What Is Resource Management?
Resource management is the practice of planning, scheduling, and allocating people, money, and technology to a project or program. In essence, it is the process of allocating resources to achieve the greatest organizational value. Good resource management results in the right resources being available at the right time for the right work.
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Resources are essential to reach your goal, whether that be completing a task or a project or helping you analyze what is necessary to do so. Resources are finances, staff, physical space, equipment, technology, and time. The goal of resource management is to use the best combination of resources to satisfy requirements while also realizing these same resources are likely in demand elsewhere in the business.
Gartner believes that successful initiative completion rides on balancing available resources against demand, saying, “Leaders must enable careful initiative prioritization, prevent resource overload, and promote flexible completion timing to maximize value delivery.”
To understand how to best utilize shared and limited resources, you need visibility into demand and capacity, as well as required skills for particular work versus available skills. You must consider schedules, budgets, and alignment with corporate strategy to make sure you are prioritizing resources across the portfolio to maximize its value. All of this and more fits under the resource management umbrella.
The Basics of Resource Management
Resource management is critical for organizations to ensure they are optimizing and allocating resources to the right initiatives – the initiatives that are aligned to corporate strategy and bring the most value. By minimizing waste and duplication, streamlining and automating processes, and maximizing and speeding throughput, the enterprise is in a better position to respond quickly to customer demands and be nimble to change. Program and project delivery demand better resource management.
Regardless of work methodology, leaders seeking to practice effective resource management must balance demand with capacity while also understanding the needs of the business to prioritize, plan, and schedule work with the right teams, people, and skill sets. Gartner says that the opportunity and challenge for leaders is to “respond and move from a static to an agile planning approach, one that can continually reshape the workforce to incorporate changes in business and skill needs.”
With increasing demand and change, continuously delivering value with resources is not easy, even for the most mature organizations. It is a common and constant challenge for the enterprise: Making sure there are enough of the right resources and funding on hand to complete work well and on time. And that is where evolved resource management can help.
Why Is Resource Management Important?
Resource management is all about transparency so you can see, monitor, and attain what is required to deliver projects. It also enables you to minimize both idle time and overutilization of resources. With full visibility both work and resources, you can more effectively schedule, plan, and manage your resources, aligning them with the right projects at the right time.
It is easy to see the importance of resource management by understanding the disadvantage of not having it. Without the right data, resource managers have little control over their projects and no way of understanding:
- Planning and scheduling – Understanding what resources are available and when
- Available and required skills – Assessing the skills of each person and whether additional skills (or people) need to be added
- Resource utilization – Knowing where people are already committed and if those allocations are appropriate
- Resource capacity – Understanding true capacity to do work, recognizing that not all time can be utilized
- Resource prioritization and allocation – Identifying those prioritized initiatives that the most attention and possibly specialized skills
Resource management ensures resource managers have on-demand, real-time visibility into people and other resources so they can have greater control over delivery.
When you execute resource management properly, you can help your organization reduce costs, improve efficiencies, and boost productivity.
You also reduce risk, seeing potential resource conflicts early on for more responsive mitigation, typically by reprioritizing projects or resources.
In this fast-evolving, high-demand world, these benefits are exactly what the enterprise is looking for and one that the Project Management Office (PMO) and / or resource managers can deliver if given the right tools and process to follow.
Keep in mind that resources are not only the people; resources are also the:
- Technology / tools needed to enable people to execute tasks
- Budget required to fund the project
- Locations and specialized equipment
Resource management also demands a close inspection of schedules and timelines. It is important to bring all of these elements together with the goals of the business.
Benefits of Resource Management
For many organizations, resource management seems like an elusive goal where success is just out of reach. A common misconception is that resource management requires a large investment and a radical shift in process and culture.
Organizations that focus on establishing or improving their resource management capability reap benefits nearly immediately. While these benefits may vary depending on the organization and the steps taken, it is common to discover that projects are more frequently delivered on time and on budget.
