to several challenges that you need to be aware of to properly allocate resources and manage them throughout the project.

1. Client changes

As a project manager, you might have already experienced how changes to the scope, timeline or budget can affect project delivery. With resource allocation, it’s actually the same – having an up-to-date resource calendar will help you to smoothly adjust resources once the changes appear.

2. Availability of resources

Starting off a new project , ideally, you could use any resources you need that are available at your company. But what if your agency is running multiple projects and you have to negotiate over the same resources with other PMs? Or what if a given team member is out on their sick leave? Availability changes and you have to monitor it all the time to spot threats to your project’s delivery.

Resource allocation in project management

3. Project dependencies

Allocating resources you need to include project dependencies, which are a form of a relationship between the tasks or activities in the project. For example, in IT projects there are tasks that can only be done after some other ones are completed, so there’s no point to hog resources early on.

4. Project uncertainties

Even if you’ve checked all the boxes when starting off a project, and agreed on the timeline , the budget, and the scope, there’re always things you can’t predict. Resource management requires you to be able to respond to proje ct uncertainties, e.g. by shifting resources from other projects or re-assigning them.

5. Priorities across the company

If your company runs multiple projects simultaneously, you and your peers may have to share limited resources, very often in a similar timeframe. But even if you manage to negotiate over resources you both need, there may be a change in priorities regarding one of the projects.

Resource allocation in project management – how to do it better?

Let’s take a look at how to effectively use the resources at your disposal.

1. Know the project and the team

Only by knowing the scope and resources available at your company, you can properly assign team members to your project.

Start by creating a high-level plan of the project , consisting of its requirements and deliverables. Then, as you know exactly whom you will need to complete the project, you can use a skills matrix to discover which employees at your company to involve.

Or, if you’re a Teamdeck user, you can simply filter your employees by their skills, spotting relevant employees and their existing bookings in no time:

Resource allocation strategy includes resource scheduling

As you’re filtering by the people you’d like to book for your project, check their availability to see if they are actually free to join your project. The simple availability bar helps a lot:

Resource availability in the resource allocation process

At this point, the rule of thumb is to not get carried away and over-allocate resources for the project. Actually, resource-hogging is considered a mistake project managers make to protect themselves from uncertainties. But, in turn, it makes project estimates and long-term plans inaccurate, affecting the company’s bottom line.

Always think of the big picture while allocating resources. Check the bookings already made by other PMs to spot resources you may both need, in case you should adjust your schedule to that.

Knowing when your team members have their days off helps, too. See the yellow entries below? You need to include them in your estimate, as that’s exactly when these employees will be unavailable. Similarly, you can spot national holidays taking place during your project.

Leave management feature inform a project managers on available resources

2. Uncover risks early on

We’ve talked about it a bit in the resource management challenges section. As a project manager, you are well aware of risks like client reviews, delays, personal emergencies, competing projects, etc. They interfere with the allocation of resources, too.

Once one of the above-mentioned challenges occurs, you need to adjust your bookings. Having a high-level overview of resources at your organization will help you find other resources more quickly, re-allocate resources, extend or cut existing bookings, or even delete some if needed.

3. Keep track of the project

Remember how resource allocation is about improving the effectiveness of your team’s utility? Now is the time to check how you’re team is doing. You can do it by measuring resource utilization .

Start with tracking the time and workload. In Teamdeck, you can easily spot employees with too much or too little (which can also be an issue) to do. Remember the availability bar? Overtime is marked with red color, while the unutilized time is white.

Measuring resource utilization, you can also use a simple formula:

Resource utilization = Busy time / Available time

This way you can quickly find out whether your team is booked to its full potential, or not.

During the project, it’s also recommended to compare estimates with actuals once in a while and re-allocate resources if you need to. Chances are that because of some changes you need to adjust bookings to avoid under or overutilization of your resources, and to meet the project’s requirements.

Setting up regular check-ins with your team will help you to spot these threats, too.

As a project manager, you may also be responsible for tracking your project’s budget . You can do it based on your team’s timesheets, multiplying the number of hours they’ve spent on the project by the rate you charge your client per hour. Again, by comparing estimates with actuals, you can see if you’re on the budget, or not.

4. Analyze the project

Using the data you gathered during past projects will give you a huge advantage. Based on that data, you will be able to better plan and manage your future projects. Having a resource management software with custom reports helps a lot, as you can then organize that data to calculate different metrics, like employee payroll or sales KPIs .

