Project Resource Management: The Ultimate Guide on How to Master It
Resources are the largest contributor to successful project delivery, and project managers spend significant time planning and managing their activities. Both resource and project managers work in tandem to develop resourcing strategies for projects.
The project manager estimates the resource requirement and creates open positions that get fulfilled by the resource manager. Once deployed, the project manager ensures that the assigned resources perform at their maximum potential and complete the delivery.
While assigning resources to tasks, the project manager is expected to collaborate with the team and consider their day-to-day involvement with project work. However, unforeseen circumstances can create a resource crunch that adversely affects project delivery.
What if some of your employees get sick, take a sabbatical, or change jobs? Project managers must ensure that the other resources are not overloaded, disengaged, or become unproductive as a result.
To utilize project resources effectively and ensure that they meet their anticipated performance goals, project managers play the role of both people manager and functional manager. Project resource management techniques address how resources need to be managed while working in different project situations.
This article aims to cover the essential aspects of project resource management, including a step-by-step guide to creating an effective project resource plan.
Before delving deep, let us begin with the definition.
1. What is project resource management?
Project resource management identifies, schedules, and oversees internal and external resources required for successful project delivery. It measures every team member’s productivity and helps you take proactive measures to maximize their billable and strategic utilization.
Effective project resource planning provides a clear picture of who is doing what and how long they need to accomplish the same. It helps you visualize underutilized resources or those getting rolled off from tasks and re-allocate them to suitable project vacancies.
Project resource management also enables you to answer questions like:
- Do I have sufficient resources to finish a job?
- Or do I need to hire someone else?
- How can I reduce project resource costs and complete the delivery?
Therefore, project resource management is a continuous process, and by implementing the right solution, you can take preventive measures to meet the overall objectives.
2. What are the types of resources used in projects?
People, processes, and technology, also referred to as the golden triangle, are essential for successful project implementation. So, to get the work done, you need labor, and they, in turn, need materials, equipment, and a place to carry out the project activities.
On an enterprise level, project resources can be human and non-human, which includes but not limited to:
Labor or human resource forms the backbone of any project and comprises employees (part-time or full-time) and contingent staff with various skill sets required for delivery.
Consumables & materials
These are the consumables needed to generate the final product. The materials for a road construction project are soil, rock aggregates, binders like lime, bituminous materials, cement, etc.
Equipment & tools
It covers all the tangible assets (machinery, plant, equipment, etc) and intangible assets (software, process, methods, and even ideas). These assets might change depending upon the type and nature of the organization.
Resources need an environment for project execution, such as land, conference room, office space, accommodation, and more.
The most significant resource is the money required to procure the resources and carry out the necessary work.
3. Characteristics of human resources in project management
Resources help in delivering the tasks effectively. Team members provide the extra pair of hands and mind to get the work done. Similarly, equipment, technology, and processes amplify workforce efficiency.
However, while assigning resources to projects, you must consider the following characteristics of human resources.
Resource Availability and Capacity
Capacity is the total number of hours an employee is available to work as per employer arrangement. Availability is the time the resource can spend on the project. So if a resource’s capacity is 8 hours a day and he or she works on another project for 3 hours, their availability is 5 hours.
Both availability and capacity play a crucial role in project resource planning and allocation.
Resource Capabilities and Skills
The workforce brings in required skills, experience, and expertise to help various projects meet the deliverables. Simultaneously, people also need a plethora of appropriate tools and technology to complete their work.
Therefore, project managers must consider the resource’s skills and capabilities before scheduling them to tasks.
4. Why is Project Resource Management important?
As a project manager, your primary concern is: How do I deliver a project on time and within the stipulated budget?
An effective project resource management strategy aims to meet the delivery commitments and enhance client satisfaction. It also improves the team’s performance, engagement, and productivity.
Once you have the resources and the skills in place, you need to master the art of scheduling, forecasting, and planning efficiently for the project’s success. Efficient project resource management also ensures maximum billable resource utilization for profitability.
A powerful resource management solution can unleash the potential of your workforce. Here is how:
- Reduce project costs– Complete visibility across the enterprise helps leverage global resources from low-cost locations. Using a multidimensional resource scheduler, managers can substantially reduce project resource costs without compromising quality. It also helps avoid deploying under-skilled or over-skilled resources on projects.
