Of all the skills you use as a project manager, resource management is the art of fine balance. The success of your project depends on having the right people and the right tools available at the right time, every step of the way.
If you don’t provide what’s needed, your project will stall. Go too far the other way, and you’ll have wasted resources that cost your business money.
One way to solve this problem is to put together a resource plan that will help you optimize people, materials, and budgets efficiently. This means maximizing your team’s potential, while reducing overtime and wastage. However, this can be easier said than done: many projects involve multiple stakeholders and input from various areas of the organization, which makes the situation very complex.
So how do you strike this perfect resource management balance? Don't despair; we’ve put together this article to show you how to start with resource management, as well as sharing three resource manager best practices to help take the stress out of resource planning.
In project management, a resource is anything that is needed to get the job done. This includes your employees, your office space, computer systems, equipment, and materials that are used for the work, as well as the finances allocated to the project budget.
Identifying the resources your project will need is a central part of project planning, but setting up your resource requests is not the end of the process. The way that you manage resources automatically has an impact on the project's success. Good resource management will lead to a successful result, while poor resource management could leave your project high and dry.
While all resources are vital for a project's success, your resource management technique will be different depending on the resource you’re dealing with.
To take a simple example, you can split a ream of printer paper between two departments so that both can print at the same time, but you can’t take exactly the same approach when the resource in question is your graphic designer!
Let’s look at six key types of project resource that you need to take into consideration when preparing a resource management plan.
Your project team members are the most valuable resource you've got. They are the driving force that carries out tasks towards their completion. Together, your human resources possess the skills and knowledge necessary for the project to succeed.
Examples include resource managers, team leaders, individual team members, and outsourced resources such as subject-matter experts, freelancers, and contractors who are brought on-board for a specific project task.
Projects come at a cost, and you need financial resources to ensure you can purchase materials or pay human resources. Money is usually one of the most limited resources, and deviation from the budget can threaten the completion of the project.
While the project budget is the main financial resource available to project managers, sometimes there may be additional sources of funds such as contingency funding.
Material resources are the physical materials that have practical use in a project. For a construction project, for example, the material resources would include the sand, bricks, wood, and nails that would be used in the construction.
Within a digital agency, on the other hand, material resources would include paper and toner for printing, merchandise materials, and any personal protective equipment needed by staff to carry out the job, such as masks and gloves.
The workspace and utilities needed to complete a project successfully fall into the category of facility resources. Typically, these either belong to the organization or their client, or are rented for the purposes of the project.
Examples include the office building, office supplies, and furniture, as well as the utilities available for use at the facility, such as electricity supply, internet access and internal networks.
Equipment and tools enable employees to work on a project efficiently. Examples of physical equipment and tools include computers, laptops, cell phones, tablets, and machinery. Digital tools are also part of this category, such as software licenses available for staff use, or specific programs that are provided for the project.
In addition to the physical resources a project needs, most companies also rely on intangible resources that can't be touched or located. Examples include a company's brand, copyright, intellectual assets, knowledge, patents, customer list, and licensing rights.
While these intangible resources usually aren’t limited in the same way as other project resources, it’s still important to ensure they are available for use by the project staff.
So, now we're across exactly how broad the definition of project resources is and what the different types of resource are, we can see how managing each type of resource requires different strategies and skills.
As a blanket statement, project resource management is the process of planning, allocating, and optimizing the resources for your projects. But effective management of resources helps keep your project on track in terms of time and money.
To make it simpler, we've broken it down into the different project resource management techniques that can be used for different types of resources.
One of the key project management resources is the budget. Project financial management includes planning, estimating, and billing to ensure successful project deliverables. A project's financial resources are usually planned and documented in the project budget, which is approved by stakeholders.
In addition to controlling the finances themselves, the way you use your other resources will have a big impact on your budget, and on the project’s profit. Finances also go hand in hand with time. The longer it takes to finish a project, for example, the more finances will be needed to pay the staff and overheads.
Ensure that the resources are assigned to the right project and monitor the actual use versus the planned use to see if they are being used as they should. This will help prevent wastage and help you see if adjustments should be made.
With proper resource planning, management of materials is typically more straightforward than managing some other types of project resources. This is partly because it’s possible to calculate in advance how much of each material you will need based on the scope of the project.
However, to acquire resources at the right price and in the right quantity will need planning, preparation and monitoring. Building a good relationship with the supplier can help avoid resource shortages or cost overruns.
It’s vital that the tools your staff need are available when they need them. For the most part, the equipment, tools, and facilities used for the project will belong to the organization. In this case, it is important to ensure they are in good working order, available for use when you need them, and that there is a tracking system in place to ensure they don’t get lost. For example, you may need to introduce a booking system for certain pieces of equipment that may be needed by different teams.
