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Libby Marks

What's the Difference Between PPM & Resource Management?

A quick dip into similarities, differences, and strategic alignment between Project Portfolio Management and resource management.

If you’re a PPM pro – say a project portfolio manager – you’ll know the discipline inside out. But what do you know about resource management? Specifically, how can resource management be the perfect partner to deliver your strategic objectives?

In this article, you’ll learn how resource management complements PPM, helping you maximize project success through accurate and efficient resource allocation.  

We'll explore the integral role of resource management in minimizing bottlenecks while optimizing productivity and performance. 

Plus look at PPM and resource management’s shared love of data – and how RM insights inform essential capacity and capability planning. 

What is Project Portfolio Management?

Project Portfolio Management (PPM) is concerned with optimizing, prioritizing, and managing an organization’s project work. 

In project-based businesses and professional service firms, every project must contribute to your organization’s strategic objectives. Whether that’s bringing in revenue to drive growth, helping a business pivot into a new area, or making the best use of organizational talent.

To achieve this, the business needs to weigh up different project options and select the ones that make the best business sense. From there, they need to manage those projects effectively, to deliver them on schedule and budget. And often make tough decisions to terminate or shelve a project if it isn’t performing well.

PPM involves managing multiple projects at once to maximize their collective value to the business. Project Portfolio Managers can be involved in program management but are less likely to be involved in day-to-day project management.

The portfolio management process includes:

  • Project prioritization – Deciding which projects to pursue based on strategic alignment 
  • Risk management – Identifying and mitigating risks to the overall project portfolio
  • Performance monitoring – Tracking project, program, and portfolio performance
  • Resource allocation – Identifying people, equipment, and materials required

Responsibility for PPM is likely to sit in a Project Management Office (PMO) or even a dedicated Portfolio Management Office if your organization is especially large. PPM teams usually report directly to the C-suite to ensure strategic alignment of projects.

What is resource management?

Resource management is a strategic approach to planning, allocating, and optimizing resources in a business. In the context of this article, we’re referring to human resources, rather than equipment or materials. 

Effective resource management aims to optimize how resources are used so that neither time nor talent is wasted. It’s about matching the right people to the right project at the right time – so that projects run efficiently and achieve their schedule, budget, and quality goals. 

It provides mechanisms for monitoring staff capacity, availability, and allocations, so you can maximize billable utilization without causing burnout. Plus talent discovery tools to find the perfect people for each project. 

Resource managers allocate resources to multiple projects across programs and portfolios. And the data collected through resource management – such as utilization rate and schedule variance – informs strategic decision-making around recruitment, capacity planning, and financial forecasting. 

The key activities in resource management are:

  • Resource planning – Identifying resource requirements for projects and tasks
  • Resource allocation – Assigning resources based on their skills, availability, and priority
  • Resource utilization – Monitoring and optimizing how resources are utilized
  • Capacity planning –  Assessing the organization's resource capacity for new projects 

Depending on your organization’s resource management maturity, RM may be dispersed throughout the organization or centralized in a Resource Management Office (RMO)

PPM vs resource management: Key differences

Now, what is the difference between PPM and resource management? Here’s a side-by-side comparison.

project portfolio management vs resource management

How PPM and resource management can work together

As you’ll see, there is a significant overlap between Project Portfolio Management and resource management. They share the same ultimate aim – business performance and ROI – but viewed through a different lens.  

PPM is concerned with overall portfolio performance, whilst resource management is concerned with resource performance at all levels within that portfolio. 

Here are five ways the disciplines can work together towards their shared goals of high performance and productivity.

Resource allocation 

All projects and programs need resources to succeed – it’s why resource management is so important –  so PPM and resource managers need to communicate and collaborate effectively here. 

For example, when deciding which projects to onboard, PPM managers should consult with resource managers to ensure there are sufficient suitable resources to deliver the project.

Resource managers can also work closely with PPM managers to optimize how resources are deployed across the portfolio. For example, identifying opportunities for resource-sharing or cross-functional collaboration between projects. This can help with budget, bottlenecks, and billable utilization.

Plus, PPM pros should share their prioritization rationale with resource managers. This ensures RMs appropriately prioritize resource allocations, to ensure the most valuable projects get priority resources.

