How to Choose a Resource Management Tool
Resource management is the process of planning resources to reach their maximal efficiency. It’s the process that answers the ‘who is doing what and when’ question. But also the 'what is where' question. It’s allocating a task to Mike, it’s booking the meeting room or the piece of equipment or machinery to know where it is and how long it’s going to be there.
In a small-sized organization, resource management can be done with Excel spreadsheets, calendar application or a team-centered planning tool. However, as the number of resources grows, the need for a resource management software arises. The right resource management tool will make your job easier and will put you in control.
To find the right resource management software, you must know what makes it right for you. Would a SaaS or an installed software suit you better? Do you need a resource management tool in the first place? Which features are a must-have?
Here are answers to those questions and other tips on how to choose resource planning tool:
1. The Platform
There's SaaS and there's installed software. Some organizations are more rigid and only allow installed software. Others concentrate on the planning needs. Sometimes what matches the needs is an installed software, sometimes it’s a SaaS. Still, the two are quite different from one another.
One of the greatest leverages that a SaaS has over an installed software is the accessibility. An installed software needs to be installed. You can’t just use it on any device with an internet connection and a browser. Since resource management is never 'do it once and it’s done' kind of a job, it can be a problem. If you are always next to your work computer, an installed software can work just fine. However, if you need more flexibility and freedom, go with a SaaS.
Of course, that kind of freedom can bring about some security concerns. Although all the SaaS providers are working under strict privacy and security requirements, using any device and network can be somewhat risky. That’s why when using a SaaS, you should always be conscious of your whereabouts and the security of the network that you are using.
A SaaS tool usually comes with unlimited updates. Meaning there’s a team of software developers who are making the product better with new features and fixing the bugs if any appear. You can be sure that the software is always up to date.
With an installed software you should look out for package deals. There are software providers out there that continuously update the installed product as well. If that’s the case with the resource management tool you are considering, you are good to go. However, there's also the possibility that the software will be updated for about a year. If you want the updates to keep on keeping on after that, you are going to have to make another purchase.
A SaaS platform can be easier to implement since it’s already up and running. A SaaS platform can also be less customizable since it’s already up and running. However, you shouldn't rule out all SaaS providers if you are looking for a customizable resource management tool. There are a few of them out there. You are just going to have to find them. For example, one of them is the resource planning and project portfolio management tool Ganttic.
2. The Resources
In project management, projects are everything and resources are just means to an end. In resource management, the emphasis is on resources. Therefore, when you are looking for a resource management software, you should be looking for one that really caters to all your resources.
If your resources are people, you are golden with most of the tools out there. You can plan tasks and your team can check their schedules and you can have resource planning meetings. They can even plan their own tasks since you can sync Google Calendar with the resource management tool and turn Google Calendar into Gantt charts.
If if you have resources that aren’t people… It’s a whole different story.
Many resource management tools are built for project staffing and not for actual resource management. It's fine if you want to control nothing but the allocation of your team. However, if you want to have an all-around overview of everyone and everything, you need to find a tool that enables you to plan other resources as well.
The problem is that often resources equal users and you can’t add a resource that isn’t a user. You can imagine how this will become a problem if you are working in an engineering company and you trying to book a pipeline inspection gadget to be sent out to a construction site. It can feel a bit strange to make a company email to the device and invite it as a user. No matter how high-tech it is.
3. The Projects
The principles of resource management apply better to those that are planning projects that are quite simple. If you are planning complex projects with tasks and subtasks and subtasks of those subtasks with dependencies to other subtasks, you might actually want to look up project management tools.
The reason behind it is that the aim of resource management is to maximize the efficiency of resources. The features that help you to achieve that aren't always the same as the features that help to achieve project management objectives.
The next thing to consider is the number of ongoing projects. Whatever the number is, you need a software that is built for that number.
If you are managing a project portfolio, you need to know how your resources are allocated and keep the utilization in check across the portfolio. You have to be able to forecast resource availability for the next week, month and maybe even the year.
A tool that enables you to divide your plan into manageable bits can be an answer. If you can create different snapshots of your plan, you'll have that highly praised well-rounded overview. Just imagine a world where you can see the resource allocation from the perspective of one project as well as the whole portfolio.
4. The Pricing
You should have a budget. And you probably do. If you have distinguished a number of tools that could work for you, try out those that offer a free trial. But that’s a given, right?
What’s not a given, is how the software is actually priced. As said before, the norm is that a resource is the same as a user. Many tools out there are priced per user. You should go for that pricing scheme if there are only a few people that are in charge of planning the resources or who need to know the allocation of resources in your organization.
There’s also the option that the tool is priced per resource and the resource doesn’t equal a user. That’s a great option for you if you want to be more transparent in the planning process (and transparency is a huge part of what makes resource management important) since you can add an unlimited number of users (team members, stakeholders, upper management etc) with different user rights and you don’t have to upgrade the plan.
Another thing how to differentiate all the management tools out there is the pricing options for enterprises. If you are looking for a central resource management tool for multiple departments and hundreds of resources, you might want to opt for a software that provides fitting pricing options.
And of course, if you don’t have hundreds of resources or a budget, there are free resource management tools out there that offer all the features to smaller accounts.
5. The Features
Now that we have covered all the big things, let’s go to the details. Or actually the features, that can make or break a software. While the bigger aspects are all about what fits you the best, these features really are a must-have for resource management.
A software that features a timeline that you can easily navigate is a must. A timeline will help you to control short and long-term resource allocation and utilization.
A tool that allows you to enter custom data will make your life easier. You can do your job the way you prefer it, not the way the someone else has decided is the best.
A timeline with Gantt charts is good. A timeline with Gantt charts and customizable color schemes is better. You can make a color scheme to reflect task statuses. You can add colors to projects and see the resource allocation across the portfolio without going into the details. Whatever you need.
You can’t optimize processes without reporting. You can’t present what’s going on to stakeholders without reporting. You can’t convince the sales team that you don’t have enough free resource to take on a new project without reporting. You can’t do your job without reporting. And since you are going to have to do it anyway, wouldn’t it be better if it were a part of the tool you are using? Even better if the tool has graphic reporting.