Resource Management Basics
Resource Management Basics

What is Resource Management?

7 min read

Have you ever been scheduled to too many projects at one time? It was likely obvious for you to see that you have more projects than hours in the day, but for other people in your organization, they probably had no idea. Resource management helps organizations avoid this problem. With successful resource management, organizations can make sure the right people are staffed on the right projects while also making sure that no one has more work than they can feasibly deliver. This might sound like a magic wand waved over your projects, but successful resource management delivers through clear processes and transparency. If you’re ready to get started or if you’d like to learn how to improve, keep reading to learn how resource management works and best practices you can start utilizing today.

What Is Resource Management?

Resource management is an aspect of the project management process that includes planning, organizing, managing, and measuring a resource’s efforts on a project. Its purpose is to plan, allocate and schedule an organization’s resources as efficiently as possible. To break down the definition of resource management further, let’s look at a few other key terms.

  • Resource – A resource in an organization is any asset needed to complete a project. Most often, a resource refers to a person, but a resource can also be inventory, machinery and even natural resources. As a resource, people can be more specifically broken down by individual, role or skill.
  • Capacity – Capacity is the total amount of time a resource can contribute to an organization. Capacity is often measured in Full-Time Equivalent (FTE), days, or man-hours. It’s important to understand when a resource is a person, their capacity isn’t just an eight-hour workday in a five-day workweek. People spend time answering emails, attending meetings and performing other administrative tasks. Additionally, people might only work part-time or take vacation time so you will need to account for all these activities in a person’s capacity.
  • Project Portfolio – A project portfolio is all the projects in an organization. A project portfolio is designed to provide a high-level view of all active and planned projects. Successful resource management means projects in a project portfolio are allocated in a way that ensures the work can get done.

What Does It Look Like?

Now that you understand what resource management is, let’s look at how resource management operates. While resource management can look a little different in every organization, there are generally three stages to resource management: (1) planning and estimating resource demands on projects in the portfolio, (2) prioritizing which projects get staffed first, allocating resources to projects and scheduling projects and resources, and (3) monitoring how resources are performing and resolving resources conflicts that arise in execution.

Stages for Managing Resources

During the planning and estimating stage, the required demand for projects is forecasted. Planning includes what specific skills are needed for each project and if there are specific individuals needed for the project. Once the forecasting is completed, the prioritizing, allocating and scheduling can begin. When assigning resources to projects (also called allocating), it’s important to prioritize the most important project first. This ensures that the most important projects in your project portfolio have the manpower they need to be completed. Good allocation also means that resources aren’t overbooked on projects. To achieve this, projects are scheduled only when resources have availability. Once projects are in motion, a resource manager may use leveling to resolve resource conflicts. Leveling is extending project deadlines or otherwise altering a project to match the actual available capacity of your resources. For example, if you don’t have enough developers available to finish a project on time, you will need to extend the deadline to work at the pace of the developers you do have available. By monitoring projects regularly, resource conflicts can be spotted and fixed more quickly.

Why Do I Need It?

There is a very clear breakdown that happens when organizations take on more projects. Individual project managers assign tasks, but there isn’t any effective coordination between project managers on exactly which people are being used and where. Because all resources are finite, it is extremely important that they are used in the most effective way possible. When people aren’t used effectively, it creates a massive amount of waste for organizations – wasted time, effort and money among other problems. If you want to know how effective the current use of your employees is, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are my projects finished on time without any employees working overtime?
  • Are my projects delayed because we are waiting for available employees?
  • Do I have difficulty finding available people for new projects?
  • Do I know how many resources I have and what skills are available to my organization?
Why Do I Need to Manage My Resources?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, it means either the resource management you’re currently doing isn’t as effective as it can be or that you don’t use any resource management at all. Regardless of which category you fall in, you can help create or improve resource management in your organization with a few best practices.

Resource Planning Best Practices

It should come as no surprise that studies about resource management show greater organizational performance as resource management matures. Despite this, many organizations still operate with a very basic level of resource management. While developing a mature resource management process in an organization is a long-term endeavor, use these best practices to get started:

  • Start small and grow incrementally – If you’re starting resource management processes in your organization, start with one department, program or office and slowly expand these practices organization-wide. Trying to start resource management company-wide will present many challenges that may inhibit success.
  • Have a centralized pool of resources – When you have an easily accessible list of resources with skills and availability, it will be much easier to schedule projects.
  • Make sure forecasts are as accurate as possible – When creating resource plans or forecasting resource demands, it’s important to fully understand the scope of the project, the types of skills required, and the actual availability and skills you have at your organization.
  • Project durations should be feasible – The length of time that’s estimated to finish a project should be based off the required resource demand and what resources are available.
  • Reallocate from low priority projects – If projects are in jeopardy and need more resources, first pull resources from low priority or non-critical projects before pulling from other high priority projects.
  • Allocate resources accurately – Overallocating resources doesn’t just mean people work overtime, it means projects are at serious risk of not being finished or exceeding budget. Make sure projects are staffed with resources that have availability. 
  • Assume a resource’s capacity is less than 100% – No one spends 100% of their job doing project work. Administrative things like answer emails and attending meetings cut into people’s availability, so plan accordingly.

PMOs: The Best Way to Improve Your Resource Management

While the best practices above will help address some of the common challenges of successful resource management, one of the best ways to develop resource management is with a Project Management Office or PMO. A PMO is a group or department within an organization that is responsible for the centralized and coordinated management of all projects. As the body that oversees the coordination of projects, the PMO is uniquely situated to effectively create resource management processes. A mature PMO has a bird’s eye view of all projects and available resources and will be able to allocate them effectively. While PMOs are not necessary to practice resource management, there is a strong connection between successful and mature PMOs and successful resource management.

Tackling Resource Management with a PMO

Resource management and the PMO are very closely linked. If you’d like to learn more about the Project Management Office, you can read our four-part blog series about the PMO, what it is, how it fits in your organization and how it can help you transform your organization.

Part 1: What Is a PMO and Why Do I Need It?
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Part 2: How the PMO Fits into Your Company
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Part 3: How to Get Your PMO Accepted by Your Company
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Part 4: Measure the Success of Your PMO
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