- Maximize profitable utilization– Project managers can forecast and improve billable and strategic resource utilization. They can ensure that project team members are productive and not spending too much time on administrative activities. Project managers can periodically mobilize resources from non-billable to billable and strategic work.
- Futureproof your business against uncertainties – Resource capacity planning helps you forecast pipeline project resource demands and identify excesses or shortfalls in advance. Accordingly, suitable resourcing treatments can be applied to create a skilled and future-ready workforce.
- Competent resource allocation: Unlike spreadsheets and homegrown tools that create silos, a resource management solution consolidates all information on a single platform. Using this information, managers can allocate the right resources to projects for timely and cost-effective delivery.
- Make informed decisions: Efficient resource management techniques help you see where your resources are and what they are doing, giving you control of the entire resource planning process. Real-time business intelligence and reports let you measure the performance of project members. It facilitates accurate forecasting for informed decision-making and helps you to steer projects in the right direction.
5. Six Project Resource Management Processes
The Project Management Book of Knowledge (
- Plan resource management: It includes identifying the type and number of resources needed to meet the deliverables. It also determines the approach you will use for project resource management.
- Estimate activity resources: Determine resources needed for carrying out project activities. Apart from the type and number, other selection criteria such as qualification, experience, and cost are defined.
- Acquire Resources: After estimating the project resource requirements, you must decide when and how you will acquire them. Formulate a procurement management plan for purchasing tools and equipment or publish the project team positions to fulfill the requirement.
- Develop Team: Once you have acquired the resources, you need to ensure they are skilled and trained to meet deliverables. It applies to human resources who seek career development opportunities and an enriching work experience.
- Manage Team: For managing project resources efficiently, project managers regularly need to track and measure employee performance to enhance their productivity.
- Control Resources: Project scope and client requirements can change anytime during the project lifecycle. Therefore, continuously monitoring and controlling procedures ensure that you have a skilled workforce ready to take up future work.
A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (also known as the PMBOK® Guide -- 7th Edition) is core reading as prep for PMI exams.
It's also a useful overview of ways of working, and this version includes The Standard for Project Managers too.
6. Challenges of Resource Management in Projects
Managing project resources can be a daunting task. Without the right tools, planning, allocating, monitoring, and implementing control measures for successful delivery can be extremely challenging.
Furthermore, change in project scope, client requirement, demand can have a snowball effect on resource supply.
Some of the significant challenges of resource management in projects are:
1. Lack of visibility across the enterprise
A bird’s eye view of resources across the enterprise is a prerequisite for identifying suitable team members. One of the biggest obstacles in achieving the same is because many project managers are still relying on outdated legacy tools.
Wellingtone’s Annual State of Project Management Report 2020 report states that, “only 23% of organizations use resource management solutions.”
Silos of spreadsheets and homegrown solutions fail to identify competent resources within matrix organizations. These tools are susceptible to redundancies and discrepancies leading to double booking.
The Solution: A resource management solution provides a unified view of skills, qualifications, experience, cost, and other critical resource information. It saves you from the trouble of reconciling multiple spreadsheets and helps identify and allocate appropriate resources for the project. You can also leverage cost-effective global resources across matrix boundaries without compromising quality.
2. Incorrect estimation of team’s capacity and availability
While assigning resources, evaluating the team’s capacity and availability is crucial. When managers have a clear overview of who’s available to take up the tasks, they can plan the projects precisely. However, aligning the team’s availability with the project schedule can be challenging without the right tools.
There is a close connection between resource availability, capacity, and ability to meet the project deliverables. Let us understand how:
Evaluate team’s capacity and availability
Before resource allocation, it is essential to analyze if there are sufficient resources to start the project. For precise project resource planning, managers must have complete visibility of resource schedules to understand who is available to take up tasks.
Many project managers still rely on spreadsheets that fail to update resource calendars in real-time. As a result, project managers do not have a unified view of their leaves and time off, resulting in last-minute chaos and discrepancies. This incorrect estimation can cause delays and budget overruns, leaving the client feeling utterly disappointed.
So, what could have avoided such instances in the first place?
The Solution: Resource scheduling software provides enterprise visibility of employees’ schedules and their time off, such as vacation, annual leaves, or public holidays. It also provides visibility of other available resources when needed and keeps the project resource plan on track. Resource capacity planning helps to identify and bridge the capacity gap using appropriate measures.
