10 Resource Planning Steps For Humans (Part 1)

Paul Dandurand

Part 1 in the “People Resource Planning” series about how to improve the project management process through people planning

I hate the terms “resource planning” and “resource forecasting.” Well, I hate these labels and most numbers-only approaches to these processes. They’re just un-human. For example, many are only driven by numbers and have little regard for individuals. However, since planners use these as search keywords in Google while researching, I’ll use them here to get the conversation started. Just keep in mind that human labor is not a commodity.

I prefer terms like “people project planning.” People are the creators and innovators, the pulse of the projects, and deliverers of great project results.

You are human. Not a machine.

10 steps for people project planning

This is a multi-part series, and therefore, here’s the skinny on the 10 steps. This list assumes that your budget is limited and you don’t have the freedom to hire people to fill new roles. It also assumes that you have basic project processes and that some of your projects might include hybrid waterfall/agile models.

  1. Identify the hats each person brings to the table. It all starts with understanding the scope of your people’s skills and experiences. Learn their strongest assets, what roles they held in the past, and what new roles they may fit into for a future project.
  1. Define people roles in your project process. Now that you know the hats people have worn or could wear, think about the roles your critical project tasks need while keeping in mind the available people you have.
  1. Determine needs for dependencies. Planning helps when you have clear links between important tasks and even between projects. This will become useful with the scheduling of dates using a tool that can manage dependencies for fast date propagation.
  1. Assign draft project target dates. Know your key project delivery dates before mapping people for planning. Focus on the most important dates and hold off on detailed task dates for now. These are only draft dates and may change to accommodate people’s availability.
  1. Find stars and sponges available for roles. “Stars” are the experts. “Sponges” are the less experienced but with high potential, because they want to learn and share. They are equally valuable for planning. Stars are in demand and may not be available, so seek out the sponges who can grow quickly.
  1. Adjust project tasks, roles, and dates. Now that you have people candidates, you may need to fudge tasks and roles and their expected work dates to align with your limited pool of great people and their availability slots. Adjust and balance.
  1. Obtain people consensus with an initial plan. You need to get agreement now to avoid issues later. Review schedules, the roles they will play, support for increasing confidence levels, expectations, and concerns, then obtain agreements.
  1. Prepare “Plan B.” Identify risks to the plans and jot down contingencies. The more you are prepared, the easier it will be to adjust to the unexpected. Common risks are people becoming ill, being switched to another project, or overcommitting.
  1. Engage people and be flexible. Set the expectations that change will happen during project execution and that everyone needs to be flexible. Engage people to ask for help and provide help to others before issues affect the timeline.
  1. Capture lessons learned and improve planning. People planning and forecasting is a process and, in itself, should be run like a project. Learn from experience, and continuously make your planning process better for future projects.

The details

Historically, “resource planning” was done by specific schedulers who had access to specialized tools that take time to learn and are complex to use. The process was done with little transparency into people experiences AND people potentials. Decisions were mostly financial-based rather than project end-result-value-based.

Today, projects abound with new people taking on lead positions and working remotely. The power of people planning and forecasting is moving away from the responsibilities of certain individuals and becoming more team focused and transparent. This aligns with the trend to give new project leads and team members more flexibility to make plans for their future projects while engaging in current projects.

This is especially true for small to midsize projects. In a recent email exchange, project expert and author Dr. Harold Kerzner said, “For traditional or operational projects, I would agree that resource planning is heavily influenced by project leads and the team. But for strategic projects, especially those involving innovation, resource planning may be controlled by corporate governance because of the necessity for critical skills.”

Although this series of 10 resource planning steps for humans is mostly directed at those on traditional or operational projects, it can also be helpful for the corporate governance people on capital projects who want to consider the human side of resource planning, forecasting, and management.


  • Your project budget is limited and tight.
  • You don’t have the freedom to hire new people to fill project roles, so you will need to work with your available people.
  • You have good processes for executing your projects, such as project “recipes” or templates, or you’re moving in that direction. This is important for repeatable projects, such as those done in consulting firms, professional services departments, new-product development groups, and other areas that drive repeatable types of projects for client solutions. If you don’t have project “recipes” or project templates, think about a past project that needs to be repeated and start with its set of tasks as a framework. Otherwise, shoot from the hip and build a project from scratch. Just ensure that you turn it into a repeatable process for the future with lessons learned.
  • You’re using a tool that makes it easy to track project processes and tasks. Well, you’re at least using Excel and PowerPoint, right? In that case, consider better tools.
  • Your project is either waterfall (sequential task lists) or a hybrid waterfall with agile/scrum approaches. For hybrid agile cases, I will note those in each step.
  • You’re a human.

Now that you have the summary, read the upcoming blogs in this weekly series to get the details.

Don’t miss the chance to learn about the integration between SAP SuccessFactors and Qualtrics Solutions firsthand from the product expert on December 12th.

This article originally appeared on the Pie blog and is republished by permission.

Paul Dandurand

About Paul Dandurand

Paul Dandurand is the founder and CEO of PieMatrix, a visual project management application company. Paul has a background in starting and growing companies. Prior to PieMatrix, he was co-founder of FocusFrame, where he wore multiple hats, including those of co-president and director. He helped position FocusFrame as the market leader with process methodology differentiation. FocusFrame was sold to Hexaware in 2006. Previously, he was a management consulting manager at Ernst & Young (now Capgemini) in San Francisco and Siebel Systems in Amsterdam. Paul enjoys photography, skiing, and watching independent films. He earned a B.A. degree in Economics from the University of California at Berkeley.