Systematic resource allocation process and working on existing resources help with finishing project tasks

Benefits of resource allocation

As you can see, by following the right processes and using a complete resource management tool, you can make resource allocation easier and benefit from it in many ways:

  • It improves the visibility of all resources across the company
  • You can avoid under and over-utilization easier
  • It helps to keep bookings more accurate
  • It’s easier to negotiate bookings with other PMs

Teamdeck.io - the project management tool for resource allocation process - signup

Are you looking for software to increase resource allocation in project management? Try Teamdeck – the dedicated solution for resource allocation

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Capacity Management: Definition, Strategies, and Examples

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A quick guide to resource allocation: how to maximize your team’s time and skills in 2024

Learn everything you need to allocate the best and available people to projects.

Stella Inabo

Stella Inabo,   Content Writer

  • resource management

Resource allocation helps resource managers schedule the best team for the job and streamline how work is assigned, based on resource availability.

Ideally, resource allocation should be fairly easy: you line up your projects ➡️ divvy up your people’s time ➡️ the project gets delivered ✅ 

Most articles on resource allocation will describe this process as if it represents the real world. 

But in reality, what you are dealing with is: 

  • A team with a limited amount of time and a large number of requests
  • Team members with paid time off, national holidays, unforeseen sickness
  • A long list of projects you could potentially assign your people to (and more incoming)
  • Your boss wanting you to deliver the project for Acme yesterday

Resource allocation is not as easy as it seems—yet thousands of our customers get it done daily while juggling the factors mentioned above.

Is it magic? Luck? Or is it the fact that they have solid resource allocation processes in place and the right tool for the job? 😉 You decide. In this guide, we’ll share and show you some effective resource allocation tactics we’ve sourced from our customers so you can successfully allocate your team’s time.

What is resource allocation in project management?

Resource allocation is the process of identifying and assigning available resources—including people, time, money, and equipment—to projects while considering a team’s availability , skill sets, and interests. 

Usually, a resource manager, project manager, or team lead is in charge of allocating resources.

What do we mean by resources?

In the general sense, ‘resources’ usually refer to the tangible and intangible elements used to carry out a project, like team members, equipment, software, time, money, etc. But the term “resources” can obscure the fact that we are working with living, breathing people. So, in the rest of this guide, we are going to use language that shows the humans behind the work. For example, we’ll write “schedule your people’s time in your resource management tool” instead of “schedule your resources in your resource management tool.”

A resource allocation plan can look as simple as this👇🏿

A table showing possible allocations for team members of Float content team

An example of a simple resource allocation plan from our content team

Or look as detailed as this:

A team’s schedule in Float

Float helps you allocate your team’s time with extra context about their capacity and skills

That being said, let’s make an important distinction between two terms that are often used interchangeably.

What is the difference between resource allocation and task allocation?

Resource allocation is not assigning project tasks to people. It focuses on identifying the right and available people for a specific project and deciding what amount of their time to assign to it.

After you’ve allocated your people’s time to projects, you move on to task allocation, which is assigning specific time blocks or hours to perform particular tasks within a project.

For example, your team has three projects to work on, and team members usually work 40 hours a week. So, you allocate a team member to work 20 hours on Task A and 10 hours each on Task B and Task C. That is resource allocation.

Allocation page in Float

You can allocate time to projects by clicking and dragging across a date on the Schedule in Float

Once you’re done with that, you move on to the next phase by assigning specific tasks, e.g., building a wireframe or creating a mockup, to specific people. That is task allocation.

Resource allocation should be done in your resource management software, while your detailed task allocation should be done in your project management tool. 

Resource management software provides information about the people on your team–their skills, interests, and availability– all crucial information needed for resource allocation.

4 signs you need to improve your resource allocation

Poor resource allocation can be glaring–bottlenecks that stall a project–or very subtle–overworked team members. 

1. Your team is suffering from too much context switching

“One of the signals of poor resource allocation is a lot of context switching where a team member is regularly jumping between different projects and trying to juggle a lot of work at the same time,” says Colin Ross who leads the engineering team at Float.

It might seem like the multi-tasker is doing a good job, but the work might be subpar. “While multi-tasking can look efficient, in terms of output it’s never a good idea—there is little chance for the kind of deep focus generally needed to create high-quality work.”

2. Your team keeps running into bottlenecks

Frequent bottlenecks indicate that your people need to be allocated properly. Ross suggests looking out for “projects that are stalled because some critical resource is unavailable, thereby blocking the next stage.”

