Agency resource planning and management guide

Agency resource management

Agency resource planning and management processes help you align the right people with available project work. Doing it well leads to happy, productive agency teams committed to delivering high-quality client outcomes. Project success and satisfied clients will naturally follow. That means a greater chance of repeat business and referrals for your agency.

Sounds appealing, right?

In this article, we share everything you need to get started, including:

8 benefits of agency resource management and planning today

Investing in resource planning and management won’t just help your agency stay ahead in the present moment. It’ll also produce improvements that give direction to your team and boost your bottom line over time.

Let’s dig deeper:

1. Increase profitability

Resource management means your team will know precisely what to work on and when—without excessive meetings or admin. Fewer meetings make it easier to allocate resource time to billable projects. More billable hours and projects mean revenue: revenue means profit.

Your agency will also experience less resource wastage. If you can forecast capacity, you’ll know who’s available and when. So you won’t hire unnecessary and expensive specialists when you have in-house resources. 

2. Boost team performance and productivity

Resource management and planning help workload planning. Workload planning helps you better align people’s skill sets against the work available. That leads to increased productivity and better deliverables because people work to their strengths rather than weaknesses.

It also creates happier employees, simply because people will be working on what they’re good at and what they enjoy.

Prioritizing resource management and planning for your agency will also help you focus on fair resource allocation. Better resource allocation prevents burnout, keeping teams healthy and productive. 

3. Map out flexible plans for future projects

Agency life is competitive and changeable, which can make it difficult to plan for future projects. You might need to re-shift resources if clients are lost or if you gain new clients, for example. 

If you can get your resource planning and management up to speed, you can stay nimble. That means you’ll respond rather than react to changes in project demands related to resource needs. 

4. Guarantee happy clients

With people and projects aligned, deadlines (and the quality of deliverables) won’t slip. Consistently delivering high-quality work on time builds client trust.

Plus, satisfied clients who trust your agency are more likely to:

  • Refer you to their network (which means new business)
  • Renew their contracts (which means repeat business and more predictable revenue)
  • Be open to upselling or expanding (which means more revenue)

 5. Improve work-life balance

Better resource planning and management leads to better agency work-life balance. The nature of the agency beast means that sometimes agency teams end up burning the candle at both ends.

It’s a highly fast-paced and changeable environment with multiple clients and project types. That can lead to occasionally working lunches, evenings, and weekends. But when that becomes the norm? Houston, we have a problem. 

With proper planning and management in place, you can juggle client needs and protect your team’s time. 

6. Decrease burnout

This benefit is tied to the point above. Agency burnout is prevalent.

Intense workloads with little planning and poor systems and processes can put your team at risk of burnout. It may even cause them to leave your agency. Seriously, burnout is one of the leading causes of low employee retention. 

Staffing shortages are already a major challenge for agencies. So it makes sense to bolster your resource management and planning processes to protect your team’s well-being and retain existing talent.  

7. Ward off agency competition

Let’s talk about agency competition. Research shows agency growth is on the rise. For example, one agency industry report shows that the number of digital agencies in the US grew 54% from 2018 to 2023.

A growing market could mean more choices, which could cause potential clients to shop around. Having solid agency resource management and planning can help ensure teams have enough capacity to (successfully) jump on RFPs and new business pitches. It will also help agencies pull together realistic team planning, timelines, and budget proposals. 

8. Mitigate the risk of client churn

Client churn can be a common issue for agencies. (For context,  nearly 40% of brands already consider switching agencies.) 

The good news? Even if you offer similar services as your competitors, improving your agency resource and management can set you apart. That’s simply because planning and prioritizing your team’s efforts will create better client experiences. And better client experiences will help you retain business as competition grows.  

8 key challenges of resource management for agencies

Agencies that prioritize resource planning and management will reap the rewards. But common challenges may make it harder to get it right. From capacity planning to poor processes, here are some common blockers.

1. Trying to manage client expectations

As an agency, clients expect you to deliver high-quality work within tight deadlines. The more clients you have on your roster, the better for your sales pipeline.

But your team’s bandwidth may be stretched thin. That adds a new difficulty setting to the agency resource allocation and capacity planning game.

2. Not having the right skills available 

Agencies must have the right mix of talent on their project team to meet the demands of their clients. That means you need to constantly evaluate your staffing needs. 

As a priority, you need the right people with the right skills and experience for each project. If your agency has talent gaps, you may need to onboard extra talent (like freelancers) to your project team. 

