They say a carpenter is only as good as their tools—and using the right tool for the job is essential to any project’s success. After all, if a carpenter had to build a chair armed with just a saw, they’d only get so far. Similarly, project managers and business leaders charged with resource management can only be so effective without the right tools to enable their success.
Today, there are more resource management solutions than ever before. With so many options, choosing the right one can prove challenging. To that end, we’ve created this resource management buyer’s guide to help you pick the best resource planning tool for your organization.
This guide will cover all the steps necessary to choose the best resource management solution for your business:
- Why Resource Management Software?
- Signs You Need Resource Management Software
- Must-Have Resource Management Features
- 3 Steps to Find the Best Resource Management Software
- Vendor Q&A Checklist
- Choosing the Right Resource Management Tool for Your Business
- Implementing Your Resource Management Software
- How to Guarantee ROI from Your New Resource Management Tool
Why Resource Management Software?
What is Resource Management?
Resource management is a process that organizations use to effectively manage their resources (like people, tools, time, and finances). It includes planning, scheduling, allocation, utilization, and forecasting. This article goes into more detail about these processes and discusses the importance of resource management.
Who Uses Resource Management?
Managed and professional services organizations—like agencies (creative, ad, marketing, digital, development, etc.), business consultancies, and architecture and engineering firms—rely on resource management to plan and execute projects and initiatives. The bigger an organization grows, or the more complex its projects become, the more difficult it is to manage resources without the help of software.
Benefits of Resource Management Software
Resource management software supercharges a business’s ability to manage its resources effectively. Teams use it to track and optimize workload, capacity, and priorities across all projects so they can build more productive and profitable organizations.
Here are some of the benefits businesses gain when they implement resource management software:
- Make sure all resources are available when needed
- Complete projects on time and within budget
- Optimize demand and capacity planning
- Improve operational efficiency
- Increase staff utilization
- Boost employee and client retention
- Increase profitability (Check out this article to understand the five main ways that resource management software improves profitability)
Signs You Need Resource Management Software
If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re already leveraging resource management processes to some degree—whether through spreadsheets or your ERP system.
But if you’re not quite getting the full value from your resource planning processes, you may have outgrown your current approach. Consider implementing a more advanced solution, like resource management software. It’s superior to spreadsheets and more focused than an ERP.
This article goes into detail on reasons you need resource management software. Here are a few of the top signs you may want to switch.
- It takes hours (or days) to plan a project.
- Project managers squabble over resources.
- Time tracking is random and manual.
- You’re unsure how actual budgets compare to planned budgets.
- There’s no visibility into workload or capacity.
- Team members frequently feel left in the dark about project status.
- Some team members are suffering from burnout, while others are underutilized. (We hosted this webinar to help teams balance workload and avoid burnout.)
- You’re struggling with client and/or employee retention.
- Hiring plans are haphazard.
- Teams keep missing deadlines.
- Projects constantly exceed scope. (If this is an issue, we encourage you to read The Ultimate Guide to Managing Scope Creep.)
- It’s hard to plan ahead.
- No one has a big-picture view of what’s going on across the organization.
Do many of these sound familiar? If so, it’s likely time to switch. The rest of this guide will walk you through how to find the best resource management software for your business.
Must-Have Resource Management Features
Once you’ve decided that you need resource management software, it’s time to make a list of every feature your ideal software has. At a minimum, to be considered resource management software, a tool must give your team the ability to:
- Manage various types of resources
- Plan based on availability
- Identify the best resources for each project type or task
- Forecast future demand
- Provide a single view of all resources
While this is a nice jumping-off point, the top resource management software (like Mosaic) includes a broader set of capabilities designed to help you get more out of your investment. Think about looking for the following features:
- Resource allocation
- Capacity planning
- Workload forecasting
- Workforce management
- AI-driven optimizations
- Reporting dashboard
- Project management
- Time and budget tracking
Let’s take a closer look at the capabilities these features unlock.
Allocating resources to projects the old-fashioned way can take hours or days. Smart resource management software lets you allocate resources and assemble project teams in minutes, schedule and reschedule in seconds, and see the impact that scheduling or scope changes have across all projects and plans.
Capacity planning will ensure you have all the necessary resources available to complete client projects on time. Quickly see who is working on what and when so you can balance the workload across the organization. This helps you prevent burnout and increase utilization by keeping all team members busy with the right amount of billable work.
