50+ resource management terms, explained. Equip yourself with the right terminology to create a value proposition for resource management and improve your processes.
Looking for the complete resource management glossary? You’re in the right place. We’ve explained 50+ resource management terms in plain English.
It’s not quite an A-Z of resource management (you get a prize if you can find resource management terms that start with X and Z), but it’s near enough.
If you’re puzzling over capacity vs capability, confused about the difference between availability vs utilization, or just wondering what on earth JITR means, we’ve got you covered.
Billable hours are the hours someone spends directly working on a client project and which are billed to the client. Non-billable hours are the time spent on internal tasks or activities that aren't directly chargeable to the client, like admin or professional development.
Billable hours directly generate income for the business, whereas non-billable hours don’t. However, both are essential. In a project-based business, it’s important to get the balance right. Aim for 80% billable to 20% non-billable.
Employee burnout is a state of chronic physical and mental exhaustion as a result of overwork and stress. It is recognized by the World Health Organization as an ‘occupational phenomenon’ rather than an illness - meaning the blame rests firmly with employers, not individuals.
While this is primarily about being a responsible employer, there’s also a business case for keeping burnout at bay. Symptoms of employee burnout include decreased productivity, increased errors, and involuntary turnover. Businesses that try to force more out of their employees actually get less.
Capability and capacity are often confused. We’re here to fix that. Capability is the collective talents of the people in your business - your organizational skill set. It determines what projects you can successfully take on and deliver.
Capability building helps project-based businesses shape their workforce for future success. It’s about knowing what skills you’ll need in the future and having a strategy to acquire them - whether that is through recruitment, outsourcing, or upskilling existing colleagues.
Organizational capacity is the maximum your business can produce or deliver within a specific timeframe. In a professional service firm, it’s your bandwidth for work. It's measured through the number of people you have available to complete a project within a certain period.
Savvy project-based businesses engage in strategic capacity planning to understand whether they have enough capacity (supply) to meet future demand. If not, they can proactively address the issue - for example, by recruiting more people or particular skills.
Resource capacity is the maximum workload that a specific person - or team - can handle in a given timeframe. You can calculate and visualize it by creating a capacity report.
For example, Jenna works five hours a day for four days a week. She has three hours earmarked for professional development each week. Her overall capacity is 17 hours a week. If all six team members in her team work in the same pattern, that’s a total team capacity of 102 hours.
Knowing resource capacity helps organizations understand how much work individuals and teams can safely take on. This informs everything from whether to onboard a new project, to how long it might take, and whether to hire more people.
See also Resource Capacity Model
The charge-out rate is how much a project-based business charges its clients for the work they provide. It includes resource costs, overheads, and - of course - your profit margin.
Businesses need to consider their charge-out rate carefully. Too high and your quote may not be competitive. Too low and you might not make enough money on the project. To calculate your charge-out rate, you need to accurately forecast project resource needs and costs - as well as understand what prices the market and specific clients can tolerate.
Enterprise resource planning software is a tool used by larger businesses to plan and manage their resources. It is a single place to control resource-related information across multiple departments - such as finance, HR, and operations.
By consolidating data and processes into one platform, ERP enhances cross-functional collaboration, automated workflows, data syncing and sharing, and overall efficiency. It reduces data duplication and helps businesses make better data-based decisions.
ERP isn’t to be confused with Resource Management Software, which is a centralized system to optimize resource allocation and management.
See also Resource Management Software
A fixed-price project is a project that has a fixed budget. It can be an easier sell to clients because they know exactly what they’ll pay. This pricing model can work well for projects with a clearly defined scope.
However, you take the risk. Regardless of how long a project takes, you will still charge the client an agreed amount. If your project overruns - this eats into your profit margin. To be successful, you need to understand the client brief and accurately forecast exactly what you’ll need to deliver the project on time and on budget.
