5.1.1 What is Resource Allocation?


What is Resource Allocation?

In the context of TAM, resource allocation is the process of assigning scarce resources to investments in transportation assets. The assigned resources can be money, staff time, contractor capacity, equipment, or anything else that an organization requires for its assets. The investments can be capital projects, maintenance efforts, or other projects and activities that require the use of an organization’s resources through various delivery methods.

To the extent an organization is focused on preserving its existing transportation assets, ideally it will make investments consistent with the life cycle management approach for its assets as described in Chapter 4. However, organizations often lack the funding, staff, or other resources needed to achieve all of their goals and objectives, and must make hard decisions about how to divide resources while considering competing needs. If resources for existing assets are systematically constrained such that the life cycle management approach is simply not achievable, the resource allocation process may need to revise life cycle strategies or the overall life cycle management approach.

The approaches used for resource allocation vary. For instance, in considering how to allocate capital funding over multiple years, an organization may need to either prioritize projects or establish an overall budget for certain types of investment, depending on the specific context. In day-to-day allocation of operations and maintenance resources, the challenge is more tactical, as a manager assesses what staff, materials and equipment are immediately available, considers both internal forces and contract capacity, and puts these to the best possible use considering current conditions and challenges.

The output of the resource allocation process could be a specific assignment of resources or a plan for what capital projects to fund. In addition, the results of the resource allocation process may impact other plans and decisions related to TAM. To the extent the process involves allocating money, a financial plan may serve both as an input to the process (by specifying what funds are available) and an output of the process that details how funds will be spent. TAM financial planning is discussed further in Section 5.3.

Once an initial set of resource allocation decisions has been made, an organization may need to reconsider the best delivery option for planned work. Issues related to work planning and delivery are discussed further in Section 5.4.

All organizations practice resource allocation in some manner, whether formally or informally. By using a structured and repeatable approach for resource allocation, an organization improves its own resilience and ensures that it will continue to succeed even as new challenges arise and personnel changes over time. This chapter outlines an idealized approach to resource allocation an organization can use to help assess how it allocates resources, and how best to improve its process.

It also describes various processes closely related to resource allocation, such as risk management, financial planning and work planning and delivery.