Guide: How to achieve excellent team utilization and still keep your team motivated

8 min read

One of the main KPIs to track in a services / project-based business is utilization levels. Through this measure, you’re able to track progress, compare and identify potential problems along the way. However, what exactly is team utilization, and what is the best level of utilization to target - is the ultimate goal always 100%? Moreover, what does this mean for your business in a more practical sense?

What is utilization?

Utilization means ‘time spent working’, and is thus a measure of time spent productively - an effective utilization of available time. There are various ways to track this time and different methods and definitions of utilized time. It varies from business to business, but what is most important is that you keep a consistent process of tracking utilization. Define and develop the right method for you, and maintain this method consistently to ensure a proper way of comparing from phase to phase and across teams and the industry.

Overall, there are three methods of measuring utilization levels. The method of choice depends on your business and preferences.

Resource Utilization - Utilization means ‘time spent working’, and is thus a measure of time spent productively - an effective utilization of available time. There are various ways to track this time and different methods and definitions of utilized time. It varies from business to business, but what is most important is that you keep a consistent process of tracking utilization. Define and develop the right method for you, and maintain this method consistently to ensure a proper way of comparing from phase to phase and across teams and the industry.

Overall, there are three methods of measuring utilization levels. The method of choice depends on your business and preferences.

Billable Utilization - Billable Utilization measures the total billable time spent on a client project or task. This method excludes any internal projects or business development, which might be a part of the schedule as well. Thus, the utilization levels calculated with the Billable Utilization method will naturally almost always be lower than the Resource Utilization method. Taking this into consideration, an appropriate level to target would probably be between 70-80%, since there will always be time spent on other important tasks that are not directly linked to a client.

Realization - The Realization measure is basically a measure of how much time was spent directly bringing revenue into the business. Thus, this measure is directly linked to the turnover and profitability of each client. Similar to the billable utilization method, it excludes both internal projects, tasks, and business development time.

  • Utilization Rate = (Billable Hours) / (Available Hours)
  • Realization Rate = (Total Billed Hours) / (Total Available Hours)
  • Minimum to Bill Clients = (Cost of Operations) / (Total Billable Hours)

Tracking and measuring utilization correctly


Through Forecast, you can easily extract some of these numbers by merely going to the ‘Insights’ section, and set up an insight with the portfolio utilization component. Here you’ll get a configurable list of people utilization data for the entire account, e.g. available, scheduled, and registered hours.

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Following is a list of 4 steps to use scheduling for a higher utilization with Forecast.

Schedule is the place to plan out, and allocate your people to projects. We've had two main focus points in mind regarding the User Interface (UI) of the Schedule view. Our goal is to give you a visually scalable overview of your schedule.

The two main views in scheduling are People & Projects, from where you can manage your entire portfolio of projects and where you can view your teams and their tasks. This makes it possible for you to adjust the schedule per your business needs, allocating people to projects, or allocating projects to people.

From the People View, you'll seethe Heat Map, where you can easily understand the utilization of your team members - whether they are over, under, or perfectly allocated. Alternatively, from the Projects view, see the progress of your tasks/projects. From both places, you can create things like; tasks, milestones, or allocations. Remember to use Chrome for best performance.



Step 1: Get an overview of the current status

Go to Schedule. Select the Project view. In Project view, you immediately get an overall look of your fully populated pipeline. Projects are organized in ascending order, according to the start date of a project, so you’ll always know which project is coming up next

Expand All
Click on the global drop-down arrow button to expand on all projects, and get an instant snapshot of all that your project encompasses; Milestones, Tasks and the Team assigned to the project.

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Scrolling Down the Timeline
You can also slip and slide across your timeline to view past and future tasks or projects. If you want to return to the present quickly, just click on the Today button.

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Adjusting Project Dates
Has the start or end date changed on a project? No problem, just drag the whole project along the timeline. Don’t worry about the milestones they will follow along with it. Hint: you can also just adjust the milestone(s) or task(s).

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Project Progress
The progress bar of a project is represented by the main bar, which is anchored next to the project name across the timeline above all milestones and tasks. At the end of the project progress bar, you will find the percentage of completion and the total remaining hours of the project. As your team advances in a project, these numbers will adjust according to the rate of completion.

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Step 2: Allocate people to reach 100% utilization

Reaching a 100% utilization level of the workforce is the target of most companies. However, achieving this level requires accurate time estimations, excellent scheduling skills, and generally a good management process. Wouldn’t it be great with a system that could assist your assumptions and help in the process?

In People view, you get an overview of your individual team members’ workload, which assists you in anticipating potential bottlenecks. The first thing you’ll notice in the people view is, of course, the heatmap in the center of the screen. To the left of the heatmap, you'll find a full list of your Team members. And above your team list, you'll find the Total Resource Utilization bar and a collection of Unassigned Tasks tab.

 

The Heatmap

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Total Resource Utilization Bar
At the very top of the heatmap you  will find the total of your team members utilization represented in percentages. As you start allocating your team members, this bar will reflect the rate of utilization within a given period, and as you adjust the zoom level of the heat map, the percentage will adapt accordingly. This percentage bar gives you an immediate overview of your teams' utilization rate.

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Step 3: Assign remaining tasks to people and balance workload among team members

 

Unassigned Tasks
On the top left hand side, below People & Project, you'll find the Unassigned Task Tab. In this tab, you'll find all of the tasks you had not assigned to your team when you initially scoped your project(s).

Click to expand on the Unassigned Task Tab and display all of your unassigned tasks, which will be grouped by role.

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Unassigned tasks are grouped and housed within these purple tabs (see below). Each one represents the total sum of hours needed to complete the tasks as well as the number of people needed to complete these tasks, which is represented by a person icon.

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Expanding on a desired roll will display all of the unassigned tasks that pertain to that roll.

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Assigning Unassigned Tasks
These unassigned tasks can be assigned directly to a team member by either dragging the task to a team member below. Unassigned Tasks can also be assigned to a team member by clicking directly on the task to open it. Both options allow you to efficiently allocate all of your remaining task form this single view.

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Unassigned Tasks can also be assigned to a team member by clicking directly on the task to open it. Both options allow you to efficiently allocate all of your remaining task form this single view.

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Split Screen
For better navigation, we've split the screen into two separate windows, the top for Unassigned tasks and bottom for your people. Meaning, that you can expand or change the size of each window per your preference, but of course, being able to see both.

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Step 4: Use Resource Utilization insights

Using software like Forecast that connects projects, resources, and timelines helps you ensure that projects are delivered on time.

A resource utilization report can quickly show you the current level of utilization across the organization and selected projects. You can easily see the total available time in comparison to the allocated time for the project and non-project time. As time registrations are available in Forecast, you can quickly see how time stacks up.

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Utilizing your resources is paramount to running a stable and profitable business. Having everything linked in one single software will give you a one-truth hub for the information you need to take action on. Forecast intelligently connects your time, budget, and scheduling to provide you with a broader perspective. Allocating and assigning your team members is easier when you know what is going on, what's coming up, and whether your projects are over- or under allocated. You can easier take action if a project might suddenly be heading towards a cliff.

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