Suppose you have too many projects on pause because team members don’t have the capacity to finish their work. He suggests identifying the jobs necessary to complete a project and focusing on completing them first. 

3. Your team has too many active projects

It is tempting and common to pursue new ideas or take on new projects without considering whether we can handle them. 

Ross points out this is a sign of poor resource allocation: “Having too many projects taking place simultaneously is also a sign of inefficiency if the teams working on those projects are not partitioned.” More often than not, taking on too many projects compared to your actual capacity to do them can lead to the first two problems of bottlenecks and context switching. 

4. You don’t have a single view of team capacity

An additional sign of poor resource allocation is a lack of a shared source of truth for who is working on what, and when. Here is Alice Winthrop, Senior Product Manager at Float: “If you don’t know what people are working on, what kind of utilization rate or capacity you have, then you have no way of knowing how well or poorly your people are being managed.”

How to allocate resources (the right way)

In project management, resources are allocated based on project requirements, budget constraints, timelines, and resource availability. This typically involves identifying the necessary human, financial, and material resources and assigning them to specific tasks or activities within the project plan.

At Float, we make listening to our customers– project planners and resource managers– a priority. This is why, after speaking with several of them, we came up with a set of steps they follow to allocate their people’s time to projects while juggling many variables. 

The steps below are written with the assumption that you are looking to do resource allocation for several projects with a team of 20-50 people. 

If that sounds like you, keep reading 👇🏿 

At its core, efficient resource allocation focuses on two steps: 

  • Identifying what projects to prioritize 
  • Determining who is best and available to work on projects

Let us break it down. 

Step 1. Identify what projects to prioritize

At any point in time, several projects are waiting to be done—but your team has a limited number of hours to work on them. This means you have to prioritize projects and spend time on the ones most impactful to your organization, whether in terms of improving revenue or client relationships.

For example, our customer, Emily Feliciano , the creative resource manager at Atlassian, deals with up to 60 resource requests every week . To help her prioritize the projects to allocate people’s time, she uses a set of questions based on urgency, business value, and cost. 

Business value 

  • Are we mending a broken relationship with a client we really want to salvage? 
  • Is this a new opportunity to partner with a client we have been seeking for a long time? 
  • What is the priority of this work? 
  • What is the level of importance of getting this work accomplished? 
  • Is there flexibility in the timeline for us to deliver?
  • Is there a large budget attached?

A decision tree diagram with steps to determine what projects to prioritize

Resource allocation decision tree

Ideally, tasks that contribute to the business, are urgent, and have bug budgets should be prioritized when allocating project resources.

Step 2. Determine who is best and available to work on projects

Once you know the projects you need to work on ASAP, you need to determine who is the best person who is both skilled and available to work on them. 

Because you’re working with humans and not machines, you don’t just need to consider the amount of time they are available to work for: you also need to evaluate what projects excite or spark interest, and what your team is stellar at. 

If you can balance the three, you’d have an enthusiastic crew willing to do their best to deliver successful projects—and who have enough time to do it, too. 

Otherwise, you’d have a team of unmotivated people pushing out projects just for the sake of it.

Consider how your team ’ s skills align with a project 

Do you have people with the right skills for the project? Do you need a generalist or a specialist? Or do you have to look outside your team and hire a freelancer?

Getting the people with the right skills to work on a project has two benefits: the job gets done well and probably faster than getting someone who doesn’t know how to do it (unless it is a training opportunity).

For example, if you’re doing an SEO audit for your website, ideally, you should work with an SEO specialist instead of working with a generalist digital marketer.

Person tags in Float

You can find people with the right skills using person tags in Float

Identify team members who are available

Allocating people with insufficient time can lead to tasks being done poorly because of the rush to meet deadlines or constant context-switching. Your project might even grind to a halt because interconnected tasks are not delivered on time. 

But by asking some questions before allocating work, you can avoid all of these problems: 

  • Does anyone have time off planned during the duration of projects?
  • Is anyone on sick leave?
  • Are any national holidays coming up?
  • What are their work hours (e.g. are they working full-time or part-time)?
  • How much of their time is already allocated to other projects? 
  • Can their current allocations be negotiated?

There’s a catch. If you try to answer these manually, especially if you have a large team, you might notice that it is an extremely tedious process, and you don’t have all the data you need. 

It is best to use resource management software that gives you a full view of your team’s capacity so you can see at a glance who has PTO, is on sick leave, or has a national holiday coming up. 