When you have the data you need to plan and schedule, you can allocate people based on their skills and availability. Managers are able to set the right expectations with their customers when they understand current workloads, timelines, priorities, and budgets.
Instead of saying yes to everything with no regard to capacity, resource managers can more accurately schedule projects based on realistic, real-time data. Resource managers can make smarter decisions about how to staff their teams, both in terms of headcount and required skills to execute current and upcoming projects.
There is another key benefit derived from having the right resources working on the right projects at the right time: happier employees. A common challenge companies face is having too few people to work on too many projects.
Over-utilized employees quickly become frustrated and disheartened. They feel overwhelmed with their workloads, which frequently results in disengagement, decreased productivity, and poor performance.
With more predictability and consistency, attainable workloads, and optimally utilized skill sets, employees are more apt to feel valued and satisfied.
Resource management helps organizations optimize people, providing insight into their workloads, availability, project time requirements, skills, and more.
Organizations can arm their managers with what they need to appropriately and fairly allocate projects to the right resources.
For the majority of companies, the biggest project cost is people. If the wrong people are working on the wrong projects, costs escalate, while delivery declines.
Resource management brings control to the chaos, ensuring managers are equipped to maximize resources and reduce unnecessary costs. You have the data you need to understand project and personnel costs for more accurate budgeting and planning. You are also able to maintain an ideal team of people – optimizing resources across projects based on skills and capacity.
Ultimately, the greatest benefit of resource management is the effective and efficient delivery of projects to the end customer. Customer satisfaction improves when teams are able to fulfill project requests on time and as expected. Confidence in the ability to execute projects builds momentum, becoming a differentiator and providing a strategic advantage.
Resource Management Techniques
While resources span multiple categories, people are the most complex to manage because there are so many elements that play into how they can best be optimized, including skill sets, availability, location and cost. Organizations use the following resource management techniques to maximize resource efficiency, often relying on software to provide transparency to help leaders make smarter resource decisions.
Resource allocation involves more than just assigning resources to projects. It considers the skills your team brings to the table along with their availability. Allocation reports will enable you to filter resources by skills and capacity so you can not only see who is available now but also when certain skills will be available in the future for better planning and fewer delays.
Resource utilization is a resource management technique that enables you to gain visibility into the capacity of your team over a period of time and identify whether resources are being over or underutilized. This is critical because studies show that resources who are overutilized frequently experience burnout. Utilization reports reveal where resources are spending their time so you can see if there are opportunities to improve their effectiveness, productivity, and performance while keeping their workloads manageable.
Resource leveling is used to balance demand and supply. It is an important process to maximize resources across one or more projects based on their skills, getting the most value out of the resources you already have before you consider adding headcount or hiring a contractor.
People often have different skill sets, many of which are underutilized. The goal of this resource management technique is to understand all of the skills your people have and where they may be able to fill gaps so you can minimize your resource spend.
As important as resource management is to ensure current projects run smoothly with the appropriate resources, the real benefit comes with being able to plan ahead to keep resources balanced across current and future projects. You must know current capacity, as well as upcoming projects and their requirements. Resource forecasting enables you to make predictions, identify potential conflicts, and prioritize resources on a timeline.
Stages of Resource Management
When you are in the project planning stage, you need to know what specific resources will be required to execute and deliver the project to the end customer. Determining your resource requirements, including people / skills and budget, is the first stage of resource management.
The second stage is to mobilize your team, considering the distinct skills the project requires at each stage in its lifecycle and available people with those skills. If you determine you are missing certain skill sets, this is where you will decide whether you have the budget to hire outside people who bring those skills. All required resources will be allocated at this stage.
The next stage of resource management is to manage the resources you have assembled, clearly defining and communicating roles and responsibilities. A collaboration tool will keep teams on the same page with transparent communication, enabling team members and managers alike to have an instant snapshot into who is working on what and when throughout the project’s lifecycle.
