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As a project manager, have you ever been asked to help with hiring, staffing, or managing other resources needed for a project?

This is pretty typical in some agencies or project management organizations (PMOs), while in others, you might feel a bit like a fish out of water. Sometimes, as the project manager, you don’t have control of the resources available. Other times you might have a bit more influence.

So let’s look at who might play a role in resource management on your projects and how, as the PM, you can use your influence to get what you need.

What Is Resource Management?

Resource management ensures you have the right team members, supplies, and budget to complete the project you’re charged with delivering.

In the textbook version of resource management, the process often begins with the budget, since money often dictates how many people and how much equipment (or what types) you can have.

It’s important to have accurate estimates based on the desired team members, supplies, and possibly even the schedule. It’s only logical that you can work faster with more people working on the project at a time. (See also: The Science (& Art) Of Project Estimates + Top 6 Techniques.)

Before kickoff and during project planning, you’ll need to determine who will be on the project team and what tools or software licensing they might need.

During the project, resource management might mean coordinating with team members or other project managers to ensure no scheduling conflicts arise and that everyone clearly knows what work will get done and when. Determining if specific projects take priority over others and how that could impact your timelines or resources is also essential.

When working on a project as an in-house resource manager or being charged with an internal project where you aren’t billing clients, this might look a little different than if you’re working on resourcing an agency project and a client’s fees are paying the bills.

In this case, the resource manager or even the project manager might start by bringing together the assigned project team to determine what each person will do, how they will do it, and if there are other tools or resources the team requires to complete the project in the needed time frame. 

Project management and resource management are closely related in their roles in project planning. In some cases, project planning and resource planning might happen simultaneously.

Having a completed resource allocation can help you, as the project manager, create your project plans and schedules. You will also know if there are any constraints on team members’ time or on things you can purchase (software licensing, hardware, etc.) during the project.

Some project management or resource management software might allow you to create budget burndown charts for forecasting how your budget (or your team’s labor) should be allocated across the project life cycle.

Who Is Responsible For Resource Management On A Project?

The answer to this question depends mainly on your organization. The following people or roles might be charged with resource management depending on the size and type of organization you work in:

  • Project manager, a.k.a., you (come on, you knew this one was coming)
  • Operations manager
  • Resource manager
  • Agency owner
  • Chief operating officer or vice president of operations
  • Department or line manager
  • PMO leader

The answer to this question may also change depending on what phase a project is in. For example, a resource manager or someone in operations might be responsible for assigning project team members and other resources before a project kicks off. However, the project manager, department head, or another leader on the team may have some resource management responsibilities once the project is underway as things need to shift.

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What Is A Resource Manager?

As we’ve noted above, some organizations have a dedicated resource manager. So, what does this mean, and what does this person do all day?

The resource manager is responsible for managing all of the company’s resources day to day. This could mean keeping track of individuals’ capacity and availability, assigning out computers and other equipment, and managing software licensing company wide. They will also alert project managers or other company leaders of gaps in available resources, resource shortages, and general resource availability.

This person will advise on how (and when) new projects can start based on team member availability which means they frequently liaise with company leaders or the organization’s sales team as a trusted advisor.

Resource Manager Vs. Project Manager

Some of what a resource manager does sounds much like what a project manager does, but the key difference here is scale. A resource manager will handle the overarching responsibility for the entire organization. In contrast, the project manager might only work on a subset of projects (or just one project, depending on size and scope).

The exception to this might be a tiny organization with only one project manager. But, when discussing large companies or agencies with a group of project managers or a project management office, the resource manager will consider all of the project manager’s resources and when they are and are not available for other initiatives or new projects.

Key Responsibilities Of The Resource Manager

Capacity planning

A vital responsibility of a resource manager is overseeing capacity planning. This means ensuring that they know what resources are booked on projects out into the future.

For example, they should be able to see that a developer is on a project full-time for the next eight weeks and then tapering to half-time for another four weeks while the project wraps up.

This means the developer could start work on another project in eight weeks if they’re only needed half time initially on the new project. While this sounds fairly straightforward when looking at only one example, the resource manager might coordinate scheduling for much larger teams, so this can be time-consuming.

