What is Resource Smoothing in Project Management?

woman using resource smoothing to deliver a project on time

As a project manager, meeting delivery deadlines is a top priority, but there are always challenges. You’re constantly juggling resources, time, and budget to get projects done on time. When you feel short on time and resources—that’s where resource smoothing comes into play.


What is Resource Smoothing?

Resource smoothing is used to optimize available resources in order to deliver a project by the deadline—usually a tight deadline. “Constrained scheduling” is another term for it. It’s a strategic balance of resource allocation that Project Managers use to ensure projects are delivered on time.


When Do You Need to Use Resource Smoothing?

Sometimes you simply don’t have all the resources you need available to you to complete a project. The key is adaptability. Resource smoothing comes in handy when there are team changes, employees going on vacation, the scope of a project changes, or priorities change. 


For example, if you’re creating a series of videos for a client on a tight deadline and your in-house video team is juggling scripting, preparing for the shoot, shooting, editing, and every other stage of the video process, it may be helpful to hire an extra shooter or an editor. You could hire them for one video or for the duration of the project. In this case, the cost of an additional person would be worth it to complete the project on time.


Forecast can help you with your capacity and resource planning by offering customized suggestions based on your team's data, powered by AI.


Resource Smoothing vs. Resource Leveling

Resource smoothing and resource leveling share a common goal: to optimize resource allocation. However, they differ in approach. Resource leveling adjusts deadlines to accommodate limited resources whereas resource smoothing adjusts resource allocation to meet deadlines. 


Resource leveling prioritizes maintaining consistent team workloads over a long period of time and adjusting deadlines according to the resources you have. If it’s not possible to change a deadline, you’ll use resource smoothing. When you can’t change the amount of resources you have, but have some wiggle room with deadlines, you’ll use resource leveling. 


Do you need more information on resource leveling? We’ve created a comprehensive guide to resource leveling. 


Benefits and Tradeoffs of Resource Smoothing

The main benefit of resource smoothing is completing tasks on time while keeping your team and clients satisfied. Resource smoothing enables Project Managers to meet strict delivery deadlines without overwhelming their teams. Resources are allocated efficiently while maintaining a balance between the demands of multiple projects. 


Of course, there are tradeoffs, you can’t just magically finish everything on time with limited resources. Resource smoothing may necessitate pushing back other work or projects in favor of the project with the most stringent deadline. In some cases, hiring contract employees will be required or other additional costs may occur.


When to Use Resource Smoothing

Resource smoothing shines in professional services industries, such as IT management services, marketing agencies, and consultancies. 


Here's a practical example:

Let’s say you run a marketing agency with several ongoing client projects and a new project with a strict delivery date. Instead of having to say no to a new project, resource smoothing can be applied to allocate resources optimally between these two categories. This ensures that your team doesn't get overwhelmed by the new project while still delivering quality work to your ongoing clients.


You likely use resource and capacity planning to ensure you’re not taking on more than you can handle, but sometimes it might be worth bringing in some supplemental resources so that you can take on a project that you wouldn’t be able to handle with your usual resources. 


Resource Management Software

Resource smoothing can be complex to manage manually. Resource management software makes resource allocation and capacity planning more efficient and intuitive. 


With resource management software, like Forecast, you can gain real-time insights into resource availability, allocate tasks strategically, and maintain a balance between project deadlines and your resource capacity. While Forecast keeps you up-to-date, you’ll have extra time to strategically pivot and make decisions about hiring additional contractors or making other adjustments. It's a game-changer in the world of project management.


In short, resource smoothing is a valuable technique that empowers project managers to deliver projects on time while optimizing resource allocation. By understanding its principles, benefits, and tradeoffs, and utilizing resource management software, you can navigate complex project landscapes with confidence.

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