3. Lacking forecasts for budgets and resources

No matter what your agency does, you must manage your project budgets effectively. Long story short, you don’t want to overspend or undercharge clients. 

Process-wise, it’s common to use a project budget spreadsheet (no judgment from us—we love spreadsheets). Most of your data is in one place, which is a win, but the downside is that spreadsheets are harder to scale. 

Resource forecasting (estimating your resource needs over a given period) is a key part of budgeting as an agency. The more clients and talent you have, the harder it becomes to manually forecast resources. 

4. Clear goals don’t exist

We get it—establishing clear client goals can be tricky. But here’s the thing: if you don’t set clear goals from the start, you can’t create a clear action plan. Without a clear action plan, you can’t plan your team’s time. That means you’re limiting the chance of project success from the start. 

Unclear goals also leave you wide open to:

  • Wasted resources (it turns out you didn’t need to onboard that new web developer after all)
  • The dreaded scope creep (clients keep asking for work that feels outside of the project scope, but it’s hard to tell because a clear scope of work—including goals— wasn’t signed off in the first place)
  • Constantly shifting priorities (your team doesn’t know how to use their time effectively, and it’s causing avoidable stress)  
  • Overburdened resources (a fast track to burnout-ville which may cause costly project delays)

5. Tricky capacity planning

Many agencies find capacity planning challenging due to a lack of team visibility—especially in remote teams. 

Without resource visibility, it’s harder to: 

  • Know who’s available across teams and projects
  • Identify the specific skills you already have available within the team

Then, when team members don’t track their time effectively, you can’t get an accurate picture of their available hours. That means you might schedule too much of their time, which puts them over capacity. 

6. Allocating resources incorrectly 

Running an agency of any kind means you’re probably managing multiple clients and projects simultaneously. Because your team may have competing projects, resource allocation becomes a delicate balancing act.

On the one hand, you need to protect your team’s well-being and time (by not over-allocating them). On the other, you need to meet project and wider agency needs. 

Both are key to keeping your agency running smoothly and preventing project failure. But getting that balance right can be tough. 

7. Poor processes

Here’s a little secret: not all agency systems and processes are created equal. Some have standardized procedures and work like well-oiled machines. Then, some agencies (understandably) don’t have the time to dig into this area. 

Maybe you’re a newer agency with a small team. If you’re the CEO, you’re likely focusing your efforts on building a reliable client list. You’ve got to keep the lights on, after all. But manually planning resources or tracking billable hours can become time-consuming. Then relying on spreadsheets (even with formulas) doesn’t allow growth because they don’t always scale well. 

8. Missing a resource management tool (or still using spreadsheets)

Without a resource management tool,  trying to streamline capacity planning and resource management tasks costs time and causes headaches. Software with capacity planning features will make it easier for teams to track their time. That means you can quickly get a handle on billable hours. 

If you’re experiencing any of these challenges with your agency resource planning and management, Resource Guru’s agency software can help.

Signs of poor resource management in agencies

So, how can you tell if you’re facing these resourcing challenges?

Here are some telltale signs it’s time to work on your agency resource management and planning:

6 stages of resource planning and management in agencies 

So, how do you take your resource planning and management to the next level?

Here are six stages to consider when planning and managing resources for your agency, to help you prevent any issues (or tackle any existing challenges).  

Stage 1: Resource estimation

Resource estimation is the process of forecasting who you’ll need for your project and how much you’ll need them. We suggest looking at your sales pipeline, scheduled resources, delivery backlog, and typical hiring timelines to do this effectively.

Sales pipeline

Your sales pipeline will provide insight into who’s moving from a prospect to a signed and sealed client. Use these insights to spot which new projects are coming up and any client requirements. Then consider what resources you’ll need to meet these upcoming project demands. 

Scheduled resources

As an agency, you must often be nimble to stay competitive. That means knowing who you have available, their skillset, and whether they’re at capacity.

An example: Let’s say you need a specialist like a full-stack developer for an upcoming mobile app build. Maybe you have one in-house. If so, do they have available capacity for the upcoming project? If not, can you re-distribute the workload within the team to free them up, or do you need to hire a contractor?

Pro tip: A resource management tool that lets you index and search skills will save you time and stress. A skills log lets you quickly find the best resource for a given task based on skills and experience.

Screenshot of Resource Guru's resource management software, showing how you can filter by skills.

Easily filter between skills in Resource Guru.

Delivery backlog

In the planning stage, look at your delivery backlog. You’ll get the heads up about who’s currently being assigned where. You can then give realistic project timelines to new clients. If you need to get things moving quickly, you can reprioritize the team workload or hire more resources. 

