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Libby Marks

The Beginner's Guide to Project Resource Management

Want to improve project outcomes? Optimize your project resources. Here’s how to leverage project resource management to deliver better projects.

Project resource management is about how you plan, manage, and optimize resources to deliver the best possible outcomes for your project and your people. It’s about intelligently aligning and assigning people to projects where they’re empowered to deliver their best work - engaged in tasks that suit and stimulate them, and never bored or burnt out. 

By planning and managing your project resources effectively, you’re more likely to meet project milestones, stick to budget, and delight your clients. And it doesn’t have to be difficult. There are six stages to project resource management - defined by the Project Management Institute - and software tools to support you. 

Here’s everything you need to know about managing project resources to maximize your project outcomes. 

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What is project resource management?

Project resource management describes the process of identifying, securing, and managing the resources you need to deliver a project successfully. It employs interconnected techniques to ensure a project meets its milestones - by intelligently applying the right resources to the right tasks at the right time. 

The Project Management Institute breaks project resource management down into six steps.

  1. Plan resource management - Planning how you’ll manage your resource management for a particular project, based on factors such as project type and complexity.
  2. Estimate activity resources - Establishing the resource requirements for the project, taking into account the type, quantity and characteristics of each resource.
  3. Acquire resources - Obtaining the resources you require for success, often in a competitive landscape.
  4. Develop resources - Developing individual and team capabilities, to ensure cohesion, collaboration, and competence to deliver the project. 
  5. Manage resources - Monitoring and managing performance to optimize project outcomes. 
  6. Control resources - Monitoring resource utilization and taking corrective action if required.

We’ll explore each of these in more depth later. Jump there now if that’s what you’re here for!

What is a resource in project management?

A resource can be anything required to deliver a project successfully. It could be a physical resource - like specific materials or equipment. Or it could refer to human resources -  the talented team members you need to deliver project outcomes.

Identifying, obtaining, monitoring and managing resources is fundamental to project management. Fail to identify or secure the resources you need and your project will be delayed or derailed. Whilst failure to monitor resources could result in a range of pricey problems - from overspend to underutilisation - which add unnecessary time and cost to your project.

Runn is all about people so - in this article - we’re talking about human resources. And how project resource management helps you create fulfilled, flexible, and fully optimized project teams. Because we believe that maximizing your people outcomes maximizes your project outcomes.

How project management overlaps with resource management

Project management is concerned with managing every element of a project to ensure it is a success - from people and processes to budget and schedule. It comprises a range of tools and techniques to ensure a project meets agreed objectives, timescale and cost. 

Resource management is specifically concerned with managing resources within a business - such as materials, equipment, and people. It isn’t just concerned with a single project. It’s about ensuring the organization has the resources it needs to deliver all of its workstreams successfully. This includes forecasting needs, planning the allocation of resources, and ensuring they’re being utilized to the best effect. That is to say, your people are neither bored nor burnt out - they’re challenged, satisfied, engaged, and productive.

Sitting squarely between the two concepts is our topic - project resource management. This is resource management applied to an individual project. Like project management, it is concerned with delivering the project on time, on budget and to client satisfaction. And like resource management, it aims to ensure resources are optimally allocated and utilized. 

how project management overlaps with resource management

What are the benefits of project resource management?

Project resource management is beneficial because it lays the foundations for project success. It provides a structured framework to think through staffing implications and how you’ll optimize your human resources - so you and they can deliver the project to the best of your abilities, given the interdependencies and constraints you face. 

Project resource management processes help you:

  • Build your dream team - by identifying the best resources available to you and providing data to negotiate for them.
  • Rightsize your team - ensures efficiency by reducing the risk of over- or under-estminating resource needs by intelligently matching resources to requirement.
  • Prevent burnout or boredom - which can undermine your team’s ability to deliver their best work.
  • Avoid the unexpected - through realistic appraisal of resource availability and alternative options.
  • Build trust and transparency - through fair assignment of staff, clear roles and responsibilities, and a team charter.
  • Improve efficiency - by ensuring optimal resource utilization through agreed monitoring and management processes.
project resource management tool
Runn connects project & resource management in one tool

Writing a resource management plan 

We're about to explore the six core project resource management processes. Before we do, it's important to know that a key output of this process will be your resource management plan.

