Resource management is a critical part of project management, and of running a successful business. Your organization has finite resources, such as facility, staff members, materials (or products), and even time.
Managing those resources may be relatively easy when you're a small organization, but as your company grows, you may find resource management software helps you better keep track of resource utilization. How to choose resource management software is a critical consideration, since selecting the right software makes resource planning a much easier task.
- What Is Resource Management Software?
- Do You Really Need A Dedicated Resource Management Tool?
- What To Look For In Resource Management Software
- 10 Best Resource Management Software
What Is Resource Management Software?
Resource management software helps organizations keep track of their resource availability and utilization. Some organizations use a simple spreadsheet or other home-grown tools; however, these systems can be error-prone, especially when you're dealing with large or complex projects.
Project management software often includes a resource management element. This can provide project managers with an overview of the resources they need and how those resources are linked to a specific task.
When you're managing multiple projects, an organization with complex supply chains, or a lot of employees, managing resources becomes more complex.
Dedicated resource management software solves the complexity issue by offering a single, focused interface for resource management, helping eliminate data entry errors, permission problems, record locking issues, and accidental overwriting or deletion of data.
Do You Really Need a Dedicated Resource Management Tool?
If you're a project manager at a small or medium-size organization, you may find yourself wondering if you really need a dedicated tool to manage resources. After all, you may have good scheduling and project planning tools at your disposal already.
Some small businesses, or even larger organizations in certain services or creative industries, can do perfectly well with Microsoft Project. As your resource requirements become more complex, however, having tools for forecasting, tracking available resources, and monitoring resource allocations becomes more important.
What to Look for in Resource Management Software
If you're wondering how to choose resource management software, consider the following points:
SaaS vs Installed Software
Many popular tools for resource management are cloud-based solutions, also known as Software as a Service (SaaS). These tools have some clear benefits:
- Being browser-based, their hardware requirements are minimal
- There's no need to install anything or worry about updates
- You’ll be able to access the data anywhere as long as you have an internet connection
- There's no need to worry about backups
However, there are some downsides to using cloud software:
- Updates are server-side, so if you don't like a new version you can't simply opt-out
- You rely on the SaaS provider for security and may be at increased risk of data breaches
- Cloud solutions are often cheaper to get started with, but because they're subscription-based, you may pay more over the lifetime of the product
Dedicated Resource Management vs Project Management Tools
Resource management and project management are separate disciplines, but they complement each other. Because there's so much overlap between the two disciplines, it's common for project management software to have some features for resource forecasting or resource management.
In project management, resources are used to complete the task at hand. In contrast, in resource management, the resources are the most important element.
Project managers with mid-size teams who simply want a high-level overview of resource allocation may find the features of their project management software adequate. However, if you're working on multiple projects or have a larger team, dedicated resource planning software starts to come into its own.
Dedicated tools offer better features for project planning, resource management, and capacity planning across multiple teams.
Must-Have Features In Resource Management Software
Depending on the size of your organization and the scale of your project, you may need a different approach to managing resources, and this will dictate the resource planning tool you choose.
For example, an agency’s primary resource is probably its people and the project team members. This means resource scheduling software is likely the best choice. It offers the kind of Gantt chart creation and scheduling tools required to keep track of staff availability and workloads.
If your primary resources are materials or products, you'll need something with more capacity planning and resource utilization features.
Some features that may apply to businesses in any industry include:
- Tracking resource costs
- Viewing employee availability
- Workload management
- Integration with project planning tools
- Cost calculations (actual and planned costs)
- Resource forecasting
Consider which features you'll actually use in your projects, and narrow down the list of tools based on which ones have most of the features you're looking for.
Read more about the most common features of resource management software here.
You may already have some tools that are heavily integrated into your workflow. For example, you may use Toggl as a time tracking software, and Monday.com as your project management and work planning tool.
Those tools may do a particularly good job of managing a specific area of your projects, but you may feel that a dedicated resource management tool would help with higher-level planning.
Fortunately, the best tools offer third-party integrations, so they can slot easily into your existing workflow. For example, Hub Planner has an API that integrates with Zapier, so you can connect it to other work apps.
There may be some additional development work required to get everything working together smoothly, but having your task management and resource allocation information flowing from one app to another for reporting and scheduling purposes will greatly improve your project's efficiency.
The pricing structures of resource planning software can vary dramatically. As was mentioned earlier, SaaS solutions are usually subscription-based, whereas standalone software may use a one-off license fee, although there could be additional fees for ongoing support and updates.
There are several factors to consider when weighing up the decision of SaaS vs on-premise applications. The subscription model of SaaS tools can make it easier to get started with them, as there's a lower up-front outlay. It's worth taking a moment to calculate the cost of using the tool over a period of a couple of years to determine whether a one-off purchase might save your organization money.
Even within the SaaS world, subscription models can vary dramatically. Check whether there's a per-user fee or even a per-project fee. Large organizations that run multiple projects concurrently or need to have several people updating resource information on the app may find per-user licenses become expensive very quickly.
10 Best Resource Management Software
Start your search for the best resource management software for your organization here. Keeping in mind the considerations above, make a shortlist from the options below.
- 1. monday.com — Best for simple workload and capacity planning
- 2. Wrike — Best resource management software for scalability
- 3. Kantata — Best all-in-one resource planning for services teams and agencies
- 4. Parallax — Best for PS companies looking to aggregate functionality through integrations
- 5. Smartsheet — Best for advanced and custom workflow automations
- 6. Float — Best for digital agencies and production teams
- 7. Meisterplan — Best for its role-based resource allocation prior to staffing
- 8. Saviom — Best for enterprise resource and workforce management
- 9. Resource Guru — Best for fast and flexible scheduling
- 10. Mosaic — Best for its recommendations based on resource skills and availability
Read full reviews of each of the above tools in our article on resource management software here.
Resource Management Software Only Works if Your Team Uses It
Whatever resource management tool you decide to use, remember it's just an extra tool in your toolbox, just like project management software. These tools can guide you and your team, but the information they provide is only as useful as the data that's entered into them.
Before you decide what resource scheduling software to adopt, talk to your project leads and the team members who'll be using it. Make sure it fits their workflow and will solve the problems they actually have, rather than simply consuming one of the most valuable resources—their time. Learn more about what resource management software is used for here.
If you'd like to know more about resource management tools and how they fit in with your broader project management strategy, subscribe to The Digital Project Manager’s newsletter.