See also Time and Materials (T&M)
Project forecasting is the process of working out what a project needs to be successful, as well as how long it will take and what it will cost. Project managers base their forecasts on historical project data - for example, how many and what type of resources did similar projects need - and their understanding of the current delivery landscape - like what resources are currently available and how much will they cost.
Project forecasting is a type of educated guesswork and can never be 100% accurate in a dynamic project environment. But it’s always worth doing. It ensures projects can reasonably meet desired outcomes and informs both schedule and budget. These are the basis of effective project monitoring and management - preventing projects from overruns and protecting your profit margin.
Human Resource Planning (HRP) is concerned with understanding future business objectives, forecasting the human resources needed to achieve them, and implementing strategies to meet those needs. It is similar to organizational capacity planning (see above).
HRP straddles talent acquisition, workforce development, and resource optimization. It helps organizations create a fit-for-purpose workforce, proactively addressing talent and skills gaps. This strategic approach to staffing builds a strong foundation for future success.
Idle time is when resources are not being actively used. When we’re talking about people and idle time, it’s sometimes known as bench time, from sports, when non-players sit on a bench on the sidelines.
Whatever you call it, your business can’t afford it. It undermines your overall productivity and efficiency. And, in a project-based business, resources that aren’t earning money are burning money.
To minimize bench time, you need to monitor resource utilization rates. If specific resources are under-utilized you can strategize how to get them more work - whether that’s pursuing projects they can support, or reskilling them for the projects you have.
See also Underutilization, Utilization Rates, and Utilization Heatmap
Just-in-Time Resourcing is a strategic approach to project staffing. It aims to provide the right number and type of resources just-in-time - to meet project demand but without paying for excess capacity.
Derived from lean manufacturing principles, the JITR approach relies on accurate resource forecasting and agile resource allocation processes to respond quickly to changing project requirements. It is a key resource management principle taught by the RMI in their RMCP program.
Done right, JITR enhances efficiency, reduces waste, and aligns resource allocation with real-time demand - contributing to overall organizational agility.
See also RMCP Certification
Operational efficiency is the ability of an organization to deliver products or services with the optimal use of resources, minimizing waste and maximizing productivity. Achieving operational efficiency involves streamlining processes, reducing unnecessary costs, and continuously improving workflows.
Organizations that prioritize operational efficiency respond more effectively to market demands, deliver higher-quality products or services, and maintain a competitive edge in their respective industries. Effective resource management is one way professional service businesses can improve their operational efficiency.
See also Resource Management
Operations strategy involves developing and executing plans to align operational activities with an organization's overall business objectives. It’s about translating your big-ticket business goals into actionable plans on the ground.
In professional services and project-based businesses, operations strategy is often concerned with the best ways to use human resources, optimizing workflows, and improving processes - all with the aim of delivering a quality service that delights your clients.
Overutilization is when people are allocated more work than they can reasonably handle. They’re given too much work, taking them over their individual capacity, and causing them to have to work excessive hours. This can lead to burnout, decreased productivity, and reduced work quality. Plus, overutilized resources can become a bottleneck to progress, if projects have to wait for them to become available.
To prevent overutilization, you first need to understand people’s capacity and the amount of work they have time for. Then monitor whether you’re allocating a reasonable amount of work. If you are overutilizing resources, you need to redistribute workload across your team, and consider recruitment and reskilling opportunities.
See also Underutilization, Utilization Rate, and Utilization Heatmap
Project lead time just means the total time required to complete a project, from initiation to delivery. It includes everything - from tasks and activities, to project delays and wait times.
Project-based businesses try to minimize project lead time to deliver client outcomes quickly, minimize costs, and get a competitive advantage.
You need to estimate project lead time accurately and monitor progress so you can stick to it. Key factors in managing lead time include thoroughly understanding the project brief, forecasting the time and resources required, and identifying and mitigating any risks.
See also Resource Risk and Risk Management
A Project Management Office (PMO) is a central department that is responsible for overseeing all matters relating to project management - from processes and policies, to training project managers. PMOs can be supportive (meaning they’re hands-off and just provide help), directive (which means they actually direct projects), or controlling (which is somewhere in the middle).
