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Sep 12

Solving common challenges in resource allocation in Jira

Allocation is one of the most popular resource management strategies where you assign work to people or non-human assets to a project. As straightforward as it may sound, resource allocation can get a few wrong turns and pose several challenges. But with BigPicture, you can easily take care of resource allocation in Jira and deal with the common issues related to this strategy. (If you are not ready to start the 30-day trial yet, we encourage you to visit the demo page, where you can try all the BigPicture features. The demo app runs inside the browser, so you do not need to install anything or create an account).

Related: How to balance your resources using BigPicture

How to allocate resources in Jira?

The BigPicture PPM comes with a module that is fully dedicated to resources called the Resources module. It is not only for checking and managing all your resources’ absences, holidays, and workload but also for assigning and re-assigning tasks to your resources.

Let’s start with the allocation process for individual resources.

Allocating individuals

Once you have your project and tasks in place, you can begin assigning the work. You can do so in three ways.

  • Add the resource to the Assignee field. With this method, you follow the Jira-style task assignment process by adding the resource directly to the Assignee Jira field inside the task. You can do it when adding a new task or by editing the existing one.
  • In-line edit the Assignee field in the task detail dialog. Click on the task in the Resources module to prompt the dialog box. And then assign the resource directly to the task. Unlike the first method, there is no need to go back to Jira to edit the task.
  • Drag and drop the task to the resource. In the Resources module, enable the “Tasks” in the view. Then, choose the task you want to assign and drag it to the resource of your choice.

Hint: There is a risk you might accidentally change the task period when dropping the task. If you deal with a high volume of tasks, we recommend using the previous method (in-line editing of the Assignee field).

Task dragging and dropping in BigPicture’s Resources module.

Allocating teams

You can use the drag and drop method to allocate tasks or stories to teams, too. To do this, you first need to switch to the “Teams view” in the Resources module. And then, move the tasks to the respective teams.

Click the “team view” icon in the upper menu to allocate tasks or stories to your teams.

Moreover, you can also use the Kanban board for task allocation. This method is convenient if you manage Agile or hybrid projects. The board features issue cards, which you can drag and drop between the teams to assign work.

Jira resource allocation using the BigPicture’s Kanban board.

Challenges in resource allocation (and how to overcome them)

Let’s say you have a new project to launch and a group of specialists to work on. As you begin resource allocation in Jira, you focus on matching the people with the most relevant skills to the respective task. It takes a while but, eventually, you are done with adding people to tasks and phases to ensure your project runs smoothly. Job is done, right?

—Not even remotely.

The project (or resource) management reality is harsher than expected, as many issues could pop up at any time. Especially if several projects run in parallel in your organization and you “compete” for resources.

Common challenges in resource allocation in Jira.

Those challenges could range from conflicting resource priorities, unrealistic workloads, and hard allocations to inadequate information on what resources are available. And all of these could significantly impact your organization’s effectiveness. So let’s explore some of the most common aspects that could negatively impact resource allocation in Jira and find out how BigPicture can help you deal with them.

Resource capacity

What is capacity? Capacity is the amount of work one person can deliver on time and within budget. Organizations often do not know how to measure their resources’ capacity. Or, the management tools they use do not provide them with sufficient insights into their resources’ capacities and available skills (roles).

But BigPicture app can provide you with all the necessary insights regarding the capacity of your individual and group resources. You will find the information you need in the Resources module.

Checking resource capacity

As we mentioned before, the overall capacity is the amount of work one resource can deliver over a specific time. In BigPicture, you define the individual’s workload (working days and hours) in the Workload plan. At the same time, the time is affected by the non-working days such as holidays (Holiday plan) and absences (Absence plan). These three plans impact the individual’s and the team’s capacity. That is because the team’s capacity depends on the individual members’ capacities.

How will you know if you have met or exceeded an individual’s or team’s capacity? BigPicture will tell you. The app can indicate the following capacity thresholds: underallocation with the green color; moderate allocation with orange; and overallocation with red.

If there are tasks that you have not assigned to anyone yet, the app will sum the effort required for their completion. You can also check the effort for an individual task, too. This way, you can assign the task to the person who still can take it (based on their remaining capacity).

Here, you can see the total workload and remaining capacity for the unassigned tasks and for the individual people for each week. You can select which value you want to track in the Resources view.

If you exceed the capacity, you will see not only capacity bars in red but also negative values indicating by how much you have exceeded the threshold.

The threshold numbers indicate the allocation capacity for individual resources or teams (depending on the view).

There are two more ways to check current capacity. First, you can enable a separate Resource panel (Gantt module) showing the capacity under the Gantt chart for all your project resources.

Resource Panel and a Gantt chart.

Recommended: Team capacity planning using the Board

Or, use the Teams module where you can check individual team members’ availability in percent values. The team member’s availability means the percentage of their working hours that you assign to the team. Here, the individual team member’s availability impacts the overall team’s capacity.

Resources availability

What if you need someone with rare skills that you and other projects will require? Or equipment that only a few institutions in the world have. Or some of your team members can carry out their work only in specific in-demand locations? In such a case, you are dealing with so-called “hard allocation.”

In other words, there is a commitment between the resource and task that you cannot change. And although you may have very little influence over hard allocation, you may at least know who (or what) is available and when. And then—plan and assign work accordingly. Availability is also critical when your team member becomes unavailable; when you need to share a resource with another project; or when you need to allocate a niche role to a task.

