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.
Having the right resources is the key to driving your project to the finish line.
With all the best will in the world, a project that is under-resourced from the start is going to be a nightmare to deliver. If it's not late or over-budget, chances are that the quality of the work delivered will be subpar, or the scope of the work will need to be scaled back. In any case, stakeholders are likely to be disappointed in the outcome.
That said, most projects walk a pretty fine line in terms of resource limitations. Maximizing project profitability often depends on lean scheduling and efficiency - doing the most you can with what you have, and avoiding costly downtime and delays.
This is where resource management comes into the picture. Resource management is about making sure the right resources are available to each project at the right time, avoiding costly delays. Experienced resource managers are experts at driving operational efficiency, ensuring that resources are optimally utilized, and keeping one eye on the future - coming up with strategies to avoid resource bottlenecks down the line.
The role of a resource manager is rewarding, if complex. But if you have the right skills, it could be a great fit for you. And, in this article, we'll look at the skills that make an excellent resource manager, as well as the background that gives you the best foundation for the role.
So, whether you're a career changer wondering what skills you need to move into this field, a business ops professional with your eye on a role that involves resource management, or a project manager looking to work on more effective resource utilization — this guide will provide you with all you need to know.
The purpose of resource management is to ensure that all the necessary resources are provided to complete a project and meet its objectives. This involves planning, scheduling, and allocating resources to the project, so that the right resources are available at the right time for the right work.
Efficiency is the goal that underpins resource management - you want to achieve the greatest value for your projects. Essentially, it's about finding the sweet spot between overspending on resources (paying for more than you really need) and underspending on resources (risking delays and disasters, and not leaving yourself enough slack to absorb unexpected hiccups).
Before we delve deeper into resource management, let's be clear what we mean by the word resource. In simple terms, a resource is anything and everything you will need to complete a project. These may include money, workforce, and even technology. Resource managers usually classify resources into the following categories.
Resource management shifts your focus to making the most out of resources. By eliminating the waste that occurs with poor resource management, whether of material resources or employee time, you help the company generate more profit and gain a higher return on investment (ROI).
However, effective resource management requires a deep understanding of the project, resource availability and capacity, and the team's skills and expertise. Besides that, good resource managers also possess the proper knowledge and utilize the right tools that help them manage resources considering everyone's capacity and availability.
Simply speaking, resource managers are responsible for managing the utilization of resources in an organization - particularly employees. They collaborate with project managers to ensure that each project gets the correct resource allocation, in terms of the necessary workforce, equipment, tools, and other resources.
Here are the common duties and responsibilities you can find in a job description for a resource manager:
Effective resource management requires a different set of skills from the usual skills found in the project management office. Rather than taking a project-centric approach, resource managers need to be able to juggle optimizing resources for multiple projects, while considering the team's capacity, skills, and availability, and ensuring no team member gets overloaded.
Most companies look at four different aspects when looking for a resource manager.
Most resource managers have a Bachelor's degree. This can be in business administration, human resources management, or another management field. In particular, recruiters look for resource managers who have a strong knowledge of management, organizational development, and economics.
In addition to your education, companies also look for resource managers with industry certifications, proving you have expertise in a specific body of knowledge. These certifications may include the following:
Related to your educational background, employers look for hard skills: the technical skills you developed during your training. For example, you'll have skills and knowledge related to labor law, computer literacy, and resource forecasting techniques.
These hard skills help you manage a company's overall resources effectively, and are crucial for the data-driven, logical aspect of good resource management.
Most of a resource manager's responsibilities involve dealing with project managers and the project team. The nature of this work requires you to have soft skills such as interpersonal skills and people management skills.
For example, you may have excellent written communication skills, enabling you to coordinate people easily and clearly through email. You may also have strong conflict resolution skills, which allow you to intervene effectively if conflict arises during the execution of any project.
For senior resource management roles, the company will expect you to have a certain amount of experience in a more junior position or in a role that shares significant crossovers with resource management and capacity planning. However, if you're just starting out or moving from another role, your experience may still stand you in good stead if it helps you demonstrate the required skills.