Setting up a successful PMO can improve business outcomes by embedding PM best practices, optimizing resources, and prioritizing projects that align with organizational strategy. However, done badly, they can increase bureaucracy and reduce agility.
A project roadmap is a visual representation of the key phases and milestones of a project. Unlike a detailed project schedule, a roadmap provides a high-level overview of a project, with the specific aim of communicating the plan with project stakeholders.
It usually comprises headline project activities, mapped against a timeline. If you’re staring at a blank screen wondering where to start, here are some project roadmap tools that can help you.
A project schedule follows on from a project roadmap (see above). It is a more detailed project plan that maps out all the activities required to complete a project, including their duration, start and end dates, any interdependencies, and who is responsible. Unlike a roadmap, which is for communication, a schedule is used to monitor and manage project progress.
Project scheduling is the planning process that creates a project schedule. It involves defining the tasks required to deliver a project, understanding their dependencies, estimating each task duration and the skills required to deliver them, and then estimating and allocating resources.
Effective project scheduling increases overall project outcomes and efficiencies. This is because the scheduling process provides a framework for forecasting project needs, planning a realistic schedule and budget, and optimizing resource utilization.
Reactive and proactive resourcing are the flipside of the same coin. Reactive resourcing involves responding to resource needs as they arise. Whereas proactive resourcing is about forecasting and strategically allocating resources in advance.
Both have their place. For example, reactive resourcing techniques help you respond systematically in a dynamic, changing landscape. However, proactive resourcing is a better approach for more predictable project-based work. It minimizes the risk of over- or underutilization and makes sure the right projects get the right people at the right time.
Resources is a blanket term that describes the different assets that organizations use to create value. It includes physical resources - like materials and equipment - and human resources.
At Runn, we use the term ‘resources’ to describe people who work for businesses. That’s because our sector has historically been called ‘resource management’. But we much prefer to use the words people, colleagues, or teammates where we can. Because that’s what human resources are. And putting the human in resource management is what Runn is all about.
Resource allocation is when you assign resources to projects and tasks. But it isn’t about just selecting the first person you think of. It is a strategic process that matches people to projects, based on a range of factors - including their skills, seniority, capacity, availability, development needs, and cost - to optimize project outcomes.
When thinking about how to allocate resources, a PM needs a deep understanding of each resource's capabilities, as well as project needs and goals. For example, Person A may have the perfect skill set for a project, but if they’re not available in the given timeframe, Person B may be a better choice to keep the project on schedule.
Resource availability refers to how much time different resources have to take on more work. It is one of the factors considered in resource allocation - alongside skills, cost, etc (see above).
It’s often confused with capacity. But resource capacity is the overall time they have available. Availability is their capacity minus any work that’s already allocated to them. Jenna might have 17 hours’ capacity this week. But she already has 6 hours of work allocated. So she has 11 hours available.
Capacity - allocated work = availability
17 hours - 6 hours = 11 hours
A Resource Calendar is a visual representation of resource availability over a specified time period. It is usually centralized, so everyone involved in resource scheduling can see the full picture.
It shows capacity, availability, work pattern, holidays, non-working days, etc, to allow resource managers to plan projects around these constraints.
A resource calendar supports effective resource management by increasing visibility into resource availability. It aids strategic resource allocation and prevents overutilization or resource clashes that could hinder project progress.
A resource capacity model calculates the maximum workload that a resource or a group of resources can handle within a specified timeframe. It considers factors such as skills, expertise, and availability to provide a realistic assessment of resource capacity.
A resource capacity model is represented visually, with a timeline along the horizontal axis and a vertical axis showing capacity and workload. In the screenshot from Runn below, the lilac is capacity and the dark blue is workload. You can see in the fourth column that there’s more work than the team can handle.
A capacity model helps organizations easily visualize and understand the impact of their decisions on capacity, preventing overutilization and ensuring projects can be delivered on schedule.
