Successful project management isn’t only about overseeing planning and operations. Project resource allocation is another essential process, ensuring team members have the materials, funds, and time they need to deliver positive outcomes.

Without proper management, teams may run into resource constraints. This hampers efficient work and impedes successful project delivery, reducing return on investment for the organization.

Learning to address project management constraints, including budget, time, and scope, can help you deliver high-quality results to clients while ensuring the development process runs smoothly.

What are resource constraints?

A constraint is any encountered restriction, deficit, or risk impacting how project management allocates resources like materials and funds to team members. Typically during the project planning phase, project and resource managers consider limitations and establish contingencies for unforeseen events that can potentially reduce resource capacity, accessibility, or availability.

Resources fall into one of two categories. They include:

  1. Intangible resources: These project materials are nonphysical but contribute considerable value. They may include ideas, business processes, and copyrights.
  2. Tangible resources: These are physical resources, such as raw materials, software, or contractors, that can potentially drive an economic benefit.

Resource management involves deciphering the team’s experience and skill and determining the standard of nonhuman assets required for high-quality deliverables. Without proper management, resource constraints can lead to bottlenecks and roadblocks, derailing the project timeline or causing it to fail outright.

Why are resource constraints important in project management?

Determining resource constraints lets leaders manage capacity and allocate resources to the right tasks at the right time. This helps avert or mitigate risks from a potential constraint. At the outset of planning, resource managers should coordinate with project managers to review every stage of the project plan.

Once project work begins, resource allocation efforts continue, with ongoing evaluation at critical milestones to ensure the team maintains the means to complete the project. Ongoing evaluation ensures you can identify shortfalls in time to resolve them or minimize their effects on the project timeline.

Failing to effectively address resource constraints can lead to poor outcomes, including low-quality work, project setbacks, and frustrated clients, all of which may stymie future business prospects.

6 types of resource constraints

When determining potential constraints, you need to consider all of your project’s nonnegotiable limitations. Here are the most common resource constraints you’ll likely experience as a project manager.

1. Scope

Scope constraints refer to what the project outcomes will include and exclude within a project’s timeline and upon delivery. After evaluating requirements and internal and external variables, the project manager establishes the scope of the work, determining which deliverables are necessary for the completed product. Managers share the scoping document, also known as the project statement, with key stakeholders to establish realistic expectations. Relevant parties or individuals must approve any work falling outside the project scope through a change request process.

2. Cost

Project cost or budget is the amount of money the organization is willing to invest in the deliverables. The budget establishes the cost benchmark for managers to compare spending and progress. Usually, spending restrictions are based on cost estimates made prior to initiating the project, so be as precise as possible during this planning phase.

3. Time

Schedule constraints are another significant factor in a project’s success. Most projects require delivery according to a specific timeline, so in resource management, it’s critical to define clear expectations for task completion times. Managers must identify task dependencies and conduct a critical path analysis to establish a conflict-free work schedule.

These first three constraints — scheduling, budget, and scope — are interrelated, forming the basis of the triple constraint model, also known as the iron or project management triangle. If you adjust one of these constraints, you must readjust the other two accordingly. And you can’t satisfy all three variables simultaneously. For example, if you want to reduce the budget (cost) while maintaining the schedule (time), you’ll have to accept trade-offs with the outcome (scope). Deliverables can’t be vast, fast, and inexpensive all at once.

4. Quality

Achieving the desired quality from project outputs requires establishing minimal deliverable standards and the processes necessary to achieve and validate them. Ultimately, these constraints determine how closely the results meet stakeholder expectations defined during the project planning stage.

5. Resources

Project managers must evaluate the availability of materials, equipment, and human resources in relation to the budget. This helps them determine their assets’ quality and capacity. They can then track resource use and availability through functions within their preferred project management software.

6. Customer satisfaction

The final constraint project managers should consider is how happy the customer is with the project’s outcome. Satisfaction goes beyond simply meeting the project scope, schedule, and budget — it includes how the results fulfill stakeholder demands and contribute to the organization’s or client’s broader objectives.

Examples of common resource constraints

Each project requires a unique set of resources, but you can expect to manage some or all of the following constraints:

  • Labor: Not only will you have to manage employee availability and contractor hiring, but you should also consider whether your team has the necessary skills and qualifications to deliver on the project requirements.
  • Communications: Not every stakeholder will be available for team meetings or conversations, so you must provide accessible communication platforms to ensure everyone remains informed and on task.
  • Materials: Sourcing and allocating the raw materials, tools, and technology the team needs to complete their work is an ongoing process. And maintaining positive vendor relationships will support a seamless resource flow.
  • Finances: Project managers must meticulously monitor the budget, funding, and expenses. This ensures the team has the financial means to secure additional resources over the initiative’s term.
  • Intellectual property: The project team needs access to internal resources like business processes and institutional knowledge to complete their assigned tasks.
  • Real estate: Depending on the nature of the work, the project team may need an accessible office or workspace. Likewise, you may need a warehouse or storage space for tangible goods and materials.
  • Time: Managers must juggle multiple deadlines, milestones, and resource calendars, identifying dependencies that can impact delivery timelines.
  • Software: Your team will need access to software applications, platforms, and server space to store or test their work.

These examples of constraints are only some possible limitations that can occur during a project. Remember, a resource constraint is anything that restricts your ability to deliver the required outcome, so consult with key stakeholders during project planning to ensure you’ve created a contingency plan for every possibility.

6 tips for managing resource constraints

Team leaders typically follow several best practices in their resource management efforts, including these six tips to help balance your team’s various needs against asset availability.

1. Think strategically

Develop your project strategy based on corporate objectives. That way, you’ll understand your desired outcomes, how to define success, and what your team needs to achieve its goals.

2. Define the project requirements

Invest time in the planning phase to accurately define:

  • Deadlines
  • Milestones
  • Goals
  • Budgets
  • Key competitors

Understanding these factors will help you avoid under or over-allocating resources and set your project up for success.

3. Develop contingency plans

Anticipating potential resource constraints is crucial, but you should also prepare for unforeseen resource management issues. Establish a series of contingency plans so you’re ready to mitigate and respond to the unexpected.

4. Monitor time usage

Use a tracking tool to monitor the amount of time your team has to accomplish each task. Overseeing resource allocation, especially regarding repetitive tasks, alerts you to potential time crunches. This allows you to step in quickly and prevent schedule conflicts.

5. Prioritize effectively

Use a project roadmap or Gantt Chart to plot out task dependencies. Items on the critical path should take precedence in terms of resource allocation. For less integral tasks, use a priority matrix or other prioritization technique to evaluate items based on urgency and importance. Then schedule and allocate constrained resources accordingly.

6. Implement resource management software

Monitoring asset use is a time-intensive endeavor. Save yourself some effort by using resource management software or functionalities in your project management, keeping up with resource availability and utilization. Ensure the system includes features that offer real-time data for resource scheduling and leveling as necessary.

Tackling resource constraints with Roadmunk by Tempo

Breaking work down into an easy-to-read project roadmap provides a high-level view of the tasks your team needs to accomplish. With Roadmunk by Tempo, you can streamline processes and automate workflows to avoid task dependencies and delays, enabling smooth collaboration and productivity. And check out Tempo Timesheets for straightforward visualizations of your project’s size, scope, and resource requirements to realize your goals with maximum efficiency.