There's a common acceptance. Staff are the biggest cost to an organization, but also the biggest source of revenue. An effective method of managing these staff can have a seriously positive impact on how progressive you are as a department – not to mention your profitability.

Recently, we have been talking to a number of auditing teams about their resource planning processes. Two important points have been raised time and again: a streamlined approach is essential, and spreadsheets don’t always work.

To take the latter point, whilst you may be able to create tables in which a resource is allocated to a project, does this really go far enough? How can you tell from a spreadsheet where a resource is being under-utilised or similarly where spare capacity may exist? Is there sufficient flexibility to judge this? And furthermore, how much visibility can this support?

If you want an instant graphical overview of resource allocation to jobs, Excel can support this (to a partial extent), but what if requirements change? It’s not uncommon for project demands to change with minimal notice. Through Excel, you can easily make that change but how well can you view the impact of that change, not just on resources but also other projects?

Aside from these usual challenges there are much deeper, underlying issues to be contemplated. Planning ahead is vital. When looking at forthcoming projects, striking that right balance is key. A resource shortfall is just as bad as a resource surplus. Budget/revenue forecasting and reporting, meanwhile, is a topic another blog post.

Nevertheless, these aspects combined brings resource scheduling to the forefront of many strategic thinkers minds. A structured, methodical and rationalized approach to staff planning is key in these economic times, especially when looking to maintain that competitive edge.