Resource cost is the total expenditure associated with acquiring, training, and maintaining resources within an organization. You need to know your resource costs for budgeting, financial planning, and determining the profitability of projects.
Resource costs include direct costs - such as salaries and equipment expenses - as well as indirect costs - including training and benefits - to calculate the true cost of resources. This can form the basis of their charge-out rate to clients.
Resource forecasting is the process of predicting future resource needs - to understand whether a particular objective is achievable with the resources and timeframe available. This might be at a project, portfolio, or organizational level.
It assesses various sources of data such as
Resource leveling is a technique used to balance workloads and optimize resource utilization throughout a project. It involves adjusting project schedules - specifically task start and end dates - to even out peaks and troughs in resource demand - hence leveling.
Resource leveling is one of several resource optimization techniques used by project managers - including resource smoothing and reverse resource allocation. The aim is to create a smoother workflow and reduce overutilization and potential bottlenecks.
The Resource Management Office (RMO) is a central team that oversees resource management, setting policies and procedures relating to how and why resources are allocated across the entire project portfolio.
The RMO maintains a centralized view of resource availability, standardizes resource allocation workflows - such as the resource request process (see below), prioritizes projects according to overall strategic alignment, and resolves scheduling conflicts.
Resource management Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are metrics used to assess the effectiveness of your resource management processes. They include metrics such as resource utilization rate, billable vs. non-billable hours, project completion time, schedule variance, and cost efficiency.
By regularly monitoring RM KPIs, organizations can identify areas for improvement and enhance overall project and organizational performance.
A resource manager is someone responsible for allocating and managing (human) resources in an organization. The resource manager role can be strategic and tactical.
A resource manager’s skill set combines RM techniques such as resource forecasting, as well as strong interpersonal and organizational skills.
Here’s what we’ve learned about the practice and future of resource management, based on conversations with 1,000 resource managers
Resource optimization is about achieving the perfect balance of resources in a project, so you achieve maximum value and optimal outcomes. Resource optimization techniques include monitoring and optimizing utilization rates, balancing workloads, minimizing idle time, and applying techniques like resource-leveling.
If you look at the screenshot below, you’ll see the before image shows resources being underutilized and overutilized, creating resource risk. In the after image, resources have been optimized to ensure everyone has a balanced workload and risk to the project is reduced.
A resource pool is a centralized record of the resources available in an organization. The resource pool contains useful information to help you identify your dream team and inform your resource allocation. Typically this will be:
Centralizing this information gives resource managers access to a wider range of people and more visibility into what they have to offer. Having this information at your fingertips improves strategic resource allocation and helps you dynamically create great teams based on project needs.
Larger organizations - perhaps those with an RMO or PMO - often have a resource request workflow.
Typically a resource or project manager identifies the resources/s they need and submits a request. A central team considers the request against the priorities and demands of the wider project portfolio and approves or rejects the request accordingly.
The benefit of this approach is that resources are allocated according to the bigger strategic picture rather than at a local level. But the downside is that it adds time and complexity to the allocation process, which can slow things down.
A resource schedule is a detailed plan that outlines the allocation of resources over time for specific tasks or projects. This schedule includes information about the timing, duration, and quantity of resources required at each stage of a project.
Effectively managing the resource schedule ensures that the right resources are available when needed, preventing bottlenecks and optimizing overall project efficiency.
Resource scheduling is the process of assigning and managing resources to specific tasks within a project. It requires an understanding of resource availability, skills required, and project timelines to ensure optimal allocation.
Effective resource scheduling minimizes overutilization, prevents conflicts, and contributes to the successful execution of projects. By aligning resources with project needs, organizations can enhance efficiency and deliver higher-quality outcomes.
Resource management is a business discipline that involves strategic planning and optimization of resources to achieve organizational goals. The ultimate aim is to improve project outcomes - and business success - by ensuring the right people are optimally allocated to projects.
