What is a Resource Breakdown Structure (RBS) & How to Make One

Tasked with creating a resource breakdown structure (RBS), but don't know where to start? Here's everything there's to know.
Shannon Toe

The importance of resource management can’t be over-emphasized in the successful completion of a project. Resource managers have to make sure only the necessary resources are involved in a specific project, and that these resources are utilized for maximum effect.

As a resource manager, you will need to create a quality resource breakdown structure (RBS). But what is a resource breakdown structure in project management? How does it affect your project, and how do you create one?

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What is a resource breakdown structure (RBS)?

According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), there are two components of project data. One is the work breakdown structure: the tasks that help in achieving project deliverables, and the other one is the resource breakdown structure: the resources needed to complete each task. The resource breakdown structure is a list of all the resources needed to complete projects. This list includes the money, materials, equipment, property or location, and human resources.

A Resource Breakdown Structure Project Management Practitioner (PMP) is responsible for creating an RBS during the project planning phase. Formulating the resource breakdown structure takes great attention to detail, and inside-out knowledge of the project. The resource manager should present well-informed calculations on all aspects of the project.

When the project manager, along with the team and the client, approves the RBS, it can be integrated with the project workflow. The resource breakdown structure will help track costs, monitor the progress of each team member, offer support and provide clear input to essential parts of the project.

The importance of resource breakdown structure in project management

The resource breakdown structure is a tree diagram that describes the project's resource organization. You can use it with the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) to define work package assignments. It helps to identify project materials, tools, equipment, software, and other elements necessary for estimating the budget and fees. An RBS also gives project managers insight into the resource functions and resource types involved in the project, which makes it easier to reduce risks in the entire project duration.

Having a resource breakdown structure in place also means you can limit uncertainty and instability when it comes to the supply of resources. The business can manage resources more responsibly and can also bring transparency to the project management workflow.

An RBS is also a way to keep project managers more organized and efficient. They can then focus on more important tasks which allows them to look at the bigger picture. Resource breakdown structures also help make an organization more harmonious because of the visibility of resources and more accurate projections in completing the project.

Resource breakdown structure example and types

Human resources

Human resources are the people that make up your team. They can be divided into different areas depending on how the project is going to be taken forward.

Under this section, you can identify the professionals responsible for performing the tasks. You can also include the time they are available to do their tasks. Say, for example, an organization is going to launch a digital product as a project deliverable. The list of human resources may look like this:

  • Project Manager - Henry
  • 2 website designers: 1 for coding, 1 for UX, 1-month duration - Sarah and Tom
  • 2 content writers: 1 for blog posts, 1 for news, 2x a week post - Rex and James
  • 1 marketing assistant for campaigns and email blasts to target segment, weekly - Simon
  • 1 salesperson for organizing digital sales, daily - Tess
  • 1 logistics coordinator for delivery and fulfillment, daily - Charlie
  • 1 customer service representative for after sales and product concerns, daily - Drake

Equipment or material goods

The next section refers to the physical resources needed to complete the project. It may include large items, (such as  vehicles, especially when there is construction involved), or be as small as office supplies and other consumables. These are also categorized as either leased or owned, so the costs and other fees can be taken into account.

If you are a project manager for the above project for example, then you may need the following equipment:

  • Desktop computers or laptops, leased for $X
  • Projectors, leased for $X
  • Smartphones bought for $X
  • Tablets, leased for $X
  • Printer bought for $X

Information and technology

Another resource type is information and technology. Design, blueprint, documentation & contracts, and project management software are some of the resources under this list. These are non-tangible tools or apps that companies need to use to produce or create the project deliverable. They are usually resources that are involved in the design phase, apart from project management software which is used by the project management body throughout the project in order to make the workflow easier from start to finish.

This tool must also indicate the number of users, if they have premium or subscription fees, and who the users are. An example of information and technology resource breakdown may be in this set-up:

  • Newsletter software, premium account $X
  • Project management software, premium account $X
  • Invoicing software, integrated with the website, FREE
  • Customer support, FREE
  • Design tools for campaign materials, monthly subscription $X

Site or facility

Another resource category relates to the sites or locations that the businesses use. The warehouse, project site, office, meeting rooms, and conference rooms are all part of this resource. These can be storage or production sites, or offices at on-site locations where team members can meet. They also may include conference rooms where managers can meet clients and vendors. Indicating if these sites are free of use or under a lease contract can also help in managing budget costs.

A project manager's guide to making an effective RBS

Create the RBS based on a strong resource management plan

Resources can be easily managed if an effective resource plan is made during the planning phase of the project. Although a resource breakdown structure template is only a guide, it is a constructive basis for creating your RBS. This will also ensure you have the necessary resources to get the project started. A useful resource breakdown structure based on resource planning can also give you an idea of which resources are interrelated and which gaps call for additional or extensive use of resources.

When an RBS is constructed during the early planning phase of a project, it can be used to inform customers what resources will be required. When you seek input from your team, it will also function to instill ownership within the group. This is vital for making sure  expectations are realistic, and fostering transparency in executing the project work.

Effectively manage human resource assignments

Even if human resources are the most important part of a project, it can sometimes be challenging to work with people, and to manage them. Allocating the right set of people for specific projects can be tricky, especially if people are assigned to multiple projects. It's important to determine which personnel are working on which project at any one time, and ensure each operates with only those resources available to them.  

Project managers are responsible for making sure their personnel are not overbooked, and that their skill set complements project requirements. Check your human resources assignments across various projects by mapping the roles and selecting employees fit for the tasks. When doing this, take into consideration different categories such as expertise, current duties, and their cost and seniority in the company.

Track resource availability

Tasking the right people for each project is one of the hardest parts of being a project manager. It requires sound judgment, a well-rounded ability to look into every detail, and competent management skills. When it comes to tracking resource availability, be sure to consider the pros and cons of assigning tasks as well as using pieces of equipment or facilities that might influence the overall cost. Hiring new talent or buying new equipment may not always be an answer. It can be detrimental to spend money on training new people or purchasing material goods with depreciating value that is only good for one project.

Take into account the resource risks

Every project contains risks. Resource risks arise whenever there is scarcity or absence of the resources necessary to produce the deliverables. To guard against this, you can develop a resource risk plan in your RBS. Identifying these risks and the factors involved will help in analyzing solutions and evaluating the impact they may have. If risks have been anticipated, risk action plans can be detailed that will control and minimize unexpected events during project implementation.

Choose the best resource breakdown structure tools

When looking for the perfect software or app for your resource breakdown structure project management, choose the one that can help optimize your project with automated features to help you save time and let you focus on more important parts of the project (or even take on new ones!) The best resource breakdown structure software gives you a bird's eye view of all aspects of resources and finances - two of the most important factors that shape the success of your project while making sure every detail is  covered and your project can be completed and delivered in a timely manner.

If you are still looking for a real-time resource management tool for your RBS and your team, check out Runn and book a demo HERE!

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