If you’re trying to make a sandwich, what do you do first?
If you're a resource manager, the first thing you'd do is survey all available resources to make sure you understand everything you have at your disposal. Then you would begin to clarify which resources are helpful in realizing your goal, and which are superfluous.
It’s essential to review the specific requirements for the sandwich you're trying to build, to be certain you don't build your sandwich with elements too far out of the project scope. Reviewing the brief, you learn that you need lunch meat, some variety of condiments, the all-important crunch factor, and a breaded casing of some kind.
In the fridge, you discover that of the two lunch meats you have available, you already assigned one to a chicken caesar wrap, so you assign the task to the mesquite turkey. The crunch factor could be accomplished with corn chips or lettuce, but since the client usually favors lettuce, and the corn chips are also capable of fulfilling a side dish role, you opt for the lettuce.
This process continues until you’ve created your sandwich as efficiently and — perhaps more importantly — as delicious as possible.
In a silly sandwich metaphor, that’s resource management.
In this article, we cover:
- What is resource management?
- How does resource management fit into project management?
- Why is resource management important?
- Advantages of resource management
- Resource management techniques
- What is a resource management plan?
- The benefits of resource management software
Let's get started.
What is Resource Management?
Resource management is defined as the scheduling, management, and allocation of an organization’s people and other resources in the most efficient way possible to produce the highest quality outcome.
You might be asking, “Aren’t resources just people?”
Yes and no. People are resources. And while they’re undoubtedly a company’s most valuable resource, people are not the only resources available. Resources, in this context, can be people, teams, placeholders (used when scheduling tentative work), or even equipment, that can be utilized to meet the desired outcome.
The role of a resource manager is to expertly steward these limited resources into the places where they can make the most significant impact.
As an example, let's say a company employs two graphic designers, Rachel and Edwin. Edwin is a long time pro, skilled in most design applications. Rachel is more specialized, focusing almost entirely on logo design.
If a logo design project comes in, a surface-level analysis of available people will show two designers. So, should we pick one at random?
Of course not! Resource managers need to understand the people on their team as granularly as possible. A good resource manager would know Rachel and Edwin’s specific skill sets and strengths. As a result, they would assign the logo design project to Rachel, leaving Edwin, the everyman, free to take on any other project that might come in.
Now, Edwin is perfectly capable of doing the logo design, but if it’s assigned to him and then some other type of design project came in, Rachel wouldn’t be able to work on it because it’s outside of her specialized skill set. It wouldn’t be the best use of the team’s talent.
This scenario is a simple example of how resource management is a necessary part of project management.
How Does Resource Management Fit into Project Management?
Whereas project management is concerned with specific tasks that need to be completed to deliver a project, resource management is concerned with the allocation of all available people (and other resources) across the entire project portfolio.
Think of resource management as a more holistic view of the building blocks that go into completing projects. It's essential because individual project managers aren't necessarily aware of what another project manager is doing to further their projects. Each is working to make sure their project gets finished on time and under budget, but the pool of available resources is the same for both.
Someone needs to be able to look at all projects across the organization and figure out how best to allocate the available resources to the work the project managers need to have completed.
Let's expand on our Edwin and Rachel example from before. The logo design project is being managed by Jaime, a project manager. Hunter, another project manager, is looking to get a brochure designed for one of his clients. Neither Jaime nor Hunter knows Edwin or Rachel's availability, and they may not know that Rachel's skillset is so specific to logo design. They both have work that needs to get completed, and they've scheduled out when each phase of work needs to happen.
This is where Sara comes in. Sara is a resource manager. She has a bird's eye view of all of the company’s employees, their availability, and specific skill sets. She would work with Jaime and Hunter to efficiently assign the available designers according to their schedule and skills and ensure both project timelines are honored.
Why is Resource Management Important?
Our fictitious example illustrates the role resource managers play, and starts to paint the picture for why their job is so important. But to fully understand how pivotal the role of a resource manager is, imagine not just two projects, but the day-to-day operations of an entire company, with hundreds, or even thousands of people.
Your resource pool climbs dramatically. Not only are you trying to utilize Rachel and Edwin efficiently, you also need to make sure every other employee has enough (but not too much) work, track their availability, and balance their workloads effectively. That’s adds up to a lot of labor in a large company!
Plus, you need to consider the equipment they use, rooms in the office with special functions, meeting spaces, media assets, external contractors, and so on. All of these resources are finite, and all of them need to be used in the most efficient way possible to keep the company profitable and growing.
A handful of project managers focused on the minutiae of their projects can't be sure they're using resources efficiently when they don't have visibility into what's being used by other project managers, what's needed by other project managers, and who or what is still available for the work.