It works alongside other people-focused business functions - including HR and recruitment - and includes strategic to tactical activities like:
Resource Management software - like Runn - automates and accelerates the resource management process. It includes tools for easier, more strategic, data-based RM activities - from strategic activities like scenario planning to tactical tasks like identifying and allocating resources.
It typically includes:
Resource risk refers to the threats and uncertainties associated with resource management. These resource risks pose a risk to project delivery, client outcomes, and overall business success. They include issues like skills shortages and talent gaps, unexpected turnover, illness, etc.
Proactively identifying and addressing resource risks is a critical part of the resource manager’s role. Project forecasting and capacity planning help RMs identify potential risks in advance. While access to centralized resource information lets RMs respond quickly to unexpected issues like sickness.
See also Risk Management
Resource utilization is concerned with how effectively you’re using your resources to contribute to business success. It’s often expressed as a utilization rate, which measures how much of your resources’ time is being productively used. For example, a 50% utilization rate means you’re only using 50% of your people’s time - could do better!
To improve resource utilization, you need to optimize how you allocate resources - improving how to match available people to projects - and minimize idle time - so that people are engaged in billable activities that generate revenue.
See also Utilization Rate
Project risk management involves identifying, assessing, and mitigating potential threats that could derail your project’s success. This could be anything from resource conflicts and budget overruns, to external factors outside the project team's control. Proactive risk management strategies include risk identification workshops, contingency planning, and ongoing risk monitoring.
Resource risk management involves identifying and mitigating potential risks related to resource availability, skills gaps, and talent shortages. Proactively planning for resource-related risks makes you more able to deliver projects on time and on budget, and to maintain optimal resource utilization even in the face of disruption.
The Resource Management Institute (RMI) is an organization that provides resources and certifications - and shares best practices - in the field of resource management. As a leading authority in the sector, the RMI supports professional development, establishes industry standards, and nurtures a community of practitioners dedicated to advancing resource management excellence. Find out more at resourcemanagementinstitute.com
The Resource Management Certified Professional (RMCP®) Certification is the RMI’s flagship resource management qualification. It is a globally recognized credential that validates an individual's expertise in resource management practices.
The RMCP® shares the latest resource management theory, methodologies, and best practices - especially around Just-in-Time resourcing. Designed for existing RM pros, it doesn’t ‘teach’ resource management. But it builds on people’s existing professional experience in the field, to level up their skills, expertise, and confidence.
Role design is how organizations strategically craft jobs to maximize their value to the business - as well as create satisfying roles that drive engagement, autonomy, and motivation. It ensures every employee has meaningful work that contributes to project, client, and organizational success.
Good role design is proven to reduce stress and overwhelm, and increase job satisfaction and involvement (Doshi and McGregor, Primed to Perform).
Scenario planning is especially important for project-based businesses because you operate in a highly dynamic environment. Your business model is based on rapidly assembling, mobilizing, and optimizing multiple project teams. Scenario planning lets you quickly assess the impact of different project combinations, so you the best fit for your capacity and goals.
Skills management is a systematic approach to managing, maximizing, and deploying the skills of your team. In resource management, this is essential for optimal resource allocation and ensuring that projects are equipped with people with the right skills.
It isn’t just about understanding and using the skills you already have. It’s about developing the skills you need for the future too. The first step to developing your organizational capabilities is to record people’s skills, experience, and seniority. But also their ambitions and interests - so you can match people with development opportunities that will inspire engagement and improve staff retention.
A staffing plan is a strategic document that sets out the number - and type - of employees you need to achieve your business goals. It considers the skills, expertise, and quantity of resources needed at various stages of a project - to optimize resource allocation, prevent shortages, and ensure the successful execution of projects. Here’s how to create a staffing plan for your business.
In resource management, supply and demand simply refers to the balance between the availability of resources (supply) and the demand for those resources within an organization (your project needs or future pipeline). Understanding resource supply and demand supports strategic capacity planning and resource optimization.
See also Capacity Planning
Time and Materials (T&M) is a pricing model based on the actual time spent and materials used in a project. This model is suitable for projects with evolving requirements where the exact scope is hard to define at first.
