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What is Resource Forecasting?

Resource forecasting is all about predicting the future workload of your team. It answers the questions “How busy are we going to be?” and “Do we have the right resources to handle the work coming at us?” This workload can be made up of customer projects, internal special initiatives, individual continuing education, and often a combination of all these.

Why Does It Matter?

Like many things in life, once you have a sound resource forecasting process, you will look back and wonder how you ever lived without it. Here we highlight three important corporate perspectives directly supported by resource forecasting.

1) Customer Experience Matters

If you aren’t considering your customers’ experience in everything you do, success will be an uphill battle.

Eric Wu, CEO of TaskRay, recently called out the critical importance of the early days of the customer relationship.

“According to the Marketing Sciences Institute, the first 90 to 120 days of a client relationship is the most tenuous period of a new client experience. If the onboarding process is performed properly, a strong relationship will be established to serve as the foundation for future business growth.”

Read Eric’s full article here.

Think about it this way… you can do great damage to your customer relationship if you:

  • Fail to accurately set expectations on project start and finish dates

  • Struggle to get their project started in a timely and efficient manner

  • Swap resources in and out due to schedule and skill conflicts

You’ve probably been on the customer side of projects like this. How did it make you feel? Did you become a customer champion for that vendor? Maybe, but probably not because it’s hard to overcome a poor onboarding experience.

Sound resource forecasting greatly mitigates each of the above risks giving your customers an exceptional experience during onboarding, when it matters most.

2) Employee Retention

When done well, resource forecasting supports your company culture. It can help achieve a good quality of life for employees by preventing burnout and giving everyone an interesting mix of work. Chances are these are promises you made to your employees at the time of hire. If you can’t keep those promises, even in the face of busy or chaotic times, you risk losing your people. Things only get harder from there.

3) Innovation and Growth

When done well, resource forecasting encompasses all-important work types, internal and external-facing. Often, companies fail to devote the same kind of discipline in managing internal work as they do with customer-facing projects. Your resource forecast should include the important work it takes to keep your products and services fresh and cutting edge. Equally important are internal initiatives for process improvement and automation that help you scale efficiently.

How Do You Do It?

First, you need a good way to keep track of your work. If you are using Excel or Sheets to manage your work, you may not be ready to tackle resource forecasting. You are best to use a project management tool like TaskRay that organizes projects and tasks in a user-friendly, centralized, and extensible manner. A tool like this gives you a solid foundation to grow into a resource management process.

As with many business measures, there are “degrees of slickness” in the methods you can use. Here are some resource forecasting methods, ranked from simple to more sophisticated:

  1. Count the number of tasks or maintain a schedule of availability per resource

  2. Sum total estimated hours of tasks by due date each week

  3. Distribute task hours into a predictable schedule that accounts for multi-week tasks

  4. Factor company holidays and individual time way into overall availability

  5. Overlay potential projects coming down the sales pipeline

It’s fine to start simple and iterate as your business needs evolve. If you can make it to #5, you are running an impressive operation! You have a strong method for managing the work related to in-flight projects AND you are keeping a close eye on the future impact that deals in the sales pipeline may have on your team and its ability to keep up with demand.

“Create a project plan as early as possible, ideally at the bidding stage,” says Kenny Ingram, consulting services manager with enterprise planning system vendor IFS of High Wycombe, U.K. “Lots of companies don’t do this, but the advantage is that you’ll have a project plan for every serious bid you’ve got out there and every live job—which gives you the fullest possible picture of your resource requirements.”

Wheatley, M. Future perfect. PM Network, 18(4), 38–44.