The resource manager is the only person with the knowledge required to be sure all projects utilize the company’s talent and other resources intelligently.
What Are the Benefits of Resource Management?
Let's expand our earlier example even further.
After Hunter's brochure project is finished being designed, it needs to be printed, cut, folded, and shipped. This involves the company's print department, the printers, and all of the other machinery required to finalize the brochures.
To do its job, the print department has to maintain ink supplies, paper stock, and a bunch of different materials. If the brochures need to be printed on 8" x 14" medium weight stock and the department wasn't given enough lead time to make sure that stock is available, the prints will be delayed.
Once the print department is finished, the brochures need to get forwarded to the shipping department, which has its own machinery and material stock to maintain. And this isn't the only project getting shipped. So, someone needs to manage and allocate all these resources to be sure the bandwidth is available to get everything out to the client on time.
Resource management seeks to maximize the value derived from all of the company's resources across all projects, departments, and teams.
Proper resource management has several advantages for an organization:
It Allows for Transparency
Having a central person managing resources (including people) across the organization allows all departments to understand how their work affects other departments.
It Helps with Risk Mitigation
Without a holistic view of a company’s available resources, collisions and misappropriations are inevitable. This sort of risk is mitigated when potential staffing problems can be predicted ahead of time and incorporated into the plan.
It Prevents Overallocation
Specific team members are often requested more frequently than others. Without someone managing employee utilization, it's easy to overwork certain people, while others sit on the bench. You can imagine that Edwin, with his broad skill set, could end up working far too many hours, while Rachel gets to leave at 4:00 every day. This isn't sustainable for Edwin, and could be prevented with better resource allocation.
What Are Some of the Techniques Used in Resource Management?
Resource management is a discipline, but it’s also a process, using specific techniques to accomplish its goals.
Resource leveling involves balancing the supply of available resources with the demand for those resources. In general, this is accomplished by adjusting existing schedules to account for staffing and capacity constraints.
As an example, let’s say a production studio is scheduled to complete two large projects concurrently, but they both require the resident After Effects specialist, Dana. The schedule would have to be altered so Dana could work on both projects sequentially instead. This balances the available talent supply (Dana, our specialist) with the resource demand (the time needed for both projects).
Resource smoothing attempts to utilize people and equipment at a more constant, sustainable pace while maintaining pre-planned deadlines.
Resource smoothing is complementary to resource leveling. Resource smoothing is used to prevent peaks and valleys in resource allocation, where people are heavily scheduled for a period and then barely have any work for a period after. This can lead to fatigue and burnout, and with talent retention as one of the biggest challenges for modern companies, the importance of preventing these symptoms of attrition can’t be overstated.
Forecasting involves creating resource management plans. It's important for resource managers to predict future staffing requirements and current capacity, so they can assign people to projects effectively. Knowing who may be needed in the future allows them to earmark that person’s time.
Forecasting is a vital tool for resource management. Knowing future resource needs allows for insights into when you need to hire, what’s coming up in the business pipeline, or who’s overworked.
What is a Resource Management Plan?
When putting together the necessary team for a particular project, it's helpful to it's essential to have a way to detail all of the project requirements across all resource categories. It should include the labor categories needed as well as the specific skill sets required, any equipment or space requirements, and any outside vendor resources.
With today’s iterative projects, resource plans can’t be static. Rather, they’re fluid plans that develop and shift as the project progresses. Effective resource planning helps predict team capacity and will help smooth out bumps when unforeseen problems crop up. They help managers move smoothly from best-case scenario to alternative scenarios without delaying the project or spending beyond the budget.
The Benefits of Resource Management Software
Getting resource management right is a significant undertaking for companies of any size. There are a myriad of moving parts that continually shift.
The larger the organization, the most difficult it becomes for a resource manager to recall these nuances off the top of their heads. They need a system and tools to systematically keep track of people's skills and interests. This also makes it easier to bring a new Resource Manager up to speed.
Using resource management software can make a huge difference in the quality of your forecasts and the accuracy of your plans. Resource management software helps you see your entire talent pool in high resolution, and allows automation of specific tasks to keep your process efficient, like surfacing overbooked schedules or future staffing overlaps.
If your organization already has resource managers, investing in a software tool can add a considerable amount of value to their role and to your company as a whole. And if you haven’t already put resource management to work for you, but recognize how important it can be, software is an excellent way to significantly improve how your organization manages its workload.
10,000ft is a powerful resource planning and management tool that helps companies in a wide range of industries manage their projects and people, including:
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