Perspectives

Why Resource Tracking Is Necessary in Project Management

February 2, 2024
7 min read

Keeping tabs on the people working on projects means work can stay on track

A new architectural firm scores an invite to submit a proposal for a new art museum in Europe. It’s a huge nod for this budding business. The quick deadline, a two-day turnaround, means pulling resources off other projects to draft, design, and render templates for the pitch. Without insight into resource availability or a real understanding of what these elements will cost in terms of time and materials, the proposal could be canceled before a sketch is ever drawn.

Resource tracking is the hidden step that unearths those details, unlocking the keys and tools to develop — then clinch — any endeavor. Effective project resource tracking can also increase a project’s efficiency. It’s the difference between a business wondering if it can meet a deadline and one that knows it’ll crush the competition.

What is resource tracking?

With resource tracking, typically led by a project manager, a business translates all the details that define a project’s success, from the time staff spends at meetings to the project costs, including materials such as a new excavator to use when breaking ground for a new museum. Why is this key? Without early insight, a business may complete a concept but never know if the effort was worth the payout.

Tracking time, project budget, resource allocation, and staff capacity also builds templates for future projects. A construction engineering firm that engineered an innovative museum in Copenhagen, for example, can apply that learning to a proposal for a gallery space in Dubai.

Whether turning to tried and true methods such as timesheets, or adopting automated tools including software, tracking these resources brings insights businesses can use to improve accountability and transparency across their company.

Why is it important to track project resources?

It’s not just helpful for companies to track resources — it’s essential for solid margins and happy workers. Businesses can follow the progress employees are making on individual tasks, monitor activities of freelancers and consultants, plus discover, then reward, staff standouts. But resource tracking also helps you decode in real-time which projects are developing on schedule — and which are draining a company’s bottom line. Resource tracking can help identify the types of resources a company needs, and then give project managers the ability to do resource forecasting based on project schedules.

Say a client is leaning hard on staff’s time with late hours and mission creep that extends deadlines and demands. Uncovering those details flags an opportunity for the resource manager and human resources: crafting new term sheets to bring the project more in line with budget and needs. Without that transparency, a business may think it’s operating at capacity and has to shut doors to new clients. Even worse? Staff may feel unappreciated, unhappy, and heading toward eventual burnout. In some industries, this is especially relevant where labor turnover is already a major challenge. Pulling back the curtain allows companies to cut, then clean up, these inefficiencies.

“They can then make necessary changes to make projects profitable and understand their true utilization, as well as the areas where they need to hire or trim back in order to run a profitable company,” writes Credo founder John Doherty.

Increase efficiency with project management software

While spreadsheets are the business world’s default for keeping track of a project’s resources, and the time devoted to their success, there are other ways to stay on top of project tasks and other details. One option is automated software, which can prove exponentially more profitable than having employees ink their hours every week. These tools provide visibility into project portfolio management, including the breakdown of non-billable time versus billable time, utilization of resources, and project progress.

Requiring staff to recall and record every email, meeting, and call they’ve had — from a two-hour operations meeting to a 30-second check-in with a client — rings up to a $7.4 billion loss per day to the US economy, according to a report in Harvard Business Review.

“If it then takes you three minutes to go into your timesheet program to record the time, you’ve gone from spending 3% of the work unit in administrative overhead to spending 60% in overhead,” writes AffinityLive’s CEO Geoff McQueen in the Harvard Business Review article.

That’s why finding the optimal way to log how resources are spent is key to a successful project.

Find the right resource tracking tool for your team

Now that you know you need a resource tracker, finding the right one is a matter of budget and preference — what you choose should match what feels best to you. These options can range from a piece of paper and pen to a basic spreadsheet, all the way up to a resource planning software program.

The cost of paper and ink are fairly negligible, and some resource management software templates are actually free. Other options can be easily tailored to a project’s specs — without needing to know a line of code — and then shared across a business or project team, such as Quickbase’s options with their customizable fields.

Visibility into resource scheduling also helps your team performance and morale by rewarding staff who are excelling at their work, and locating people who may need additional support to shine.

What to look for in a resource tracker spreadsheet/template

The choice of resource management solution a firm lands on is personal. A storied advertising agency crafting TikToks for Fortune 500 clients faces different demands — and infinitely more data points — than a two-person shop carving library bookshelves from reclaimed wood. But no matter the style of spreadsheet a business ultimately adopts, all share key features:

  • Time spent completing tasks

  • A schedule of priorities

  • Project rates

  • Budget

  • Staff members assigned to each element

Today’s online resource tracking tools capture far more than the time and resources that go into each task. Think of them as snappy sages, uncovering roadblocks in scheduling, calculating whether a project is profitable or providing little value, and even pointing a digital finger to staffing and skill sets required for a new project.

Consider a construction firm that’s asked to upgrade a historic town library with modern air conditioning but needs training to handle the structure since it’s under landmark status. Or a caterer who wants to expand into event planning and knows a wedding certification could boost their visibility.

Newer software programs can take on the heavy lifting of tracking these certifications or the background checks on new hires to install the cooling units. Details are monitored, deadlines met, and new business opportunities sewn up.

Why effective resource planning is necessary for project management

Tracking resources helps everyone in a company see real-time data — from time to money — as an asset worth protecting.

As part of its overall resource management plan, a business can also apply resource tracking to deliver visibility into the bigger picture of every project it undertakes. Whether that’s hours spent designing a new museum wing, tracking tasks on a kitchen remodel, or training required for a new solar panel installer, these details can help companies of any size ensure projects and project plans succeed. And with newer software tracking tools, a company can take on today’s projects with confidence, while building for the next proposals too.

Transform your resource management needs with Quickbase, which offers a robust platform for resource management, providing tools to streamline processes, improve collaboration, and ensure data accuracy. Its customizable nature allows businesses to tailor solutions to their specific needs, making it a versatile option for managing projects of varying complexity. By centralizing data and automating workflows, Quickbase can enhance efficiency, productivity, and transparency within a company's operations.