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Project management or resource planning?

Most companies manage projects one way or another. For some it might be their main activity, for others an occasional thing.

But only a small number of organisations do project management thoroughly: assemble a project management team, create a proper work breakdown structure, draw Gantt charts. For them, project management is simply assigning tasks to team members and grouping them by projects or in other words - determining who is doing what and when by rearranging the existing resources. So if you are managing multiple projects at the same time, you are not doing project management, you're in fact doing resource planning.

Traditional project management tools are usually not the best choice for resource planning, so team leaders often use other ways to substitute specialized resource management tools. In worst cases, the management or IT department has purchased an expensive and complicated project management tool (or a project management module for your existing ERP system) and you have to feed the data into it on a daily basis, as well as keeping the Excel spreadsheet to get the scheduling job done.

As tools designed especially for resource planning and scheduling are not very common, organizations use ubiquitous tools such as e-mail, paper wall charts, whiteboards, to-do lists, calendars and of course - spreadsheets. Let's see a few pros and cons of each tool. 

We all love and hate spreadsheets. While they are handy for many tasks in everyday business management, they come short in planning and scheduling for many reasons. 
The visual overview by coloring cells is hard to change, and while sharing the spreadsheet via e-mail can be only a small hassle, no one can be sure if he’s have the latest version of the document. Also, tracking changes in the plan and finding incorrect formulas and overwritten data is the pain we all have experienced.

Calendars have been around for centuries and probably will be around for years to come. And while paper calendars can be as good as the to-do lists (or even better), they fail to accommodate schedules that are meant for a bigger team. 
Digital calendars in Outlook and Google Calendar for example, have the capability to display several personal calendars in one view, but if you try to view more than 3-4 calendars, the thing will likely get messy.

To-do lists are great for personal use. I've tried to stop using them for years with no success. Nowadays, there are a number of apps for shared to-do lists (asana.com, trello.com, wedoist.com, teuxdeux.com etc) which allow you to group tasks by projects, add data, track time and more. You can even add a completion % to tasks and prioritize them. What you can't see from those lists is how much time your team members have wasted and how much they still have left to spare. 

The e-mail softwares include features that help you search fast within the program and make grouping easy as well, not to mention other bells and whistles. This allows you to expand the functionality of an e-mail from being just a communication tool to a universal data storing and sharing platform. Simply writing down and sending the weekly plan to team members may be a good way to start the week, but it lacks the visual overview and managing changes in your plan can be a real pain, i.e. the collaboration features of this option are a nightmare. Let's face it: e-mail is for communication, not for scheduling your team and projects.

Paper wall charts are easy to manage (drawing is simple) and they are accessible to anybody walking by it. The biggest disadvantage is the ability to change the plan: you either need to redraw it completely or scribble it over and over until nobody understands the plan.

Needless to say that we recommend you use Ganttic for resource management. We've gotten rid of all the above, making Ganttic the best resource planning tool there is. Granted, everyone has the right to their opinion and by the end of the day, it's up to the team using the software to decide, what's the best tool for them, but seeing as Ganttic has improved the life of so many of our customers, we strongly suggest you give it a try. Seeing is believing!

By Indrek Kuldkepp