A resource management plan documents how project resources should be allocated, managed, and released over the course of your project. It will contain key information about the project and its staffing including:

  • Required resources - Your rationale behind who you need and why. 
  • Your resource schedule - The project schedule mapped to when each resource is required.
  • Roles and responsibilities - What each member of your project team will do. 
  • Assumptions and constraints -  Factors that your project resource plan is based on.

The six core project resource management processes

The Project Management Institute issues comprehensive guidance for project management professionals each year in a publication called Project Management Body of Knowledge - PMBOK for short. The information below summarizes their approach to project resource management. 

[And, since one of the PMBOK recommendations is to leverage project resource management software to make the process easier, we’ve mapped their approach to some key functionality offered by Runn’s resource planning platform.]

1. Plan resource management 

It’s a good job project managers love planning as much as we do at Runn. Because this stage is about planning how you’re going to plan your resources! It establishes your approach to planning and managing resources based on the type and complexity of the project, as well as environmental and market factors. 

For example, if your project has an easily manageable scope and is something you’ve done before, your approach to planning resources will look different to a project with a larger scope and less familiar parameters. 

Furthermore, if you’re expecting to contract out any element of your project or make new hires, you need to be aware of the market. Will new talent be easy to secure or take additional effort? Will you be able to recruit at the right level of expertise or need to develop a more junior hire? 

2. Estimate activity resources 

This stage is about establishing the resource requirements for the project - taking into account type, quantity and characteristics of the resources you need. Put simply, who do you need to perform the work, what skills do they need, and when do you need them? 

Resource estimating techniques

There are a number of different estimating techniques you can use to work out how many resources you’ll need to deliver a particular project. 

  • Expert judgment - Consult with individuals or groups with relevant expertise in resource planning to determine an informed estimate. 
  • Bottom-up estimating - Estimate team resources at an activity level and ladder that up to the full work package.  
  • Analogous estimating - Use data from a previous similar project as the basis for estimating the current project. 
  • Parametric estimating - Calculate resource needs based on historical data and other variables. For example, imagine a year-long project requires 4,000 hours of coding. If - in the past - that has taken one person two years, you know you’ll need two people to complete it in one year. 
resource estimating methods

Selection criteria

When considering which resources you’d like access to, you should consider the following and rank your preferences according to how different individuals score.

  • Availability - Whether the team member is likely to be available for your project, taking in a realistic account of other projects and priorities they're working on, as well as demand for their expertise.
  • Experience / knowledge  - Whether the team member has the relevant experience to contribute to project success, such as knowledge of the customer or similar projects.
  • Skills - Whether the team member has the relevant skills to succeed in the project - such as experience with particular equipment or interpersonal skills .
  • Attitude - Whether the team member has the ability to work with others as a cohesive team - and whether this is a project that will stimulate and engage them.
  • Location - Whether the team member’s location will impact on delivery and need accommodations to be made.
  • Cost - The cost of the team member relative to the value they will deliver for the project.

Alternatives analysis 

It’s also important to perform an alternatives analysis. There isn’t just a single pathway to project completion. It would be easier if there was! Projects are made up of lots of interchangeable elements,  as well as interdependencies. An alternative analysis encourages you to come up with a Plan B - and beyond - and document the impact that would have on project KPIs. That way, you’re prepared to proceed with your project if certain resources are unavailable. And you have ammunition to help you fight for the resources you really want. 

3. Acquire resources 

This stage is concerned with securing the resources you’ve identified for your project. As the project manager, you may not have control over the resources you require. This could be because of a matrix project environment, internal reporting relationships, or other reasons. And since demand almost always outstrips supply when it comes to resource availability, you need to be ready to negotiate!

Failure to acquire necessary resources can affect the project schedule, budget, and outcomes. Insufficient resources - or inadequate capabilities - reduce the likelihood of project success. So it’s important to make a strong business case for your cause. Your resource estimation, selection criteria, and alternatives analysis should be influential here.

