You’ve built a project schedule with a good set of tasks. You’ve got milestones, and you’ve added dependencies. It’s looking like a really good project schedule.
But then something happens. You stop working on it. The tasks are added and everyone has visibility of the dates and deadlines. But something is still missing: resources.
Often, project managers don’t add resources to their project schedules. If you don’t do a lot of resource reporting from your scheduling tool, it can seem like overkill to add people’s names to the tasks. It’s another step to do and you’re already busy enough. Besides, people know what they have to do so you don’t need to add their names to the Gantt chart lines just to prove it.
However, there are clear benefits from assigning tasks to people in your project schedule. Let’s look at five benefits of doing this.
Benefit #1: Tasks Are Owned
You think everyone knows what they are responsible for, but do they really? It’s easy for a project task to get overlooked. Someone thinks it is someone else’s responsibility. So they don’t do it. The other person doesn’t realize they are expected to do it… Before you know it no one has done the work.
Tip: While it’s more uncommon, it can happen that two people do the same task! If they haven’t spoken to each other, they may assume it’s their responsibility (especially if it’s something fun to do). Then you end up with inefficiencies because two people have spent time working on the same thing unnecessarily.
Save everyone the headache and assign resources to tasks. You can easily see which tasks have no people assigned to them. Everyone can see what is down for them to deliver. Assigning tasks is a very simple communication and organization tool.
Benefit #2: A More Accurate Schedule
Project scheduling software often assumes that work can be done at 100% capacity. In other words, it will schedule tasks to be done assuming unlimited resources.
In the real world, that is unlikely. You will have one person doing multiple things on a project. They might even be on your project only part-time.
When you use scheduling software to assign tasks to people, the tool can see what that individual’s capacity is. It knows that if someone is due to work on a 5-day task, it can’t assign them to do another 3-day task in the same week. It may auto-correct your schedule for you (although many project managers I know don’t like to switch on this feature!) or it may flag up that your resource is over-allocated through the resource reporting.
Either way, you’d never have been able to see this if you hadn’t allocated names to tasks.
Benefit #3: More Effective Resource Allocation
Let’s dig into those resource reports for a moment. The reports that your scheduling tool prepares for you are so helpful. They let you see over- and under-allocations in the team. You can check who is overloaded and make changes to their workload. That might mean moving tasks to someone else, or it may mean spreading out their tasks over a longer period of time, whatever is the best result for the project.
There is also something interesting to see in the reports for people who aren’t overloaded. Who on your team could take on more work? Project work is typically very variable. If you can reorganize the order of tasks you might be able to level out the responsibilities across the team.
Benefit #4: Easier To Track Progress
When people are assigned to tasks, the tasks autopopulate on their timesheets. Your enterprise tools may do this automatically. Even if they don’t, collecting timesheet data is useful for tracking progress. Having tasks assigned to people takes a step out of compiling timesheets, because their tasks are already clear.
You can use timesheet information as one way to track progress. Look for trends. For example, maybe someone is consistently taking longer than expected on their tasks. This might indicate a need for more training. And you should probably reforecast their tasks for the rest of the project to allow for the fact that they are delivering their work more slowly than expected.
Benefit #5: More Effective Budget Tracking
How do budgets link to resource allocation? Well, if you charge out your resources, either to clients or as part of an internal accounting approach, you’ll need to know who they are. Different people “cost” different amounts. A more experienced architect will cost the project more per hour than an apprentice bricklayer. Your budget needs to take this into account.
Having this information at your fingertips is really helpful for lots of reasons. For example, you can make some intelligent changes to resourcing if your budget is feeling stretched. Perhaps it would make sense to take off that expensive IT developer and replace them with someone who can do this simple task but who costs a lot less. Use your highly paid experts for the work where they can add the most value and make sure that the more routine jobs are allocated to people who need the experience but who are still capable of doing a passable job.
Allocating resources to tasks doesn’t take very long and with some project management tools you can even get people to choose their own tasks. Whether you work in a traditional environment or take an Agile approach, task allocation is definitely possible and has plenty of benefits.