The resource manager may also need to provide reporting on capacity to project managers, company leaders, and other key stakeholders who use or manage project resources. This reporting may be done regularly or in real-time when evaluating upcoming projects and new opportunities.

Resource allocation

In addition to understanding capacity and resource utilization, the resource manager will oversee the methods being used for resource allocation. This could look like assigning team members to projects or handing out needed equipment.

The resource manager may also manage equipment or contracts through their lifecycle, oversee ordering replacement equipment before older equipment burns out, manage contract expirations, and cancel or renew needed licensing.

This aspect of the role might also work closely with someone in human resources to ensure labor laws are being complied with. In the U.S. and many parts of the world, there are laws about work hour limits, mandatory breaks, and when companies have to pay for overtime.

The resource manager needs to ensure that team members are scheduled according to their classifications. This is especially important when it comes to part-time or contract team members.

Managing resource conflicts

The resource manager might also help manage resource conflicts. This is for two main reasons. First, this person may proactively be able to see the conflict coming before the project manager or the person involved does.

This means they can be proactive about brainstorming solutions to any conflict. Second, since they have this bird’s eye view of capacity, they can identify other available resources or people with similar skill sets to alleviate conflicts or overbooking.

When it comes to conflicts with equipment or licensing, the resource manager can help schedule resources to ensure everyone has access to what they need at the right time. If this is not possible, the resource manager can determine if additional budgeting can be allocated to purchase additional pieces.

Updating resource management tools and reporting

Another responsibility of the resource manager might be to provide insight into resource utilization by keeping a resource management tool up to date. This tool will allow everyone in the organization to see if resources are booked or available or if additional resources are needed during any given timeframe.

The resource manager may also review data from the organization’s time-tracking system to understand how estimated project needs are aligning with reality. This can be especially helpful in organizations where team members work on different projects concurrently.

Collaborating with project managers and company leaders

The resource manager may spend a lot of time in Excel sheets or resource management software, but that isn’t the entirety of the job. They need to be highly collaborative with project managers and other leaders in the organization.

This means they need to have superior communication skills and be able to explain their decision-making process when looking at resource allocations. Due to previous experience in situations that may arise, they might have a strong point of view that they need to be able to explain to others who are further removed from the resource management process.

There are a lot of roles in the organization that have dependencies on the resource manager. For example, an HR manager might collaborate with the resource manager when bringing on new employees and setting up their schedules for onboarding.

Maximizing efficiency in the organization

Effective resource management can be used to drive efficiency in the organization.

Ensuring projects are scheduled in a way that they all have the right resources (and are coming in at or under the projected project budget) can help drive efficiency. Labor is generally one of the largest costs involved in project work, so good resource management techniques are critical to avoid rising labor costs.

The resource manager can help schedule resources so that each resource is achieving maximum utilization. A word of caution around the word maximum, though: Scheduling every staff member at 100% utilization (or more) can become a recipe for burnout.

Ensuring there is time outside of project work to allow for breaks, learning opportunities, and even needed admin work is critical.

Determining additional staffing needs

Since the resource manager will have a good handle on the utilization of company resources, they are uniquely positioned to provide insights into when additional staffing needs are going to come up.

They can alert whomever oversees human resource management as to the type of person the organization needs to hire. This might be for a new full-time role, or if the needs are temporary, they might recommend contract resources or freelancers to bridge a gap or fulfill a specific need.

Developing Good Resource Management Skills

As project managers, we can learn a lot from the discipline of resource management. These skills can help as we manage the day to day on our own projects or as we help our colleagues and organizations think about the resources we have and need to be successful.

Resource managers may have unique insights into how to staff project teams and play to individuals’ strengths. Skills we can all benefit from

If you're looking to deepen your resource management skills or are tasked with managing resources without the help of an experienced resource manager, we have more articles to help you learn and grow.

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Marissa Taffer
By Marissa Taffer

Marissa Taffer, PMP, CSM is the founder and president of M. Taffer Consulting. In her consulting practice, she helps organizations with project management processes and tools. She also serves as a fractional project manager supporting digital agencies, marketing departments, and other consultancies.