Team schedule in Float showing work allocations and annual leave

Float alerts you if work is about to be scheduled on a non-work day

Align allocations with your team ’ s interests 

During the resource allocation phase, don’t miss the chance to get your people to work on things that pique their interest or challenge them. 

For example, you might have heard team members express a desire to work on a certain kind of project. Or, as a manager, you might proactively decide that they should try out new types of projects. 

Resource allocation is an opportunity to assign your team members to projects that help them grow and develop their skills.

For example, our customer Jason Fisher at Flight Story makes sure he rotates the video editors and the team participating in shoots, so everyone on the team gets an opportunity to work on a variety of projects that interest them instead of just doing the same thing over and over again. 

What to do when your resources aren’t enough

Sometimes, even with careful, strategic planning, your team might need to put in extra hours. While it’s not ideal, it happens. 

Here are some guidelines to prevent your team from getting too overwhelmed in those cases:

  • Try to limit the extra workload to a short time to avoid exhausting your team. 
  • Talk to your team about why the extra time is needed and what steps you’ll take to manage the workload , like finding extra help or hiring freelancers. 
  • Make an effort to find extra support to lighten the workload for your team.

A real-life example of resource allocation from Float’s engineering team

Back in September 2023, the engineering team at Float had several projects they needed to allocate the team’s time to: 

  • Short-term projects scheduled to be shipped before our annual team meetup in late September 
  • Long-term projects to be shipped after our annual team meetup.

To make them all happen, they had to consider several things, including resource constraints, projects to prioritize, and their existing workflow.

At that time, the team comprised eight engineers evenly distributed between the front and back end. Their time was divided between:

  • Current ongoing work like the rollout of the cache API
  • Ongoing work that required more time to finish, like the Timer and changes to our Project planning and Estimation features
  • New work they wanted to start, like automating dependency updates
  • Regular commitments like the Support Champion who analyzes customer issues and provides concise steps for solving issues and Release Manager who coordinates tasks and team members for a smooth release.
  • Ongoing hiring process involving several engineers.

To strike a compromise between competing tasks and decide what allocation of time went to what, the team referred back to Float’s Principles for Success and the Product Vision.

As a result, product-led and engineering-led work received the most hours, while tasks related to marketing and customer success were allocated less time.

While allocating work, the team also paid attention to each member’s interests and strengths. For example, one of the engineers, Guido, had experience and interest in performance engineering, which made him the best engineer to handle lazy computation on our schedule.

Throughout the resource allocation discussions, open communication was encouraged by using a public Slack channel. The plan itself was shared in Notion, allowing everyone to contribute and fine-tune it collaboratively.

Allocations of Float team members

The engineers' time were allocated to different projects based on priority levels

How to handle resource allocation problems

Even if you adopt all the right tools and follow resource allocation best practices, you will probably still run into problems. Hiccups are going to happen, so it's best to be prepared! 

Let's take a look at some of the top challenges project managers face and how to overcome them. 

The project scope changes

You did your best to plan resources for your upcoming projects, but there's still the chance of scope creep. Maybe the tasks were more extensive than expected or required skills you didn't account for. 

You need to be nimble and adjust your resource planning accordingly when this happens. To prevent scope creep , you should:

  • Ensure project scopes are always transparent and defined
  • Set clear and defined project goals
  • Strive to do your best work, but don't be a perfectionist if it will cause delays
  • Build a work plan that guides your course of action
  • Create a system that allows workers to greenlight change requests and revisions
  • Monitor team performance to ensure everything is on track
  • Use all the tools at your disposal to speed up progress

Sometimes it’s impossible to avoid scope creep. In such cases, having a scope change process helps you adapt fast and get back on course. It may look something like this:

  • Submit a specific form to document change requests (in writing)
  • Analyze the revision request to understand the scope creep thoroughly
  • Get approval from the main stakeholders
  • Document the approved scope changes in writing

Resources become unavailable 

Uncontrollable outside forces prevent scarce resources from showing up as expected. A worker’s car breaks down, and they can’t get to the office. Or maybe they have other priorities in the organization that trumps working on a task you assigned them. What matters is what you do next.

Work quickly to find a replacement within your talent pool. If there’s no one available with the skills you need, hiring a freelancer or contractor may be the best option. You can prevent this in the future by looking at task dependencies. Investigate other responsibilities team members have that may pull them away from the project.

Have a backup resource allocation strategy if they are unavailable for whatever reason. One option is to have a pool of freelancers you can count on to fill in gaps on a whim.