The final stage of resource management is monitoring resources for progress, efficiency, and effectiveness in delivering their expected project contribution. There will almost always be opportunities for improvement as you seek to continually optimize resources to deliver the highest value to the business.
Resource Management in Project Portfolio Management
Resource management within the context of project portfolio management (PPM) enables organizations so managers gain a level of control that would not otherwise be possible. If there is no or poor resource management, projects and initiatives are more likely to fail because of a lack of money or people, or because resources are focused on the wrong areas. It is one of the primary reasons projects go astray.
When organizations misallocate resources, other initiatives suffer from inattention or having the wrong resources assigned to them.
Poor resource management quickly spirals out of control, handicapping project execution at every level.
For CIOs, program managers, PMO leaders, and others, poor resource management can mean missing out on opportunities. And it is not just a matter of falling short of needed resources. Poor resource management can also lead to an overallocation of people and funding, and people in these roles will be held accountable by finance leadership and the C-suite when that happens.
Resource Management Software Tools
Resource management software helps you address a number of pain points related to managing their money and people. These challenges might include such issues as work overload, scope creep, and project failures due to time constraints.
Key challenges associated with resource management that you might face and that software can address include:
- Managing and prioritizing project work requests and setting appropriate expectations with key stakeholders
- Managing resource capacity versus demand for that capacity and understanding who is available to take on new work and when
- Understanding what roles and / or skill sets are needed, either internally or through new hires, in order to fulfill stakeholder commitments
- Ensuring that available resources are working on the highest priority projects that are best aligned with the strategic goals of the organization
- Optimizing scheduling for when the appropriate resources are available to work on projects
When evaluating resource management solutions, you should look for particular features and capabilities. At a basic level, solutions should enable:
- The capture and planning of work with resource assignments so managers can prioritize, avoid over-utilization of resources, and forecast resource costs
- The ability to monitor the execution of work and quickly respond to changing priorities
- The tracking and measurement of progress and costs to ensure the proper balance of work aligned to your strategies
More specifically, resource management software should have:
- The ability to recommend how companies use resource capacity to deliver the highest business value
- What-if scenario planning to help determine whether the organization can absorb and adjust to changes in the plan
- A centralized resource view to review, approve, modify, and schedule resources
- A standardized resource request workflow for project managers and resource managers to communicate and collaborate
Address the Pain Points
Organizations in a variety of industries leverage resource management tools to address challenges and more effectively allocate their project resources. Here are some real-world examples:
A building materials company that designs and manufactures insulation products was quickly growing through acquisitions and global expansion. One of the challenges the company faced was the need to establish governance for new product development.
The faster the business grew, the more difficult it was to control processes and scale. As a result, the development of the product portfolio was slower than it should have been, and costs were running too high. Much of this was due to a lack of visibility into reliable data and resource capacity.
Along with governance, resource management was a challenge. The company had the talent in place but did not always know what these resources were doing or what they were capable of doing. Some areas experienced bottlenecks while others had underutilized resources. And with facilities and resources in multiple locations around the world, communication and collaboration suffered.
The organization was pulling resources in many directions at once, and without visibility into where funding was going, it was difficult to discern margins and determine return on investment. The company had lost the ability to take on the innovative products it was known for quickly enough to keep its edge in the marketplace.
To address these resource management challenges, the company created a department to concentrate solely on product ideation and development and deployed a project portfolio management solution to manage data, process, and resources. The PPM tool quickly became a valuable diagnostic solution to identify risks, costs, conflicts, and resource issues.
By tapping into skills from under-utilized resources, the company can now develop products faster and at a reduced cost. The PPM software shows the company where the gaps and problems are in simple-to-read reports for ongoing analysis of scope, schedule, and budget estimates.
Using the technology, the company was able to reclaim its competitive edge as it manages the next generation of product development. Among the key benefits of addressing these resource management issues are that the company is developing the right products by the right people on budget and on time.