T&M contracts provide more flexibility than fixed-price projects. This is because the final price correlates to actual time spent, so there is always a profit margin. This means the client carries more of the risk. However, a T&M project requires meticulous time tracking to prove what people are working on (see time tracking below).
See also Fixed-Price Projects
Time tracking can be at a project or individual level.
Time tracking is important for several reasons. It helps the PM monitor whether the schedule is on track. The data informs future project forecasting. And it helps you create faster, more accurate client invoices.
Time tracking can be controversial though - here’s how to introduce time tracking without alienating your team.
Upskilling is the process of developing new skills in your workforce, to meet evolving needs within the business. In resource management, upskilling ensures that teams remain adaptable and possess the necessary expertise to handle changing project demands. It supports workforce development and organizational resilience.
The many benefits of upskilling resources include:
Underutilization occurs when resources are not fully utilized. Instead of working billable hours, they’re warming the bench instead. This burns money, rather than earns it. As well as being financially wasteful, it has other risks. You’re not using the full potential of your people, their skills are stagnating, and they’re probably so bored they’ll start looking for a new job.
To avoid underutilization - and its twin evil, overutilization - you need to track utilization rates and take corrective action to redistribute workload. If there is no longer demand for certain roles or skills, you can upskill or reskill those people in higher-demand areas.
See also Overutilization
A utilization heatmap is a visual representation of your resource utilization rates. It is color-coded to show - at a glance - which resources are optimally utilized, and which are used too little or too much. You can see utilization at individual and team level - or filter according to job role or skill set.
Utilization heatmaps help you make data-informed decisions for resource allocation - quickly identifying who can take on more work - and strategic workforce planning - which roles and skills you need more of.
Utilization rate calculates the percentage of time people spend actively working on projects or tasks.
A higher utilization rate indicates more efficient resource allocation and productivity, while a low rate may signal underutilization. However, don’t think ‘the higher the better’ when it comes to utilization.
A 100% utilization target is unrealistic and damaging. An optimal utilization rate is 80%. This leaves time in each day for contingencies. And within that 80%, you should expect about 80% billable and 20% non-billable activity.
Variance refers to the difference between planned and actual outcomes. In resource management, variance typically refers to budget or schedule variance (SV).
SV measures the progress of your project using financial metrics. It compares what you’ve earned against what you expected to have earned by now. It’s calculated as follows.
SV = EV (Earned Value) – PV (Planned Value)
Earned Value = how much work has been completed at this point in the project.
Planned Value = how much work was planned to be completed at this point in the project
If you have schedule variance, assess the reasons why - perhaps scope creep or resource availability - then implement adjustments to the project to prevent further slippages.
Workstreams break down large projects into smaller parts. They’re like mini-projects within a project.
A workstream is a distinct component of a project that is focused on a specific task or problem - often operating semi-autonomously. It has its own goals and objectives, which makes it easier to plan, monitor and execute.
Using workstreams helps you divide and conquer complex projects. They create clarity on what needs to be achieved. They provide transparency into responsibilities. They help you optimize resources accurately. And - when running concurrently - can accelerate progress.
Workforce planning is a strategic process that involves anticipating and aligning the workforce with organizational goals. It ensures that the right mix of skills and expertise is available to meet project and business requirements. Proactive workforce planning enhances adaptability, minimizes skill gaps, and supports overall organizational resilience.
See also Human Resource Planning (HRP)
Workforce scheduling involves creating and managing schedules for the workforce to ensure optimal resource allocation. It considers factors such as skills, availability, and project timelines. By aligning workforce schedules with project needs, organizations enhance efficiency, prevent overutilization, and facilitate successful project delivery.
See also Resource Scheduling
It's a challenging career, but if you build the right foundation of resource management skills, you can achieve great professional success as a resource manager. Read on to learn how.
Discover the state of resource management with insightful statistics. Explore current trends and challenges in optimizing organizational efficiency.