Workforce management capabilities will help you take a strategic approach to managing your team by enabling you to:
- Inventory employee capabilities across the company
- Assess the strengths and weaknesses of teams
- Identify skill gaps
- Enable quick access to talent
AI & Forecasting
The most advanced resource management tools include AI optimization engines that analyze all the data about past and present projects to get smarter over time. AI can do things like:
- Suggesting people for projects and projects for people
- Accurately forecasting workload
- Hiring recommendations based on demand forecasting
- Identifying which projects will be the most profitable
Reporting insights can greatly increase the value you get out of resource management software. We suggest looking for a tool with robust reporting capabilities that include the following: workload forecasting, utilization, demand-capacity analysis, time-variance, budget tracking, and profit and loss analysis. A bonus if it gives you the ability to create custom executive dashboards.
Ideally, you want to connect tasks, schedules, scope, budgets, and workload all in one place. This is easiest when your resource management software has a project management tool baked in (or it at least integrates with your current project management software).
Time and Budget Tracking
Time- and budget-tracking are essential for organizations with revenue models based on billable hours. The easier you can make it for employees to track time and leaders to monitor budgets, the more profitable you’ll be in the long run.
We recommend choosing a tool that:
- enables automatic or manual time tracking,
- can automatically populate timesheets,
- will nudge team members who are falling behind,
- visualizes actual-to-projected time and budget variances,
- helps you avoid scope creep,
- monitors budgets and tracks project profitability in real-time, and
- integrates with financial software to automate billing and avoid double data entry.
Some tools offer even more features than what you see here. And you may not need everything on our list, depending on your unique requirements. We suggest using this list as a guide to make your own list of must-have features.
3 Steps to Find the Best Resource Management Software
There are more than 50 solutions categorized as resource management software. Setting up discovery calls with all of them would take way too much time. Here’s the 3-step process we recommend to save you some time and find the best solution for your needs.
- Read reviews
- Check their websites
- Schedule some demos
1. Read Reviews
82% of people hit up product review sites before making a purchase. After all, adopting new software for your team can be a big investment so it’s important to do your due diligence before making a purchase.
We recommend skipping the Google and Facebook reviews. Instead, check out sites that specifically provide software reviews from verified customers. These will provide much more valuable information, including screenshots, pricing, and real customer feedback on each platform’s strengths and weaknesses.
Some popular software review sites include:
Most of these sites will let you filter search results by customer rating, pricing, and more so you can easily create a shortlist of the top solutions. Anytime we search for a new software vendor, we always start by searching for those with a 4.5 star or above rating.
2. Check Company Websites
Once you have a shortlist of top-reviewed resource management software, it’s time to head over to their websites. Company sites will provide more detailed information about their capabilities than you can find anywhere else.
Here are a few thoughts we suggest keeping in mind:
- How do the software features compare with your must-have features?
- Is the software built for specific industries or companies of a certain size?
- Are there any case studies that showcase how they’ve helped other businesses?
- Is their pricing transparent and easy to understand?
- Do they have any videos or screenshots from their software? Does the interface look intuitive and pleasant to use?
- Is the website modern, user-friendly, and easy to navigate?
3. Schedule Some Demos
By this point, your shortlist should be a little shorter. A good goal is to narrow it down to five options or less. The next step is to schedule demos with the small handful of companies at the top of your list.
Demos are a chance for you to see the software in action, understand its specific use cases, and ask any questions that will help you decide which is the best resource management software for your business.
Vendor Q&A Checklist
Finally, before hopping onto a demo call, put together a list of questions to ask the company rep. Below are some questions to consider asking during your demo. This list should help you get started, but be sure to include questions that address your company’s must-have features, unique needs, and current problems.
What’s the pricing model? How much does the resource management software cost?
Many tools are priced per user, which can work very well for smaller teams. That said, some systems may be priced per capability. Many companies offer different subscription levels based on organization size, number of projects, etc. Be sure to get a total cost that covers your unique scenario.
Does the pricing include all capabilities?
This is important. There’s nothing worse than licensing software and getting into your account for the first time only to discover that the one feature you were most excited about isn’t included with your subscription level. Take the time to understand exactly which features are included with which packages.
How many users are included in the subscription?
Remember, pricing is often determined based on the number of users on your account. When asking about pricing, find out how many users are included with each subscription tier. Ask if there are a minimum number of users required. And inquire about the options that are available for your team as your business scales and you wish to add additional users.
Do integrations cost extra?
This is often an additional cost so it’s best to ask about it upfront. If you know you want to integrate your resource management software with your accounting software or project management tool, make sure you know how much it will cost. Integrations can be a flat fee, but they can also be based on the volume of data being passed between the systems.
What ROI can new customers expect?