When planning and scheduling project team members, you must consider unexpected circumstances and have a backup plan in such cases. Your team members can become unwell, have some personal emergency, go on maternity leave, and even abruptly leave the organization. An effective project resource management strategy allows for a buffer on resources during unforeseen events.
The Solution: Instead of getting caught off guard, having a Plan B when things go wrong helps. Resource capacity planning can help identify the shortages, and accordingly, you can build an on-demand contingent workforce. These include freelancers and contractors having the required skill sets needed to execute the job. You can also look for available resources having the required skills and qualifications.
3. Unable to optimize utilization without overloading
One of the biggest challenges of project resource management is maximizing billable or strategic utilization without overloading resources on projects.
Often, project managers assign more tasks to a selected few employees because they have been counted upon in the past to deliver results. This overloading can lead to stress, burnout and build team animosity among team members. Overloading also causes delays, budget overruns, and other projects also suffer due to key resources’ unavailability.
The Solution: Resource management software provides foresight into strategic, billable, and non-billable utilization. Using flexible heat maps, project managers can take remedial measures and mobilize resources from low priority or non-billable work to high priority or billable/ strategic work.
Uniformly distributing critical resources across all projects instead of assigning them to a high-priority one controls costs and improves ROI.
4. Resource limitations in a multi-project environment
In a dynamic business environment, project managers often face resource shortages. Sudden changes in project scope, client requirements, or global crises like the current COVID pandemic affect resource supply.
According to PwC project management insights, “30% of project failure results from lack of resources.”
It is especially challenging in a multi-project environment, where resource scarcity affects several projects on the boil. Suppose there is a niche skill requirement to kickstart a project. As these resources possess highly specialized skills, they are not readily available in the market.
The Solution: Using a multidimensional scheduler, project managers can identify a niche resource within the enterprise. Implementing an out-rotation and backfill strategy will help start the new project without disrupting other existing projects. What-if analysis allows you to build and simulate various scenarios within the given constraints to arrive at the best outcome.
After evaluating every project’s profitability, project managers can prioritize resource allocations.
5. Disconnect between sales and delivery team
In a project-based business, miscommunication between the sales and delivery teams can have a spiraling effect on your projects, resulting in low client satisfaction. Once the sales team wins an opportunity, the delivery team takes ownership and is responsible for adhering to the commitment.
However, while achieving the sales targets, the sales team sometimes fails to involve the delivery team before signing the deal. As a result, the delivery team struggles with eleventh-hour resource allocations to meet the deliverables.
The solution: Effective resource management strategy includes forecasting and planning pipeline project requirements in advance. Once the project reaches the opportunity/approval stage, the salespeople involve the delivery team, who evaluates the resource capacity and communicates the deliverables’ feasibility.
Accordingly, the sales team negotiates with the client stating the revised delivery commitments, if any, and if both parties agree, the deal is signed.
7. How to create a project resource plan?
For every successful project, the journey starts with creating an efficient project resource plan. Using resource management solutions, project managers can plan, organize, and manage the project resources effectively.
Let’s take an example for better understanding. Suppose a bridge construction project will start two months from now. As resources are critical drivers of project success, the project manager needs to create an efficient project resource plan. Here are the essential steps to formulate one.
1. Estimate resources required for the project
Before starting the project, it is critical to define resource requirements. The project manager identifies the type and quantity of resources. Depending on the resource type, grades or skills can also be determined. For this bridge construction project, they also need to establish cement grade, size of cranes, kind of steel, etc.
Similarly, the skills, roles, experience, etc, are predefined for human resources such as civil engineers, architects, contractors, supervisors, and construction workers. Once the resource estimation is complete, the project manager informs the concerned stakeholders and gains their agreement.
They can then raise resource requests by filling and submitting the resource requisition form on the tool. Although done initially, note that resources can be requested in a staggered manner, depending on the project requirements.
2. Request resources
Once resource estimation is completed, the project manager requests the resource manager for fulfillment. An automated resource requesting helps streamline the process.
Modern resource management solutions allow project managers to specify the required skills, experience, qualifications, cost, and project timelines.
This request reaches the inbox of the resource manager in charge, who starts planning for the same. The whole process is documented and remains auditable, which eliminates any process-related confusion or conflicts.