However, in some circumstances, it may be necessary to rent or purchase appropriate resources for the project. In this case, as with the material resources, planning and negotiating prices should be done well in advance to ensure everything is available when needed.
Human resources are arguably the backbone of your project, and how they work will directly influence how successful your project will be.
However, it’s also true that human resources can be tricky to manage. Not only are they one of the most expensive resources on the list, but you also need to weigh each person’s unique combination of skills and experience that they bring to the project, while taking into account vacations, parental leave, burnout, sickness, and even resignations.
Because managing human resources for projects has so many layers of complexity, let's break the process down:
The first step is to identify what resources are going to be needed for the project – and unfortunately, it’s rarely as simple as the old math riddle of “it takes four people ten days to build a wall.”
Your project will need input from people with different skill sets along the way, and each of your available resources has their own specific strengths, so you will need to identify these requirements in the planning stage.
It's often useful to review your existing projects to draw insights on the types of resources needed, and the amount of time needed to complete each activity. This kind of future planning is much easier done with the help of resource management software.
Also, if things are looking really complicated, you can always create a Resource Breakdown Structure (RBS). This will help clarify exactly who is needed and when during the timeline of the project.
Once you’ve worked out what your project needs, the next step is to allocate resources with the right skills and capacity to the project. A good resource management tool has a dashboard that will help you pair qualified employees with the correct task by showing who has what skill.
As well as assigning resources to work on the activities, it’s important to ensure you plan the time that will be invested in the project, to ensure you do not go over budget. This can be done by aligning the work with a resource schedule, such as a calendar or Gantt chart.
Your resource management software should provide a detailed report of resource availability, which will help you allocate resources more accurately, and deliver projects within budget and on time.
While it’s good to retain some flexibility, it’s important to ensure roles and responsibilities are clear at the resource allocation stage of the project. If you manage team expectations transparently, the team will be on the same page with a shared understanding of all the project tasks, who will do them, and how they will be done.
Throughout the project lifecycle, you need to monitor your resources to ensure nobody is overloaded or under worked. This is an ongoing process, because day-to-day changes in capacity, availability, and the project schedule will put different pressures on your project teams.
A resource heatmap will visually represent the availability of all your resources, so that you can plan any changes to your resources effectively. If you do identify uneven resource utilization, you can apply resource leveling techniques to restore the balance.
Getting the balance right with human resources is key to ensuring you stay within budget but aren't at risk of resource shortages. Rather than juggle all this information manually, a good resource management tool can help bring some clarity to the resource management process.
Project resource management tools can also help you manage your time resources so that you can ensure your team members are working on the projects as effectively as possible. When done right, this can help empower and motivate your team members to work towards a common goal: the successful completion of the project.
While there are several project and resource management techniques out there, there are certain underlying principles that can make the process of resource capacity planning much more effective.
Here are our three resource manager best practices.
The first golden rule is to plan resource management as a priority. At the project level, this means planning resources across the project workflow, which helps to eliminate wasteful activities or patterns. Careful planning will also help in resource scheduling, which in turn guides sponsors, stakeholders, teams, and you as a PM on the progress.
But resource planning shouldn't begin at the start of a new project. As the Project Management Institute (PMI) puts it, the planning of human resources should be "future-oriented" rather than responsive. This means the company's resources are already developing towards its future goals, rather than having to hire to fill the gap of missing resources for a project that is already underway.
By taking a forward-thinking approach, you can also identify opportunities to develop team member capabilities through professional development and training, rather than relying on new hires to fill skills gaps.
The more strategic you can get with your resource allocation, the better. It's worth taking the time to review the resource allocation process, and ensure that resources with high-demand skills are assigned to the tasks that best make use of their abilities. By integrating a resource strategy in the project portfolio management across the entire business, you can optimize your use of key resources.
While it's possible to manage a small team without specific tools, resource planning software makes the process quicker, easier, and more effective. Runn, for example, is a resource management tool that helps you manage your project efficiently from the planning stages through to completion.
As well as providing you with insights to plan and manage resources effectively, it helps you forecast changes in resource requirements that may arise, such as skills gaps, unforeseen costs, and possible bottlenecks. It also enables you to evaluate the productivity of each of your resources, to help with the overall project management process.
Effective resource management is important as it allows your project team to achieve their goals without wasting critical resources. A good resource management tool can help you develop an effective project resource plan, so that you can complete projects on time and within budget.
Choose a platform that will give you a complete bird's eye view of your project's progress, as well as resource forecasting. This way, you can see how to allocate resources appropriately, which tasks depend on which others, and what changes you should make to control resources. In addition, managing resources for future projects will be a breeze because you already know how resources were used and which were effective.
Ready to get the balance right in your project resource management? See how Runn's effortless resource visibility can help your team by booking a demo with us today!
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