Resources need to be shared

It’s common for projects to share the same resources. This is especially true in smaller organizations that can't afford to hire an extensive staff roster. As you can imagine, shared resources can lead to issues that bog down the pipeline. Project bottlenecks may occur if resources are spread too thin. 

Use your resource allocation software to spot gaps in advance. Closely monitor the workloads of team members who move between several departments. It’s the best way to prevent over-allocating resources and burnout. 

Unexpected delays occur

A delay can hit when you least expect it. People get sick, labor shortages arise, and miscommunication happens. That’s when scope creep may rear its ugly head. Some issues are within your control, and others, not so much.

The most straightforward way to deal with issues is to try your best to prevent them in the first place. You can:

  • Schedule tasks based on skill, not just time. An expert or specialist works faster. Using Float, you can create custom skill tags for team members so you can find the right person for the job in seconds.  
  • Avoid overloading team members with too many other priorities—especially if the task depends on them to move through the pipeline.
  • Offer flexible hours. Some employees work more productively outside of traditional working hours. 
  • Map out project timelines, break them into phases, and track progress. Software helps to pinpoint potential delays before they become bottlenecks.

The more organized and transparent your resource allocation, the easier it is for everyone to take accountability for their role.

Use resource management software for efficient resource allocation

Most of our customers switch from using spreadsheets or project management tools for resource allocation because they encounter one (or all) of the following: 

  • Their team grew and the spreadsheet became inadequate 
  • They need to do a lot of manual updating 
  • They couldn’t tell the accurate availability of resources

If you can relate to these, it means you need to switch to a resource management tool. We might be a bit biased on this point because Float is a resource management software, but hear us out. 

Because resource management tools have all the features you need for allocating your people’s time, they make the process less cumbersome and more accurate. For example: - They’ll give you an updated overview of your team’s schedule up-to-date, complete with their availability to facilitate informed decision-making - You’ll be able to save details about your team, like their skills and work hours, and note their interests - As your project progresses, you can see how other projects might affect their availability (and yes, if you’re wondering, Float does all three. And many more.)

Allocation option in Float

You can efficiently allocate time to projects in Float

If you want to find the best option, take a look at this list of the best resource management software we curated for you, complete with feature and pricing comparisons. 

And if we’ve already convinced you to give Float a try, sign up for a free trial 🙌 .

Plan your resources with the #1 rated resource management software

Allocate resources with the #1 rated resource management software

With Float, you can plan your projects and allocate resources with confidence. Try it free for 14 days, no credit card required.

Related reads

Resource allocation and capacity planning: what’s the difference, what is resource planning a simple guide for 2024, 9 metrics you need for effective resource tracking.

The complete guide to resource allocation in project management

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21 Jul 2022 By Jo Johansson

resource allocation guide

In this article 📖

Resources are ever-changing—a constant ebb and flow of people, materials, time, and money—so it may seem obvious that resource allocation should always be front of mind for your project team . But are you implementing it effectively? If your answer is no or you’re unsure, keep reading. 

Allocation strategy can be complicated, but once you master it, you’ll be able to help your team do their best work, and they’ll have confidence that the project’s end goal is achievable. Using our step-by-step guide, you’ll learn what resource allocation is, why it matters, how to use it, and how to overcome the common challenges you may face as you implement the resource allocation process .

What is resource allocation? 

Resource allocation is the process of managing resources to best meet a project’s needs over the course of its duration. 

Resource refers to materials needed to complete a project: specific facilities, tools, and equipment, budget, a team, or even time itself. In resource management , employees are often referred to as resources. We encourage you to keep the human aspect of human resources at the forefront of your projects. Think of allocation as not just a technique to keep your project on track but also as a way to ensure your employees are treated as human beings, not robots.

Allocation is fluid. As a project develops, you’ll need to adapt who is working on what under which circumstances. A solid resource allocation plan allows for some variability while outlining how employees can expect to use their time.

Why is resource allocation essential to project managers? 

Resource allocation to maximize utilization

Resource allocation with Resource Guru

Allocation is an essential part of any project—without it, project managers can make a timeline of when they want certain milestones completed but have no idea of whether or not that timeline is achievable with their team and resources on hand. In the worst cases, poor resource misallocation can lead to project failure.

Mishandled resource allocation strategy can also frustrate employees, sometimes leading to increased staff turnover . So can underutilizing your resources.  

Before dedicated resource management software , project managers had to use version-controlled spreadsheets to manage and allocate their resources. Tools like Resource Guru have changed that once time-intensive part of project planning and made it as easy as taking a few moments to breathe.