Create a resource calendar

With your resources in place, it’s time to start resource scheduling and creating your resource calendar. This will help you plan a reliable overarching project schedule. 

A resource calendar documents the time periods that each resource is needed for - and records any constraints on that time. For example time zones, work hours, vacation time, local holidays, and commitments to other projects.

This ensures you have a realistic picture of the time your resources actually have available for project work - you’re not about to be blindsided by an unexpected delay to your schedule.

4. Develop resources 

Now you’ve secured your resources, you need to develop them into a coherent, collaborative and capable team, so you can ace your project objectives. Considerations at this stage include:

  • Colocation - Do you need to physically bring your team together in one location? If not, how will you ensure effective remote collaboration?
  • Technology - What tools will you use for collaboration, communication, file access etc?
  • Team charter - Defining and documenting team objectives, strategies and values so all members have a shared understanding.
  • Team building - How will you create a team that works well together, both for the benefit of individual team members and project objectives?
  • Training - Do individuals or the whole team need training to deliver their part of the project.
  • Recognition and reward - What milestones do the team need to achieve and how will you reward completion?

5. Manage resources 

When your project is in motion, you’ll need to monitor and manage resource performance. It’s about keeping your team focused, on schedule, and set for success. 

Emotional intelligence, leadership and influencing skills are essential here, as you may also need to address issues such as conflict between team members or underperformance. You may also have to manage changes to the project plan and adjust resource allocation accordingly. For example, a change of scope from the client, or having one of your team poached away by a high-priority project. 

A key element of this stage is monitoring resource utilization - whether your team is being used to optimal capacity, how much of their time is billable and non-billable, and mapping planned vs actual utilization. 

utilization in project resource management

Failure to monitor resource utilization can result in overspending on staff time, or delays to your project schedule. Monitoring this data allows you to see if things are veering off-course and take corrective action before it’s too late. 

➡️ Check our guide on how to build a resource utilization report here. 📖

6. Control resources 

This coincides with the ‘Manage’ stage. Where ‘Manage’ is related to human resources, ‘Control’ relates to physical resources. The same principles of monitoring and corrective action apply here too. Check five essential resource management reports here.

Project resource management tools

As an outstanding project manager, you’ll spend a lot of time monitoring and managing your team. Your people are the most important part of any project. It’s through their expertise and energy that your business delivers outcomes and delights your clients. So the time you spend managing and empowering those people is a sound investment. 

But just because you expect to invest time in managing project resources, doesn’t mean you need to waste time doing it. One of the recommendations from the Project Management Institute is that project managers use appropriate software to make their jobs easier (and by doing a better job, make a positive impact on their projects).

Project resource management software provides access to real-time information about project resources, so that you can model, monitor and manage human resources more effectively - without having to wade through spreadsheets and potentially out-of-date project data.

tool for project resource management

Software like Runn puts the power in your hands. With our People Planner, you can see who is and isn’t available, what their skills are, whether they’re needed elsewhere. You have a complete view of how people are deployed, as well as the risk of interdependencies, changing timelines, illness or overload.

Meanwhile, our Project Planner provides a bird's eye view of your projects and lets you model different scenarios of projects in just a few clicks - so you can conduct instant alternatives analysis and understand the impact of different decisions on project outcomes. This lets you start building your dream team and creating a business case to negotiate for in-demand resources. 

During the project, you can monitor planned vs actual utilization of project resources. This helps keep your budget on track, gives you the option to take corrective action if needed, and makes sure your team is working optimally - without boredom or burnout undermining their contribution to the project.

Runn is designed for businesses that share our belief that positive people management creates positive project outcomes. We help businesses run flexible, hybrid workforces and broaden conversations about who does what and when. Our project resource planning tools let you factor in people’s passions and skills, work hours and days off, to deploy them where they’ll deliver their best work. It ensures people don’t get overworked or burnt out - empowering them to create impactful project outcomes for your company and customers. 

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