For example, if you have five years of experience in project management, including handling the recruitment process for your projects, that would be considered relevant experience as you move into the field of resource management. Highlight your transferable skills, which you've demonstrated in previous roles and can apply to a resource management role.
But, ultimately, the path into resource management looks different for many people. As Runn COO and co-founder Nicole Tiefensee says from her years of experience working with Resource Managers, there is no one "right" way to move into this role:
As a Resource Manager, you're sitting at the connection point between many different business functions, and so you really need to be a good communicator, a good connector, with lots of empathy, and the ability to put yourself in other people's shoes. Typically, you don’t see people going to university and studying to become a resource manager. But what you do see is people coming from different business functions - sometimes they move from the project management side, or from the people and HR side. To be a successful Resource Manager, you need a broad view of the business - you would absolutely benefit from understanding processes on the project delivery side, and understanding processes on the people side.
Here are the essential skills needed to excel at resource management, and keep your company's resources working optimally:
As a resource manager, you will mostly likely work with several project and program managers at any given time to ensure they get the resources needed for the completion of their projects. You will also act as an intermediary between project managers and stakeholders or business owners to ensure no conflict.
As much as we want projects to go to plan, life is unpredictable. Sometimes you will need to think on your feet and come up with solutions to unexpected roadblocks. Being able to adapt will help you adjust and reallocate resources as needed to address challenges.
Your role as a resource manager requires you to allocate project resources, such as employees, money, and tangible assets, to different teams. Staying organized keeps you on track with everyone's budget and schedules.
You need to be able to handle data related to the company's resource use, and develop insights that help inform resource allocation for future projects. This also involves staying up to date on best practices and recruitment trends.
When specific resources are in high demand, or the absence of key team members leaves a project short-staffed, people will turn to you to resolve the resource conflict. You'll need to make good, objective decisions in a short timeframe to keep things moving.
From the hiring process, through onboarding, and on to training and upskilling, staff look to the resource manager for leadership. Coaching, and mentoring skills will also help you lead the team effectively.
Money, time, and people are a business's chief resources, so the ability to manage the financial side of human resources is important.
Resource management isn't as straightforward as assigning available resources so that everyone has a job to do. Here are six tips a resource manager can apply to maximize efficiency.
Some organizations take on multiple projects despite limited resources, leading to employee overtime, delayed deliverables, and increased costs. An effective resource manager knows the organization's capacity, and avoids over-committing.
You can apply the 80/20 rule, which implies that 80% of employees' time is spent on project work and the remaining 20% on administrative duties such as answering emails and attending internal meetings. You can adjust this ratio as time progresses to better represent how resources spend their time.
Prioritizing the right projects will help you identify which projects need to be staffed first, or given priority access to high-demand resources. While every project manager will tell you their project is the most important, you'll need to prioritize objectively when assigning tasks.
Key resources, such as those with specific technical skills or subject-matter experts, are often in high demand. Allocate these resources first, to the key tasks within each project that needs them. That way, the projects get the resources with the necessary skills to complete the job, and these key resources aren't wasted on other tasks that could be reallocated.
An effective resource manager always considers what-ifs to minimize the need to remove resources from ongoing projects and reassign them to high-priority ones. Forecasting resource demand for projects that are still in the pre-planning and approval phases can help reduce changes — and conflict — later on.
Resource management is data-driven. Before allocating resources, you must first know their skills, qualifications, availability, and utilization. You can keep everyone's records in a skill matrix, which you can quickly refer to find the right project staff for the right task.
A response team includes efficient employees with specialized knowledge available on demand. Think of the response team as your go-to team who can work on critical projects to increase overall project quality. They can step in whenever challenges arise or when you need specific expertise on critical projects, helping you minimize stress and avoid resource conflicts.
Understanding how resource management skills translate into effective resource management is key to optimizing your organization's resources. You must possess the right mix of people management skills and data-driven logic to make effective decisions. There are also best practices you can apply once you plan and distribute resources to different projects.
In addition to these best practices, you can also take advantage of resource management software such as Runn. It makes resource planning more manageable, and scheduling more streamlined and efficient — helping you keep up with the demands of project work in a face-paced, ambitious organization.
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