M&C Saatchi

“Resource Guru is simple to use. It allows us to optimize our resources and keeps an eye on every project.” Stefania Sabbatini Digital Production Director

Common challenges with resource allocation

Successful project completion isn’t easy—it’s likely that project managers most often run into trouble with the allocation piece of their project plans , as consequences range as far as project delay, cost overruns, and even employee turnover. 

Here are six of the common challenges you may face when allocating resources , regardless of the size of your company.

1. Resources have competing projects

It’s not uncommon for two projects to require the same resources. Consider a website design firm: most projects will demand attention from the lead UX designer. And IT departments tend to rely heavily on their senior developers regardless of which tasks they’re tackling. It’s up to the project manager to allocate their resources effectively to meet all project needs.

2. The project scope is subject to change

Some projects are predictably challenging to plan for in the long term, like software projects or content plans. Project managers can anticipate inconveniences like changing user expectations or Google updates and adjust their strategies accordingly. In our opinion, project managers should use Agile resource planning methods in these circumstances).

Unfortunately, changing scope requirements aren’t limited to Agile projects. Even construction projects frequently undergo scope changes (like needing to retile a bathroom during a renovation), which pulls the right resources from working on their original project onto another. The project manager has to ensure that there’s enough flexibility in the schedule to account for these scope changes.

3. Team members take time off

Vacations: we want employees to have nothing in the way of taking them at the right time to stay sharp for their projects. Unfortunately, project managers often have to create a resource allocation plan months or even years before the project’s end date. During that time, team members will undoubtedly exercise their right to time off, regardless of whether it’s time spent on the beach or sick in bed.

4. Time zone differences make collaboration difficult

As companies expand, outsource, and adapt to remote or hybrid work, team members often find themselves in different time zones from their colleagues and project managers . The trouble with time zone differences is coordination; what do you do if you have resources scheduled for a particular day but not available for the precise hours you need them?

5. Change requests slow you down

Change requests revise how a project will be implemented, often expanding the project’s scope or making significant shifts in requirements. When tasks change, so too do your allocation needs, especially if those new tasks create the need for more or fewer skills than what you have available on your team.

6. Unrecognized level of effort for everyday tasks

Wouldn’t it be nice if work was just focusing on production goals: coding, writing, and making firm decisions? Most workdays consist of much more, like checking and responding to emails, attending long meetings, and participating in code reviews.

Given that the average employee checks their email 36 times in an hour , it’s unrealistic to expect eight hours of uninterrupted project time day to day. Still, project managers often consider the allocation of resources with that expectation in mind.

7 best resource allocation tips you should know

Scaled-up PMOs rely on the most advanced project management software and best practices to ensure that their projects are completed on budget and on time. 

Once you’ve nailed down your project’s scope , timeline, budget, and requirements, you can begin to allocate your resources effectively. These five tips will help you improve productivity, avoid delays, stay within budget, recognize new opportunities, keep your team in good spirits, and help them excel on your project.

1. Identify which resources you have at your disposal

A screenshot of Resource Guru displaying resource availability

Using a visual tool like Resource Guru can help project managers determine how to allocate their resources appropriately

There are four major factors to consider when starting a resource allocation plan :

  • Which skilled resources match the tasks that the project demands?
  • Which of those resources have any availability in their schedule?
  • At what time are those resources free?
  • Which dependencies affect when a resource is needed or not?

Small companies with 10 or fewer employees can probably get away with just using a shared calendar to sort most of these questions out. Still, larger companies with hundreds of resources need a dedicated resource allocation tool to do this first step correctly. A visual tool like Resource Guru can help project managers determine how to allocate their resources appropriately.

Let’s use a front-end upgrade as an example. Simple tools might direct project managers to the IT team but leave it at that for the project manager t o further sort out. With a tool like Resource Guru, project managers can filter their resources by needed skill sets . 

In this case, they can filter senior resources with React experience to meet the project’s needs.

Resource Guru Allocation Filters

Screen your resources with filters like experience, location, and skills.

Resource Guru, as an example, also offers the ability to distinguish between time zone differences when calculating team availability. That makes it easy for time off to be appropriately managed.

For example, when you create a booking or time-off event for multiple resources based in numerous time zones, you can choose whether the time/date of the event should be found on the resource’s local time or a specific time zone. This eliminates any of the confusion caused by international resource scheduling mishaps.

Making sure resources are scheduled correctly across time zones with Resource Guru

Avoid time zone mishaps with the right software.

