How to Nail Resource Planning Early on With Placeholders

If you want your business to be predictable, resource planning on projects should begin early. Often, before you know who is going to do the work.

Yet best practices dictate that you shouldn’t commit real resources until the dust has settled.

So, we’re solving the problem here at VOGSY with placeholder resources.

Placeholders are typical roles rather than actual resources that you can assign to projects until you’re ready to replace them with actual people. Think “Project Manager,” “Designer” and similar roles that apply to your organization. You define placeholder resources in terms of skills, roles, billability and availability.

VOGSY introduced placeholders to project resource planning so you can:

  • Plan effectively even if you don’t have the resources to place
  • Estimate costs and revenues of services in the proposal stage so you know the probable margin of different scenarios
  • Quickly understand which job roles need to be filled in the coming months and who to re-assign or hire, when and for how long
  • Make sure you’re equipped to complete work and meet revenue targets

Benefits of a placeholder tool in planning resources

Benefit #1: Simple, quick and accurate resource capacity planning

Do you know your demand versus capacity picture three, six and nine months out? In fast-changing environments, you may even need that picture one to two months out.

Using placeholders in resource planning makes this simple.

When resourcing projects early on in the opportunity stage, you’ll use placeholders to define the types of roles needed. This will help you estimate and meet demand by hiring the right number of resources with the necessary capabilities.

If you work with contractors, planning ahead like this will also allow you to determine time scales for their services. Essentially, you’ll be able to place contractors in your resource plan with precision and even lock in their services ahead of time to ensure you’re securing the best talent for your customers.

Benefit #2: Optimizing resource utilization

A huge benefit of using placeholder resources is getting the big picture of what resources you need throughout your organization and projects. Which means you can position people where they’ll have the most impact while optimizing their billable time.

If you check out your resource planning map in VOGSY, you’ll see all resources and placeholders together with their planned hours and availability. You don’t even have to leave this big-picture view to switch around resource and placeholder hours to hit utilization targets.

This makes it easy to spread the work out evenly and maximize all resources’ time, both current and future.

Benefit #3: De-risk your revenue projection

On the individual project level, placeholders allow you to reserve the hours needed to put the budget to most effective use, regardless of whether you already have the resources or not.

On a company level, when you know you’re going to need twenty UX designers in quarter three to make the forecasted revenue, risk becomes minimized. If you want to keep upping profits, this is the actionable hiring or rescheduling information you need.

If you plan projects with placeholders in the opportunity stage in VOGSY, you’ll know your revenue amount and the cost of the placeholder roles involved. With these insights, you can instantly understand not just the revenue but also how much margin you can expect. From there, management can make the most lucrative hiring and contracting decisions.

How do you create a resource plan with placeholders?

All you need to do is create your placeholder resources in the VOGSY back office (more information on how to do that in this placeholders documentation page).

Then you can start allocating hours to placeholders until you’ve reserved enough hours to fill out your budget.

Resource planning steps

Not sure where to start?

Let’s cover a step-by-step example of how you would incorporate placeholders into a resource plan.

Step 1: Figure out the types of resources you need

First things first: Get an idea of the role types best suited to your project deliverable(s).

What skills do these resources need to have? What level of expertise should they bring to the table?

Step 2: Create your placeholders

If you haven’t done so previously, go into your VOGSY back office and create placeholder resources the way you would create employees. That is, fill out their roles, skill levels and activities they can perform to start.

Step 3: Look at past cost and sales rates

Profitability should take center stage during resource planning.

To that end, you can look at past (successful) project budgets, margins and resource costs to help you determine what you should be paying out and charging your clients in terms of making a good margin.

You can also add average cost and sales rates for the placeholders so that you can get a realistic view of future revenue, cost and margin for a project as well as across the board.

Step 4: Start allocating resources

Now you can start allocating hours to placeholders.

To assign a placeholder in VOGSY, just click “Add a resource” on a project deliverable activity, type the name you’ve given your desired placeholder into the search bar and click when it pops up.

Step 5: Check your resource planning map and maximize utilization

It’s important to check your resource heat map in VOGSY’s resource planning overview to see exactly how you’ve scheduled your resources and placeholders on projects, and where they have open availability.

Keep an eye out for overplanning and underutilization on your color-coded map and rearrange your resources if necessary.

Step 6: Turn placeholders into real resources

After you’ve done your hiring to fill in any resource gaps, you can cement your resource plan with actual employees or contractors.

You can do this by either deleting your placeholder resources and subbing in actual people, or transferring hours a little at a time from placeholders to real resources until there are no placeholder hours left to allocate.

Ask for more from your resource management software

When our customers ask, we listen. Based on your feedback, our software team developed VOGSY placeholders to help make resource management and early project planning simpler than ever.

If you’re already using VOGSY and you want to get started leveraging placeholders now, log into your VOGSY account, go to the “Employees” section in the back office and fill in a placeholder employee form.

If you’re not yet a VOGSY user and you want to see it in action, try VOGSY for free and see how we can help your services business become more profitable and predictable.

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