Capacity planning and forecasting  

Both PPM and resource management involve capacity planning to determine the organization's ability to take on new projects, while considering existing project commitments and resource constraints

In discussion with the PPM team, resource managers can look at skills availability data, resource utilization rate by role or team, and check capacity against projected demand. PPM can then make informed decisions about which projects to undertake based on resource availability and capacity. 

If there are limited resources for forthcoming projects, the resource manager will need to initiate recruitment or a staff augmentation strategy. Or the PPM manager will need to adjust their schedules or budget. Knowing this upfront can avoid disruptive delays and unexpected project costs.

Monitoring and data sharing

PPM and resource management use a wide variety of metrics to measure performance. 

PPM is concerned with monitoring and evaluating portfolio performance – including the impact of resourcing decisions. Resource management monitors resource utilization, allocation accuracy, and the relationship between resourcing and project outcomes. So there’s overlap. 

Sharing data can help PPM and RM professionals jointly identify areas for improvement, and make data-based decisions about resource prioritization and allocation. Some shared metrics include:

Schedule and budget variance 

  • PPM for monitoring overall portfolio performance
  • RM for understanding if resourcing decisions have caused the variance
  • Both for assessing and improving future forecasting accuracy

Resource capacity and utilization 

  • PPM for understanding resource supply for future projects
  • RM for optimizing allocations and preventing burnout
  • Both for data-based capacity planning

Using resource management software is highly beneficial here.

Further reading: Quality Data in Resource Management

Risk management

A key concern for PPM is to ensure all projects in the portfolio run on schedule. Any slippage can have a domino effect within the portfolio. And resourcing is a major risk factor in project-based businesses. 

PPM managers can call on resource managers to understand and mitigate the potential risk of resource shortages, bottlenecks, or skills gaps. 

Remember, it isn’t just bottlenecks and delays that risk project success. As Laura Dean-Smith mentions above, overutilization is a serious threat. It leads to burnout, reduced productivity, and costly staff turnover. Resource managers minimize this risk by carefully monitoring and balancing workload.

Scenario planning

Project Portfolio Management uses scenario planning to understand the impact of different potential projects – on revenue, on capacity, on resources – and select the optimum mix.

PPM and resource management can collaborate on scenario planning to make informed decisions about project selection, prioritization, and resource allocation. 

By considering the resource implications of each scenario alongside other strategic factors, decision-makers can evaluate the trade-offs, pros, and cons of different project combos. And make more informed choices about how to allocate resources effectively across the portfolio in alternative futures. 

This builds organizational agility by preparing for Plan A, B, and beyond. 

Project Portfolio Management (PPM)  – Expert opinion

During our recent webinar – How to Grow a Resource Management Function – we heard from Laura Dean-Smith. Laura is a Director of Operations at Clarivate, responsible for the RMO there. Here’s what she had to say about the intersection between PPM and resource management.

The overlap 

I think that there is overlap between portfolio management, program management, project management, and resource management because all of those different functions need resources. 

Communication is really important when a resource manager and a portfolio manager are working together. The resource manager owns the resources and the assignments of the project. The project, program, or portfolio manager is in charge of assigning what different tasks are needed. 

The portfolio manager should be saying “Hey, I need this amount of time from this resource.” And the resource manager is going to look at all of the different aspects of someone's workload – workload that maybe the portfolio manager isn't aware of –  and then provide feedback.

Sharing resources 

It’s really important that, within a portfolio, there is consistency of resources. Sometimes those resources might be used on other projects or other project portfolios as well – shared resources – and sometimes they're not. It’s the job of the resource manager to have insight into that – what people’s workload is, what their allocations and capacity are. Then to approve any additional time that might be required.

Optimizing utilization 

The resource manager is responsible for minimizing bench time – people sitting around not doing anything. It’s their job to find other work for them to do and maximize billable utilization. So you're both balancing what the portfolio needs, as well as meeting the other objectives for the business.

Further reading: How Businesses Can Make the Most Out of Bench Time

Align your portfolio and resource management with Runn

A resource management platform is a single source of truth for all of your resourcing activities, insights, and data.

It provides tools for resource managers to allocate resources accurately and efficiently across projects, programs, and portfolios. 

And it gives PPM managers access to at-a-glance project and resource metrics, as well as in-depth reports for deeper dives. 

Learn more about Runn for resource and project management today.

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