In economics, scarcity refers to the limited availability of a commodity. When it comes to project management, money, time and people are often the scarcest of resources. Much of a project manager’s job is therefore devoted to making decisions on how best to allocate resources to fulfill project needs.

This is the nature of resource availability: understanding and managing available resources during a project’s lifecycle. This involves your people and teams, finances and budget, and material assets—every variable that goes into delivering a successful project. Resource allocation—the process of allocating available resources as efficiently as possible—is a big part of resource availability. There are many obstacles to managing resource availability and resource allocation cohesively, making it a real burden for project managers.

Project managers must acknowledge that every project resource has a limit. The ability to identify the availability of your resources, and allocate them optimally, is often the difference between project failure and project success.

Check out our previous blog—Is resource availability slowing you down?—for information on what happens when resource availability goes wrong. But in today’s post, we’re going to explore the biggest challenges to resource availability and resource allocation, and how project managers can overcome these challenges.

Common resource availability challenges

Knowing the limits of your resources is the first step to managing resource availability. If the availability of your resources (people, materials, or money) isn’t transparent, this invites confusion. Resources can be misallocated, resulting in lost time or money, or the loss of motivation for workers.

There are some barriers that lead to a lack of visibility when it comes to resource availability. The following are some of the most common:\

  • ‘Borrowing’ resources

Projects might ‘borrow’ resources from other projects when it drastically needs people or money to keep afloat. When this is the case, the team that’s been borrowed from must come up with a contingency plan to fill in the gaps. If this plan involves borrowing resources from other projects, a vicious cycle can develop. 

  • Variables

There are always variables in projects that can occur at inopportune times and affect the outcome of projects. Project deadlines, timeframe delays, lack or loss of materials, and leadership changes can all affect project goals and outcomes. These variables can impact how much support a project may require, its timeframe, or cost. Variables are notoriously difficult to plan for, causing you to make rapid changes to the availability of your resources.

Resource availability through Microsoft Project

Microsoft Project is a versatile but rudimental tool when it comes to dealing with resource availability. You can resolve resource allocation problems with Microsoft Project, helping project managers avoid under and over-allocation of resources. The most common resolutions Microsoft offer are to:

  • Delay tasks: ideally those with lower priority. If the task has ‘slack’ (e. it will be finished before the overall project deadline) greater than the length of delay, the project completion date should not be affected. 
  • Find and substitute resources: search through your enterprise resources based on skills or availability. Project’s Resource Substitution Wizard can automatically substitute resources based on those skills and availability.
  • Decrease task duration: this reduces the scope of a task, minimizing the amount of work required to complete the task. This is most commonly done by reducing the task’s duration.

Assign additional resources: dividing the work between those already assigned to the task and available workers. This usually results in additional cost.

In these scenarios, project managers will have to deal with deficiencies, no matter how quickly or effectively a tool like Microsoft Project can resolve the problem. A better solution would facilitate preventing resource availability and allocation problems occurring ahead of time, rather than resolving them when they have already affected your project resources.

Optimal resource availability requires the power of foresight

Foresight is the ability to predict what will happen in the future. Unfortunately, we can’t grant you psychic abilities, but Tempus Resource, from ProSymmetry, has the technology to run powerful project simulations to give project managers the power of project foresight.

  • State-of-the-art modeling

Tempus Resource forecasts the impact of real-world changes, so you don’t have to make decisions ‘in the dark’ and are prepared for all eventualities.

  • Ground-breaking ‘What if’ analysis

The unpredictability of resource management is part and parcel of the job. With ‘What if’ analysis, you can prepare for change by running hundreds of scenarios in a risk-free environment.

  • Flexible and adaptive

Adding and importing data couldn’t be easier. By accommodating both direct data entry and smooth integrations with your current PPM tools, you can be up and running quickly.

For more information on resource availability and resource allocation, contact ProSymmetry today. You can also take a 30-day trial of Tempus Resource for free here.