Holiday and workload plans

BigPicture’s Resource manager feature provides a holistic overview of an individual resource assigned to a project. It will let you quickly look up current workload plan which, if you have security permission, you will be able to modify or create a new one. You can also add multiple workload plans to a single person to cater to their irregular or part-time employment.

Moreover, the Resource manager is your go-to place for checking resource availability with regard to their holidays and absences, as well as the tasks they need to complete (as part of the team). The Resource manager can list all the resources and their plans and skills. Or, list only the individuals to give you more comprehensive details (example view in the screenshot below).

Resource manager in BigPicture for an individual resource. The timeline in the upper right corner visualizes the holiday and workload plans, as well as absences for a given resource. Here, you also manage the individual plans and absences.

Moreover, you can refer to the timeline in the Resources module and compare it against the capacity. If the given resource has a capacity below the maximum for a given period (green or orange), it means they are available for more work.

Ekaterina’s workload is zero (she has no tasks for a given period yet).

Overall assignment and tasks

Let’s say you have a person whose capacity is green because they still have 40 hours of remaining capacity. So you assign them a task that takes only 15 hours. Later, you discover they cannot complete this task because this person is already busy elsewhere (shared resource). How can you know it earlier and make allocations more accurate?

The answer is the Enterprise feature that lets you track the overall assignment for all your resources. What does this feature do? It shows all the tasks from all the initiatives for each resource. It also adjusts the capacity based on the tasks from other projects. In other words, it goes beyond the scope of your project and gives you a complete picture of the resource status.

So if the task belongs to the scope of your project, you will be able to drag and drop it to assign it to another person. But if it does not (light gray color task), you will not be able to move it to make some room for your tasks.

Let’s take a look at the example.

The Overall Assignment feature.

Here, Angela’s capacity is green as she still has 25.7 hours left for allocation. The “Tasks” view shows 5 tasks under her name for Week 31. But when you enable the “Overall assignment,” you will notice that her Remaining Capacity has changed to 17.7 hours. That is because Angela has a few more tasks from another project on her plate (light blue and green). In other words, the “Overall assignment” gave a full picture on her Remaining Capacity and tasks.

Availability visualization with a Gantt chart

Gantt charts (or bar charts) provide a clear visual overview of the project elements and resources. With the work breakdown structure (WBS), you can divide project activities into different components (or levels) and assign resources to each. Then, the Gantt chart will tell you what and when you have scheduled and whom you have assigned to it. Bar charts account for the flow of the tasks, including the interdependent tasks, the order of their execution, and the resources responsible for them.

On a Gantt chart, you can quickly look up tasks, the start and end dates, and assignees.

Resources skills

Normally, each project calls for various skills (roles). You can create and assign different roles, such as Developer, Project Manager, or Designer, to your existing resources. Skills will help you set the default capacity, working hours, etc., for different roles.

Skills Panel

The Skills Panel is part of the Resources module. It displays a list of skills (roles) that respective tasks need for completion. Moreover, thanks to the time/story points aggregation, you will know how much skill-related effort you need for all the tasks you have planned for a particular period.

Here, the project manager skill is overallocated during the respective periods.

If there is a problem with allocating a certain skill, the app will display the capacity in red. Depending on the view settings, you will also see the workload and the remaining capacity for this skill.

Related

Perfect match

BigPicture can suggest the particular resource for allocation based on their skill set and remaining capacity. This way, you will not have to look for the available people with the right skills manually. To use the Find the perfect match feature, find the task in the Resources module you want to assign and click on it to prompt the task details. Then, click on the icon next to the Assignee and pick the person from the drop-down list. This feature works for both individual and team resources.

A Perfect Match feature for resource allocation in Jira.

Resource risks

Resource risk exists in every project. Uncertainties like not having the right people when your project needs them or productivity issues are real. That is why knowing what could go wrong and planning for different scenarios is very important when allocating resources in Jira.

You can quickly identify issues ahead of time by visualizing the allocation risks and tracking your resource availability and capacity. This way, you can swap resources when one becomes unavailable; allocate more to meet the deadlines; and change the allocations on the fly to deal with resource sharing and hard allocations.

Risk matrix

When you identify and assess the risks concerning resource allocation for your project, you can put them on the risk matrix. The Risks module in BigPicture provides everything you need to let you visualize all your allocation (and non-allocation) risks.

You can represent risks on the matrix in two ways: either as the “standalone” risks describing potential allocation problems; or as project tasks that you believe carry some risks (e.g., the task requires a niche skill that could become unavailable).

The risk matrix features risks associated with the project (here: “As a user, I want to…”) and a risk dedicated solely to resource allocation (PP-855).

Scenario mode

When allocating resources or running a project, there could be some guesswork.

The Scenario mode lets you pre-empt and prepare for changes that could occur during the resource allocation in Jira. You can test hypothetical resource scenarios to visualize impacts on your project, resources, roles, schedule, and portfolio without altering your live data. So if you want to test your project for availability, capacity, or skill deficiencies, BigPicture’s Scenario mode will help you.

Starting the Scenario mode in the Resources module.

About The Author

Content writer at BigPicture. Previously, Aggie worked for SaaS companies writing specifically about eCommerce and marketing. As a continuous learner and advocate for knowledge-sharing, she creates content for beginners as well as more advanced readers. She loves clean plant-based food and morning workouts.