Typical hiring timelines

Revisiting your typical hiring timelines will help you plan how long it could take to find new resources. You can then factor that time into your resource planning and management processes for a given project. 

Pro tip: Project scheduling software will help you quickly schedule your project timelines. But it’ll also keep a record, making it much easier to forecast hiring time for future projects. 

Stage 2: Resource allocation

A resource allocation process helps you manage your team over the full project. It’s how you continuously weigh up your project timeline, goals, and milestones against the available team and resources. 

Project needs and resource availability may change as the project unfolds (or as you onboard new clients.) So your resource allocation plan needs to have an element of flexibility, while giving employees an expectation of how to use their time. 

To create a resource allocation plan, consider:

  • What information did you gain during the resource estimation stage?
  • Which talent has the right skill set for the project tasks?
  • Is the talent available? Do they have availability in their schedule?
  • What days and times are they free to work on the project?
  • What variables determine when a resource is needed or not?

Pro tip: Adopting a human-first allocation process will help keep projects on track and prioritize your team’s well-being. That’ll mean satisfied clients and a happy team delivering high-quality work throughout. 

Stage 3: Resource scheduling 

Now you know who you need and how much you’ll need them, it’s time to schedule tasks for your team. 

When scheduling resources, consider the following:

  • Project timeline, milestones, and work required 
  • Any specific skills needed for tasks and subtasks
  • Available hours of your resources (factoring in part-time or full-time working hours) 
  • Scheduled time off (including national holidays) and admin time
  • Unforeseen time off, like sickness 
  • Time zone differences 

You can use the above to make a flexible schedule plan for your agency team. Of course, sometimes project timelines change, or you meet a roadblock. But a flexible resource schedule is better than no schedule at all. You can tailor the plan as the project progresses.  

Pro tip: Adopt a realistic utilization goal when scheduling resources—an 80% utilization rate will keep your team healthy and productive. A resource scheduling tool with automated utilization rates will let you know when your team is over or under capacity. 

Stage 4: Resource optimization

In the execution phase, your project picture becomes clearer. In the same way you can improve your project plans as they travel from hypotheticals to reality, you can also optimize resource usage. 

Part of resource optimization is adjusting workload based on client needs and team availability. But remember, open communication is critical to project success. So check in with your team before you start optimizing schedules. If a team member seems under-allocated, ask how they feel about their workload before assigning significant tasks to their plate. 

Resource utilization is also something to factor in here. Your utilization data can help you analyze whether you use resources effectively and efficiently to meet project objectives.

Pro tip: Your resource plan should evolve with the project and broader agency needs. Utilization reports will help you optimize resources throughout the project lifespan. You’ll gain a bird’s eye view of teams and individuals that are crucial to your project. You can then respond to bottlenecks and balance your resource utilization. 

Stage 5: Resource monitoring and control

Project monitoring and control are key components to running your project smoothly. Part of this process includes tracking the use of resources and making adjustments as needed. 

Doing so will help you mitigate risk and catch bottlenecks early. That could include finding alternative resources if you have a talent gap. Or adjusting the project schedule if key team members are over-utilized. 

Stage 6: Evaluation

Evaluating progress and successes throughout the project life cycle is good practice. You’ll likely be revisiting utilization rates and profitability regularly. Then, you can amend plans and optimize your team’s billable hours without exceeding the budget. 

Evaluation is also the best practice for project closure. At the end of a project, you’ll gain insights for future projects—like how to make them more profitable. To evaluate your agency’s resource planning and management, ask yourself these questions:

  • Was anyone consistently over-allocated?
  • Was anyone under-utilized?
  • Did the project take longer than planned due to unavailable resources?

Pro tip: We recommend conducting a profitability analysis for your project closure evaluation. A tool with in-built project forecasting reports will show you the percentage of time spent on non-billable work. It’ll also show you whether you over or under-serviced your client. 

What to look for in an agency resource planning and management tool

So you want to reinvest your hard-earned profits into an agency resource planning and management tool? To get the highest return on investment, look out for these features.

 

Agency resource planning and management: the summary 

If you’re struggling with low employee retention, reduced team performance, or high client turnover, it’s time to prioritize resource management. Aside from mitigating risk, you’ll also create better outcomes—increased profits, boosted team performance, and happier clients, to name a few. 

You can save yourself time, money, and a boatload of stress with resource management software. Use a tool that easily tracks billable hours and utilization rates to get the highest return on investment. You’ll also want software with reports and dashboards to plan, manage and evaluate resources in one place.

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