Your step-by-step guide to creating a resource management plan - for project managers that love delivering on time and on budget.
Resource management isn’t easy. Project management experts Wellingtone describe it as a high-value, high-challenge activity. It’s key to project success but difficult to get right. Perhaps this is why resource management is cited as one of the top three challenges faced by organizations in their annual State of Project Management survey.
A resource management plan can make it easier.
Resource management plans detail how you’ll acquire, develop, use, manage, control, and release the resources you need for a particular project.
Basically, how you’ll get the resources you need, turn them into a high-performing project team, and manage them effectively for project success.
In professional service businesses, getting the right project resources can be the difference between glory and failure. Between delivering on time and in the black versus delivering behind schedule and over budget.
With research from the PMI putting the global project failure rate at 12% - and top talent in increasingly high demand due to economic factors - do you want to take that chance?
We didn’t think so. So here’s our Runn-down on how to create a kickass resource management plan.
Resources in project management include anything you need to complete the project - including people, equipment, materials, physical resources etc.
In the context of this article, we are referring specifically to human resources - the talented team you need to get the job done. When we say 'resources' think 'project team members'.
A resource management plan is a project planning document that details how you will identify, allocate, manage, and release the resources you need for your project. As with most project management plans, the ultimate aim is to minimize wastage, maximize resource utilization, and reduce schedule and budget variance.
A resource management plan does this by creating a strategy for how you’ll acquire and use your project resources effectively. It’s an essential part of effective project resource management, and it can be a standalone document or form part of a larger project management plan.
The PMBOK - the project management industry’s go-to guide - says that resource management plans should include the following sections.
This is an illustrative list, not exhaustive. You may have other information you need to include for your particular business. And the information will vary depending on the scale and scope of your project.
Having a clear resource management plan can prevent a lot of project problems that - unchecked - can jeopardize project outcomes:
Here are some of the key benefits of a resource management plan (Spoiler alert: They’re pretty similar to the benefits of resourcing planning in general!)
Creating a realistic schedule - A resource management plan helps you start to create a realistic project schedule by identifying the resources you need to deliver specific tasks, how long you’ll need them, and in what order. This helps prevent bottlenecks that can arise through poor resource planning.
Calculating an accurate budget - People are often the highest cost in project-based businesses. Understanding exactly what type of project resources you need and how much this will cost is essential. This information helps you create an accurate budget - and know what to quote clients to achieve a profit. Having an accurate budget from the start also helps you monitor and control costs later.
Reducing conflict - Intra-team conflict can be disruptive. And confusion can cause delays. A resource management plan clearly defines roles and responsibilities. That means individuals have clarity about their specific part of the project, as well as an understanding of what others do too.
Preventing waste - A resource management plan provides a framework for onboarding and releasing project resources at the right time - and for maximizing utilization. Effective resource management reduces any idle time where resources might be burning, rather than earning, money on your project.
Balancing workloads - Burnout happens when your knowledge workers have too much work and too little time. Planning how you’ll manage your resources helps you balance workloads, so your project team are motivated and engaged, not stressed and overstretched.
Securing top talent - The best resources are in high demand and you may need to plan your project around their availability. A resource management plan lets you identify needs and request resources in good time, so you have a better chance of securing the people your project requires.
Identifying capacity issues early - A resource management plan helps you spot skills or resource gaps early. This lets you engage other functions - like talent acquisition - to fulfill future resource requirements. It also provides a framework for determining how to plug those gaps, such as upskilling internally or hiring externally.
Next, you should develop a deep understanding of the project, so you can work out what resources you’re likely to need. You’ll want to look at any information you have available so far - like the project brief, scoping document, or high-level Work Breakdown Structure, if available.
You might also want to look at similar previous projects. This can help you understand what the project will entail and how many resources might be needed. You can also learn from any issues in past projects - such as schedule or budget variance - to help you plan more accurately this time round.
At this stage, you’re concerned with how you’ll identify, quantify, and acquire the resources you need for the project.
In a smaller business, it might be easy to work out what resources you need and how you’ll get them. Maybe you just shout across the office and ask!
But in a larger or more complex business, there may be processes to follow to ensure resources are planned effectively and consistently. For example,
Document these requirements so you are aware of them - and can work through them in good time.
Equipped with an understanding of the project, you can start scoping out your needs and record them in a Resource Breakdown Structure (RBS).
An RBS simply describes the resources you'll need in order to deliver the entire project. For example, 400 hours from a software engineer, 100 hours from a Java developer etc.
You’ll need to estimate when you’ll require specific resources - and when you’ll be able to release them. This is important because other projects may be waiting for them. It’s about balancing your project needs with overall business needs.
You might begin looking at resource availability here to understand any contingencies or capacity issues now. For example, if a particular resource is key to your project - but fully booked for the next six months - that will impact your next steps. For example, perhaps you need to reschedule the project or seek permission to recruit.
Now you’ve worked out the type of resources you need, it’s time to define team roles and responsibilities.
Your resource management plan should include a written description of each role that contains information like:
With your roles, responsibilities, and reporting lines defined, you can create visual representations of the project team and resourcing needs. These help everyone in the team understand their position at a glance. They also help adjacent departments - such as talent acquisition - understand your needs.
As a minimum, you should include an organizational chart that shows the roles and reporting lines.
However, you may also want to include:
Finally, you need to think about how you’ll manage and motivate your people once you have them in place. For example:
With all the information collated and decisions made, you can compile your final resource management planning document. Once complete, share this with all project stakeholders so that they understand the who, what, why, and when of your resource management process.
Resource scheduling software is invaluable in both resource management planning and managing resources once the project is underway.
A proper resource planning tool provides project managers with instant information like:
This makes resource management quicker, easier, and more accurate. So PMs can spend less time poring over spreadsheets and more time actually managing projects.
If you don’t have resource management tool yet:
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