Case study: Facing multiple challenges
A company that sells children’s apparel worldwide through a multiple-channel business model made it a strategic and operational priority to revamp its IT project and resource management efforts to continue business growth.
IT had multiple project lists maintained separately by various business units, with no governance in how to select or create projects or tracking of project costs or resource requirements. This made regulatory compliance virtually impossible.
Managers and IT resources had no way to identify which projects were the most valuable for the company. This created associated resource management issues; since IT staff was being expensed on software projects that depreciated over multiple years, there was a mismatch of project costs, and auditors were concerned about improper annual expenses.
Furthermore, each workgroup within the company had a different set of “run the business activities,” creating more than 100 different activity types. There was no way to determine how IT personnel were actually spending their time.
In addition, several groups were involved in almost every project with minimal coordination between projects. It was impossible to forecast resource capacity issues, and this created constant resource conflict issues.
The organization deployed a resource management solution to address its multiple challenges and support business growth. The solution provides a simple workflow and project structure that was missing, and the company can now define project tiers to establish priorities.
The use of comprehensive time tracking enforces standard rate roles for all project members, based on salary ranges. All IT project members are allocated to projects and tasks, all managers and users are trained on new activities, and new reports are created for managers and activities.
Due to improved processes and planning, the company has seen more than $2 million in capital savings and $2.6 million in expense savings.
Resource management enabled the company to improve the prioritization of work and resources with a six- to 12-month view of resource planning activities.
Case study: Lacking visibility into resources
A health insurance provider lacked an integrated view of demand and capacity and found it difficult to prioritize and communicate pipeline demand without restraining resources. The company wanted to improve the resource management, work management, investment planning, and reporting.
Governance was important, as was being able to forecast demand and capacity for accurate investment planning. With a half dozen internal delivery partners, the firm needed to look at how to best broaden its view to understand supply, demand, capacity, and systems.
The company deployed resource management software to balance demand from multiple sources and assign work to resources to ensure that they can complete the most valuable projects.
With the solution, the company can make the best use of its resources and focus on projects that align best with its strategic plan. The insurance firm now focuses on optimizing resource capacity, ensuring resources are tackling the right mix of work at the right time.
Previously, the company struggled with data in various spreadsheets. Resource management was nearly impossible in static documentation that was always seemingly out-of-date or incorrect. Using integrated investment and capacity planning capabilities, the company is confident that it can strategically staff teams to maximize value and productivity. It is distributing staff and resources based on project prioritization.
Granular reports give resource managers actual and forecast detail by portfolio and project and staffed / unstaffed work information so that they can identify resource gaps. Status detail at every level provides managers with the data they need to ensure capacity can meet demand now and 18 months in the future.
Using their configuration of resource management software, the firm can forecast demand 12 to 24 months ahead and use that information to allocate resources weekly. It is better defining roles, with more detail to provide greater insight into capacity and demand. Among the key benefits:
- Optimized resources by focusing staff on efficiency and value
- Prioritized work that aligns to roadmaps for better visibility
- Maximized portfolio and staff productivity with the use of investment planning
- Integrated plans to measure capacity and demand
- Prioritized demand by capacity and role
Effective resource management is not simply a “nice-to-have” feature of project portfolio management; it is essential to success. Transparency is the key, giving project managers insight into all resources and where they are allocated across projects. Instead of randomly allocating resources or saying yes to every project, you are able to plan and manage resources effectively to avoid project delays, increased costs, and ultimately, failed project delivery.
If you lack visibility and the appropriate tools to keep track of resources and direct these toward the most valuable work, you and other leaders will likely fail to complete projects and deliver the products that bring competitive advantages, missing out on potential benefits. With the right resource management solution in place, you are enabling your organization to ensure it has the ideal people and appropriate funding to execute projects. With full transparency and insight into resources, you can ensure resources are consistently allocated to those strategically aligned programs that deliver value to the organization and its customers.