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Iryna Viter

Resource Management Mistakes: A Masterclass with Two Resource Managers

Want to learn how to avoid some serious resource management mistakes? Ask the experts! Foolproof your resource management practice by diving into these lessons.

Despite its undeniable value, it's still rare to find an organization with a robust, fully-fleshed out resource management office (RMO) or resource management team.

Unlike project management, resource management is still very much an emerging field without a guaranteed seat at the business essentials table. And so, if you want to build out resource management capability and processes in your organization, you will (most likely) need to make a case for resource management. What does it entail? What value does it hold? How much investment does it require and what ROI can it promise in return?

These are some of the primary questions organizations consider before setting out on their resource management journey.

Needless to say, there will be lots of resource management challenges and miscalculations on the way to successful implementation so knowing how to work with them is crucial.

We have talked to Martha Arias, Senior Director Resource Management at JFF, and Gary Ward, Director Global Resource Staffing at Guidewire Software, to uncover the top resource management mistakes you need to avoid in 2024 and onwards.

Not communicating the value of resource management

It starts with leadership buy-in. Having the support of at least one executive is crucial for validating the value of new ideas and initiatives, like resource management. And although the value of strategic resource management might feel obvious to some, it's always a good idea to overcommunicate there, repeatedly highlighting it to both internal and external stakeholders. A good starting point would be to make sure what resource management really is:

At the end of the day, everyone needs to agree that having effective resource management in place will work for the greater good of the whole organization.

On that note, Martha names this as one of the biggest mistakes in resource management and highlights the importance of "championing the team, having an executive sponsor that can help localize the value of resource management, and encourage the support and engagement of your team from the rest of the organization."

Putting too much focus on the internal team

For resource management to work right, it needs to connect with the larger organizational goals, not just the daily processes within your teams. What's more, everyone needs to understand HOW it connects with those goals, how it can help the company reach them faster.

For example, if one if your goals is to increase revenue in the coming year (as it happens to be for just about every company out there), it's paramount that you use various resource management reports and show how resource optimization can save costs and potentially free up space for redirecting finances.

For many resource managers, proper optimization eliminates the need of increasing headcount and opening new hiring rounds. Instead, they can allocate resources in a way that maximizes the potential of their current resource pool. Quantifying the savings in cases like this one will help you tie resource management to those larger organizational goals and clearly communicate its value to the company in general.

Martha notes:  

It's a big mistake to place too much focus on the inward workings of the team, and not taking the time to kind of pop up your head and look around the organization. And understand what the organization needs... if your processes are wonderful, but no one knows about them, and what the results are, then you will be frustrated with that lack of traction across the organization.

Not understanding your customers' goals

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is keeping your customer in the dark or not aligning with their goals. In order to avoid that, be sure to arrange for regular check-ins with your customer, at least quarterly. See what they expect from the coming year and how you can facilitate their progress.

'Customers' can be any leader across the organization... so really spend a significant amount of time understanding your customers' needs, and talking with them, understanding what their goals are for the year and think about how you can help move the dial, how can resource management help them and support them in their goals, says Martha.

Not creating an RMO charter

The Resource Management Office (RMO) charter is a key document that means to explain the value of resource management within the organization, its goals and functions, as well as the road it will take in order to achieve those goals. In many cases, you will be trying to map out the chosen resource management framework, communication patterns, and interaction rules within the various parts of the organization.

In fact, an RMO charter is an all-in document that will help you keep everyone aligned on expectations, responsibilities, and relevant processes. It serves externally to the stakeholders, and internally to the team, giving them orientation.

Gary notes that:

It's a critical document. It clarifies the role, the responsibilities, and the value proposition of resource management for stakeholders, but it's undoubtedly also an orientating North Star for the team itself. What's the vision? Where are you going to? What are you trying to achieve? This gets everyone aligned on priorities, frameworks, how to articulate our value. But it goes beyond where you are today and where you're going into in the future.

What's more, a well-written RMO charter will help you with roadshows. You can use it as a supporting document when speaking with other teams and explaining what you do, where the value lies, and what you are focused on. It can also help you clearly express your values as a resource team, add more transparency into decision making and priority setting. It will help you take ambiguity our of the picture and show the context behind your roadmap.

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RMO charter document

Taking a reactive, tactical RM approach

Another mistake organizations often make is viewing their resource management teams as a supplementary tool that has a limited say in the overall organizational matters. The future of resource management is all about crucial change and high-level impact within companies. Limiting resource management to a reactive role alone means eating away at its potential.