2. Be sure to include your material assets in your resource allocation plan

While individuals make up the bulk of allocation planning , don’t forget your equipment, facilities, materials, and other schedulable resources as well. 

This step is essential for businesses that deal in physical assets. For example, a construction company wouldn’t simply book a concrete slip form paver for two weeks and consider the task of allocating it correctly complete.

Instead, the project manager h as to calculate how much wear and tear the heavy equipment would undergo during that time and use that information to flag dependencies t hat may affect other resources (it’s kind of hard to paint a parking lot before it’s entirely paved).

Back at the office, buffer time is particularly precious. While it might be tempting to book out one of two meeting rooms for a three-day project brainstorm, the savvy project manager might realize that eliminating half of all private meeting space for greeting new clients, informal office communications, and other meetings could cause problems.

Recognizing just how competitive those meeting rooms are, the project manager might choose to extend the brainstorming to five days so that the meeting rooms can be used more efficiently.

3. Look at your resource utilization rates

If you know your utilization rates, you can be more strategic and accurate when scheduling employees. A reasonable resource utilization rate ensures that your team progresses an entire project forward by spending time on the right tasks. Resource utilization is especially important if your employees are working on several projects because it gives you a more complete picture of their workload. Utilization awareness gives you a real-time understanding of workloads and workflows and allocation of resources when you begin scheduling people for the project, which can help you ward off team burnout and overallocation . 

The difference between resource allocation and resource utilization is this: allocation is how you decide when and where to focus employees and materials (resources); utilization tells you how much work your team is doing across the company and how effective their work is on each project.

As IBM puts it, “ resource utilization differs from resource allocation because it measures how efficient a team is based on how it’s using the available resources .” In this case, resource utilization uses KPIs to measure the team’s performance for the available time or capacity and not on an unrealistic 100% utilization rate.

The term “ resource utilization rates” describes the percentage of time employees spend on billable work during their allotted shift. To understand why employee allocation matters, imagine a work environment in which employees are often overallocated. They become burned out quickly and always feel stressed at work. Because burnout and stress impact employees’ productivity and their mental and physical health, they may take more time off work or call in sick more often. The quality of your team’s work lessens or tanks altogether due to employees’ poor health. If this work climate continues, employees may give their notice in order to salvage their health and find a work environment with better allocation. 

We recommend shooting for a 70–80% utilization rate to allow for buffer time for admin tasks and short breaks throughout the day. Monitoring resource utilization before you’ve allocated resources helps you understand how productive your team is and ensures that they’ll continue to be productive because they aren’t burned out.

How to calculate resource utilization rate

There’s a simple formula you can use to calculate an employee’s utilization rate:

Total billable hours ÷ total available working hours × 100 = utilization rate

Let’s say you work for a marketing agency and have a graphic designer on your team. The graphic designer works 40 hours per week. Since you’re implementing a 70–80% utilization rate, you have 28–32 hours per week of billable hours to be scheduled. The other 8–12 hours are preserved for administrative work and non-lunch breaks. Now you need to understand whether the designer has other ongoing assignments. Let’s say they have a project that takes 10 hours each week. The designer’s utilization rate is already at 25%, so you know not to assign them more than 18 hours per week of work to honor your 70–80% utilization goal. 

Perhaps you schedule the designer for 10 more hours of work. Their total billable hours at that point would be 20 hours or a 50% utilization rate. 

20 total billable hours ÷ 40 total available working hours × 100 = 50% utilization rate

Because you’ve paid attention to your team’s utilization rates, you’re able to allocate the designer’s time to the highest-priority projects without overallocation.

4. Take time for resource leveling

Resource leveling is the practice of evening workloads across the entirety of a project.

Imagine a project’s workload like a piece of classical music—say Holst’s “Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity.” Sometimes the project requires the orchestra to play in unison. Other times, the orchestra goes soft to allow a single instrument to solo over the rest. There are points in the piece when the music crescendos and decrescendos, getting louder and softer.

You can plan for the piece to begin and end, just like a project, and plan the allocation of resources ( the musicians) to the music arrangement’s demands. You can reliably churn out an outstanding performance every time.

The thing is: most projects don’t perform like an orchestral ensemble—nor should they! Consider just how much work the first-chair violinist (or your most senior architect) would have to put in to make the project “sound” right, while the poor second-chair flutist—an intern perhaps?—twitters in and out, barely heard by an audience member.

Resource leveling an orchestra would involve stripping the music of its fortes and pianissimos, its solos and solis, and distributing play time and notes evenly across instruments.