3. Identify and estimate the shortfall
After receiving the resource request from the project manager, the resource manager starts planning for fulfillment. But first, they need to analyze the existing resource capacity. The resource manager looks into all the resources matching the requirements across the enterprise.
Using appropriate filters such as role, competency, location, and more on the resource management tool, they can quickly find all the relevant resources and their availability. Demand capacity planning helps to identify and estimate the excesses or shortfalls accurately.
4. Hire or retrain resources as needed
After identifying the excesses or shortages, the resource manager in charge can apply appropriate treatments to bridge the capacity gap. Depending upon the project’s duration and nature, stakeholders can decide whether to hire permanent employees or a contingent workforce.
If there is an excess, adjusting project timelines, training, reskilling, or selling excess capacity helps bridge the gap. Employees can be encouraged to acquire more skills. People on the bench and project vacancy reports enable resource managers to identify available employees.
If the resources match the minimum qualification criteria, learning new skills with shadowing (on-the-job training) opportunities increases billability.
5. Publish requirements and roles to empower resources
Studies have shown that employees are engaged and more productive if they are fully empowered to carry out their responsibilities. Since human resources are essential assets for most organizations, involving them in choosing projects of interest boosts productivity. They are motivated and hence feel responsible for accomplishing their respective tasks.
Resource managers can publish open positions within the resource management system. Every relevant resource matching the role and belonging to the required organization structure like the team, department, location, etc, can be notified. Accordingly, they can revert to the open positions and show their interest in joining the project team. The resource manager in charge can take appropriate action in selecting the ideal resource pool.
6. Seek approval from project or line managers
Once the resource manager in charge selects the team members, they can seek approval from the project manager before allocation. The project manager can either approve all recommended resources or request changing few team members. Accordingly, the resource managers start looking for more suitable resources befitting the requirements.
The entire process repeats till both the concerned stakeholders agree on the proposal. The project manager then approves the mutually agreed resources, and the resource manager starts the allocation process. In case there is a performance issue with a particular resource, the project manager can roll the person off and ask for a replacement during the project life-cycle.
7. Allocate appropriate resources to tasks:
The resource manager’s responsibility ends after the resources are accepted within a project. At this stage, the project manager assigns various tasks to the selected resources. They create a complete task list and its dependencies as per the work breakdown structure (WBS).
While scheduling team members, the project manager ensures that no one is under or overallocated. It improves project members’ overall productivity, reduces burnout, and helps meet the project’s objective.
8. Manage the project delivery
Project resource management is an ongoing process and doesn’t end after the initial resource allocation is complete. The project manager allows a buffer for any potential risks that can affect resource availability and complete projects with fewer members.
Resource optimization techniques help project managers to complete deliverables with minimal obstruction. They are:
- Resource Leveling: This technique is applied when you face sudden constraints on resources, but you have the flexibility to extend the project timeline. It is applicable when a critical resource is not available for a particular duration or sharing resources with other projects. Going back to our bridge construction example, suppose a vital resource, the hammerhead crane, needs repair and will be out of order for one week. In that case, resource leveling can help delay the construction activities, dependent on it by a week.
- Resource Smoothing: This technique is used when there is a constraint on the timeline but not on resources’ availability. It means the project deadline and critical path remain unchanged. Assuming the resource availability, the project manager can add and remove resources to deliver the time-bound project. Referring to the bridge construction example, the project manager can add more construction workers to meet the delivery deadline.
Apart from optimizing resources across projects, the project manager also ensures profitability and team productivity. Using forecasting analytics and reports inbuilt on resource management solutions, project managers can enhance profitable resource utilization.
To sum up, project resource management is a skill set that every project manager must master, and with the right tools and techniques, it is easily achievable. Resource management solution allows planning, scheduling, and allocating resources effectively to projects while maximizing their profitable utilization.
In a nutshell, it helps meet your project goals using your resources intelligently.
9. The Glossary
10. The Saviom Solution
Saviom is the market leader in offering the most powerful and configurable solution for managing your enterprise resources effectively and efficiently. With over 20 years of experience, this Australian-based company has created its global presence across 50 countries and helped more than 100 customers achieve their business goals.
Saviom also has products for project portfolio management, professional service automation, and workforce planning software that is customizable to your business requirements.
A version of this article first appeared on the Saviom website.