Many vendors will avoid answering this question. Sometimes this is because they’re not comfortable making guarantees. Other times, it’s because they just don’t know. Look for a vendor that can answer this question with confidence.
Is there a free trial period?
Purchasing new software for your team is a big investment, and there are plenty of options on the market today. So, if a company offers to let you test drive the product for a while, that means they’re confident in their solution—and that’s a good sign.
What onboarding support does the company offer? Is there an onboarding fee?
Many companies charge for initial training and ongoing support, but others provide it free of charge or include it in the initial setup cost. Whether onboarding is a paid or free offering, make sure you understand exactly what their onboarding process includes. Is there an onboarding timeline? Are there multiple sessions? How many people on the team can attend?
What does the average implementation plan look like?
Having a clear implementation plan is an important ingredient to success. Ask each vendor how the average customer goes about implementing the software. What are the major steps and milestones? What should you be prepared to do along the way?
What resources do clients need to implement the software?
Another part of successfully implementing your software is knowing what internal resources you’ll need. Is any specialized knowledge required to complete certain steps? Will you need support from your IT, Finance, or Operations teams?
If one tool requires support from your IT team and you know your IT team is backed up for the next three months, consider choosing a tool that you can implement without IT resources.
How quickly can we get up and running?
The faster you can get up and running with your new resource management software, the more quickly you can start seeing an ROI. Ideally, you want to choose a tool that you can start using immediately.
Does the provider offer ongoing training?
Chances are, you might need some ongoing training from time to time. Whether it’s because new team members come on board, new features roll out, or you just need a refresher. Find out what kind of ongoing training is available. Is there a knowledge base for questions as they come up? Are there any pre-recorded training sessions?
What devices is the software compatible with? Are there minimum system requirements?
Until recent years, work primarily happened at the office so desktop applications were all you needed. These days, work happens wherever people are, which is why an agile app that teams can use on any device from any location is a must. Beyond mobile and desktop versions, you also want to understand if there are minimum hardware or operating system requirements your devices must meet.
What other systems does each vendor integrate with?
There are a number of other tools that can be involved in resource management efforts (e.g., your CRM, accounting software, project management tools, calendars, HR software, and more). Connecting these tools together can streamline processes and boost efficiency. Find out what integrations each vendor offers.
What industries is the solution designed for?
Every industry has its own unique needs. Whether you’re building an A&E tech stack or adopting new technologies for consulting, the tools you select should work with your industry in mind. If you can find a solution that’s specifically tailored to your industry, it’s likely to better meet your needs.
Choosing the Right Resource Management Tool for Your Business
By the time you complete the demos and get all your questions answered, you’ll either have a very clear front-runner or two to three solutions that you need to decide between. In the latter case, see which options offer a free trial so you can take them for a test drive. Free trials are a great way to get a feel for what it will be like to work inside the tool on a day-to-day basis.
Once you complete your trials, it’s time to make a decision.
We know decisions can be hard. People often second-guess themselves. Sometimes they get stuck in analysis paralysis. They go back to review sites and websites, over-analyzing the options. Or worse, they do nothing at all. This results in a lot of wasted time.
Take comfort in knowing that as long as you did a good job during your research cycle, asked the right questions, and paid attention during the demos, you’re equipped with all the information you need to choose the right resource management tool for your business.
Implementing Your Resource Management Software
By the time you sign the contract, you want to have a clear implementation plan. Hopefully, the vendor you selected will have a guide for you to follow. If they don’t, we suggest treating your implementation just like you would any other project.
1. Identify the steps
Document all the steps involved in implementation. This includes building your first project, setting up any integrations, adding all users, syncing with their calendars, etc. As with any project, be thorough and detailed.
2. Create the timeline
Next, assign some dates. There are two approaches to building your timeline. You can either set your target end date (the final date when everyone will be using your new software to manage all company resources) and work your way backwards, or you can start at the beginning and allocate the appropriate time to each task until you get to the end.
3. Assign resources
Look at what skills are needed to manage the implementation. Compare that against everyone’s availability. And assign the best team to get the job done. We recommend choosing a project leader who has solid change management skills. It often takes some time to get teams to adopt new tools and shift their behaviours.
4. Train everyone
There are multiple ways to tackle training: company-wide, team-based, and one-to-one sessions are all viable options. We’ve seen great success when companies combine all three approaches, giving high-level introductions to the whole company and then working their way down toward individual training sessions.
5. Stay the course
Change is hard. Driving adoption is always challenging. Just keep your sights on your goals and stay patient with everyone.
Here are a few more tips to successfully implement your new software.