The result would sound nothing like “Jupiter” as we know it now, but instead, like a steady chord held for roughly seven minutes (likely far less, given that leveling would do away with so much idle time between musicians).

While resource leveling is a terrible idea for music lovers, it can really help out a resource allocation plan because it involves balancing resource workloads throughout the project. And sometimes, that means rebalancing the project’s duration, budget, or scope to accommodate. It’s also used to ensure that non-competing tasks are scheduled concurrently for optimal efficiency. Resource leveling is often applied to critical path calculations.


“Resource Guru is simple to use with powerful permissions that allow us to manage the team the way we want.” Stephen Crowther Studio Manager

5. Follow up with resource smoothing

Because you’ve followed the previous steps, you know your utilization rates, and you’ve used resource leveling to make workloads more even across your team—which means your project plan is primed for resource smoothing. 

Resource smoothing helps with allocation because when partnered with resource leveling , resource smoothing allows you to meet project timelines without overallocation of resources. In order to meet your project schedule (resource smoothing), you need to be aware of your employees’ (resources) other obligations/projects/admin duties ( resource utilization ). That way, you can schedule resources and employees strategically to meet both project requirements and deliverables ( resource allocation ). 

Resource smoothing helps you to identify the most important action items within a project and eliminate any unnecessary steps that could slow your project down. The classic definition of resource smoothing says that it helps you make sure a project is completed on time “without peaks or dips in resource availability .”

Let’s say your current project has four steps. It takes a minimum of three days to finish those steps, but your client is pushing you to complete the project in two days. Resource smoothing would eliminate one unnecessary task and identify the most important steps. Now you can complete the project in two days and meet the client’s deadline.

6. Capitalize on modern resource management tools

Resource allocation planning i sn’t just for your team—it applies to the rest of your company too. 

When allocations are visible to everyone, the entire agency can see how pieces fit together and where their “quick tweaks” or internal projects align with the grand scheme of other allocated resources .

Whether you’re a small team using a shared group calendar software or a more robust office relying on more advanced resource management software , team leads that can visualize employee availability have an advantage over those relying on spreadsheets . 

Further, tools like Resource Guru can significantly cut down on emails, facilitate conversations that would otherwise require rounds of meetings, and help you allocate your resources as efficiently as possible. 

For example, with features like reports, you can see just how over- or under-allocated resources are for any given period. And if you need to rush a project, you can always put in for overtime if needed (though I’m sure your team would prefer it if you didn’t).

Resource allocation report from Resource Guru

Why yes, the team can take on new projects!

7. Continuously monitor your allocation and communicate changes

Wouldn’t it be nice if when you set up your project resources at kickoff, it would just stay as you’d planned it? 

Unfortunately, businesses, and people, aren’t stagnant. You acquire new projects , o ne of your essential resources goes on family leave , and budget cuts force project delays; as your needs and your resources’ availability shifts, so too do your resource allocation plan have to adapt. 

One way to do this (other than using your resource allocation dashboard) is to emphasize continuous communication. Ask your teammates how they perceive their workloads; don’t just assume stress levels based on how much they are formally allocated according to your project management tool . A nd keep track of their tasks; unanticipated project completion speed can help you adjust the project l ifecycle .

Finally, ask your team both during and after the project completes if they have any ideas to improve their own allocation or efficiency. While you can glean where each individual fits best in a project, it’s important to remember that you will always have imperfect information about their preferences and abilities.

Regular retrospectives can help you continuously improve your existing process and make more significant changes for future projects .

Continue expanding your resource allocation knowledge

With all these different ways to look at the metrics of effective resource allocation , you can equip your team to do their best work and give them the confidence that they will meet their project’s goals. 

Implementing all the steps we’ve laid out may seem overwhelming, but the benefits of allocation make it worth it, especially with technology on your side. As you continue to learn about resource allocation and the various other techniques we’ve shared here, consider trying resource management software to help you meet your goals and take the extra work out of managing your team’s timesheets . 

Resource Guru can automatically flag employee overallocation for you and allow you to rework it before it becomes a problem. And with other helpful features within the software, you can keep your team on track, balanced, and happy, leading to more productivity, higher employee satisfaction, profitability , and more accurate decision-making .

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Jo Johansson

👋 I'm Jo, Senior Content Marketing Manager at Resource Guru. I spend my days creating educational content that helps people be more productive at work, so they can enjoy their time off work. Got any ideas or requests? Drop me a line at [email protected].


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