However, as mentioned earlier, reaching that strategic role, the company-wide recognition is no easy feat. Apart from making a case and highlighting the value of the role, you need to be able to provide quantifiable benefits to earn a place in the strategy planning group.

RMOs should be strategic partners. If they're overly administrative, tactical, reactive firefighting, you've missed the point. Something's gone wrong... Really leaning into trying to make sure that the trajectory or the direction of the RMO was towards that strategic path. Sometimes that can only be done by decreasing administrative debt, whether that's on the people side, the process, either technology side, just making those efficiencies. But it's also about maturing the function itself as you go, says Gary.

➡️ Further reading: The Difference Between Reactive & Proactive Resourcing

Not giving resource management enough autonomy

Along with earning a seat in the strategic group, the resource management department also needs to have an adequate level of autonomy and trust, ways to get enough investment without having to struggle for it. This, once again, can be reached if you can clearly, and, preferably, in a quantifiable manner communicate the worth and value of resource management to the company in general.

This value can be about saved costs, optimized resources, fine-tuned flows, improved employee performance and satisfaction, lower employee turnover rates, better project delivery, more satisfied customers, etc.

Gary points out that:

Resource Management has to have autonomy, has to be empowered to make decisions in order to deliver positive outcomes. It must have a seat at the table in that respect, and it requires advocacy in the organization. If a resource management team remain, let's say reactive, tactical, or purely administrative, you've lost an opportunity to hold a competitive edge. And particularly, missed the true value proposition of what RMO can bring to an organization. So again, if RMO was not empowered advocated for, trusted, invested in the right way, I don't think it can reach its full potential.

Not making your data transparent

The best way to get company-wide buy-in lies in humanizing resource management and the data that builds it. All the relevant stakeholders, whether they are internal or external, need to be able to easily understand the data provided to them with no excessive supervision.

This means that you need to know what data is relevant for them to read, how that data ties to their role within the company, and how it contextualizes the value of resource management for everyone affected by it, directly or indirectly.

Gary explains:

You need to leverage data in the right way. I think people need to have access to that visibility getting status reports out there. But contextualizing that or what I'd call humanizing the data. What does that mean for the people on the ground? What does this mean for our projects? What does this mean for further operational efficiencies and delivering on customer success?

Being too focused on utilization

Utilization is undeniably an extremely important metric in resource management. But putting too much focus on it and ignoring other important metrics is a crucial mistake to avoid if you want to paint a fair picture of your resource management progress.

Gary says it's very frustrating when you focus on one KPI alone, like utilization:

There's a lot of value to really exploring what you can do with your data. And what you can achieve then from a metrics point of view. Maybe you haven't moved the needle on utilization but were you capable of giving your organization time back, whether that's a specific role, or function, or team — quantify it! Particularly if they're billable people — quantify the efforts that you made, what their bill rate is, what the opportunity there is to generate more revenue. It's important. So there's many kinds of creative ways you can do this, too.

➡️ Further reading: 5 Resource Management KPIs You Should Be Tracking

Not tracking non-quantifiable benefits

But another thing to note is that not all the KPIs and benefits in resource management are quantifiable, yet all of them are equally important to track, especially when it comes to the things that concern the happiness and satisfaction of your team members, how they feel with the projects assigned to them, etc.

Martha explains that there are lots of indicators, which you can turn into KPIs, if you want to further measure how much value resource management is bringing into the company and how reliable people, especially the leadership group, believe it to be:

You want to think about the team members you staff to projects. Do they feel supported? Do they feel that they're getting good quality matches to their work and their skills? Are they getting stretch opportunities at a specific rate? We want people to be growing and feel like they're growing at our organization. And then I would also say as non quantifiable, even though you can technically quantify it, but how often do leaders come to your team to solve business challenges? If you are seeing that leaders feel like resource management can solve a business challenge, that there is a view of value and that your team can deliver.

Final thoughts

Effective resource management is driven by three C's: communication, culture, and change management. It requires you to be transparent, thorough, agile, and proactive. Here's how it ties to the resource management mistakes Martha and Gary mentioned during our conversation:

  • Communication will help you show the value of resource management, clearly explain relevant data, understand your customers' goals, and speak both to internal and external stakeholders in a language they understand.
  • Culture will help you make a shift from being reactive only, gain a seat in the company strategy group, and give you enough autonomy to make relevant decisions and set cleat priorities that will lead to success.
  • Change management will help you remain agile and nimble so you can track relevant data, analyze relevant KPIs and tweak strategy on the go.
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