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If the future of project management is people management, then it stands to reason that any project manager worth their salt should be an expert at mastering project resource management.

In this guide, I’ll introduce effective resource management techniques, share resource management software, and provide best practices to help you put your best foot forward.

What Is Resource Management?

Resource management is the process of forecasting, assembling, and managing the team members, equipment, and other materials needed to execute a project.

Although the term is admittedly icky, a resource is a generic way of describing a person or piece of equipment (e.g. software, hardware) that you need to complete a project. The major types of resources in project management include human resources (services or labor) and equipment or supplies. You could also consider money and time as project resources. In construction resource management, things like machinery and tools are also considered resources.

The six types of resources you're most likely to work with on your digital projects, including labor, equipment and materials, money, space, services, and time
Here's the six types of resources you're most likely to work with on your digital projects.

Why Is Resource Management Important?

Resource management is important because it provides the following benefits:

  • Satisfied stakeholders: resource management keeps stakeholders happy because the project is scoped and staffed with the right resources
  • Engaged team members: project team members are motivated by and engaged in their work, improving productivity, and reducing burnout and/or turnover
  • Improved business outcomes: successful project delivery leads to requests for new or repeat business and increased profits
  • More transparency: you'll build trust with team members and stakeholders by setting realistic expectations
  • Reduced idle time: you'll be able to make sure team members have a balanced work load with minimal idle time
  • Better understanding of resource availability: you'll get a better understanding what kind of resources projects typically need so you can plan for future projects and multiple projects at a time
  • Better understanding of team member strengths: you'll get a good idea of your team members skill sets and what they like to work on
  • Streamlined workflows: you'll be able to reduce inefficiencies, dependencies, and roadblocks in your processes
  • More confident decision-making: resource management provides hard data and metrics that you can feel confident in as you make decisions
  • Reduced overhead costs: you'll be able to maximize your existing resources and reduce spending on unnecessary resources
  • Improved ability to meet deadlines: with the right team members, tools, and processes in place, you'll be able to better meet timelines
10 reasons why resource management is important.
Here are just 10 of the many important reasons you should focus on resource management.

The Resource Management Process Step-by-Step

The Project Management Institute defines several key steps in the project resource management process. These include:

  1. Resource Planning: Define the requirements needed to complete the project. This may involve creating a work breakdown structure or other resource planning visualization.
  2. Estimate Resources / Resource Allocation: Determine what resources you'll need for project delivery and start allocating resources to specific tasks based on resource availability. Determine how much time team members will devote to the project.
  3. Acquire Resources: Corral your resources, whether they are internal resources that already exist in your org, or whether you need to find external resources to fill any gaps in skill sets or address shortages.
  4. Develop and Manage The Team: Foster an environment of psychological safety and constructive feedback. Keep the team motivated and prevent burnout by checking in regularly.
  5. Continuously Evaluate Resources: Manage the team as they are performing the work. You may need to adjust workloads or change who's assigned to a task as competing priorities or unexpected time off come up.

Resource Management Techniques

No project has an infinite supply of resources. This is because not everyone assigned to a project spends 100% of their time on the project. Calculating resource utilization metrics, or what percentage of time people devote to a project, helps you plan, estimate, and allocate resources effectively. Besides time, other resource constraints include scope and budget.

You can use a variety of different resource management techniques to help you navigate these constraints when managing new projects. I’ll review some of the most common techniques here.

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Resource Loading

Resource loading calculates the amount of work you expect team members to perform based on their available capacity, assuming project start and end dates are fixed. Note that capacity should not equal 100%—factoring in paid time off, sick leave, and bathroom breaks, not to mention time for meetings and other disruptions, reduces resource load to ~50% or 60%.

Resource Estimation

You can estimate project resources in two main ways:

  • Bottom-up: estimate the number of hours required by team member for each deliverable
  • Top-down: using your project budget as a constraint, allocate human resources based on the most critical roles required for project success.

Resource Allocation

To perform resource allocation, you’ll need to:

  • Determine what skillsets are required to complete project tasks
  • Estimate the number of hours these tasks will take
  • Perform resource capacity planning, or determine who will work on what based on forecasted availability and your project roadmap.

There are a variety of resource allocation methods you might consider using.

Resource Scheduling

In the resource scheduling technique, the project schedule is not the primary constraint. Review the results of the resource allocation exercise to schedule project or task start and end dates based on resource availability.

Resource Optimization

Resource optimization techniques balance resource demand with resource supply. The goal of resource optimization is to achieve project goals within a set time frame and budget. Two types of resource optimization include resource leveling and resource smoothing.

Resource Leveling

Similar to resource loading, the first step of resource leveling is to calculate the amount of work you expect team members to perform based on capacity. The primary difference in resource leveling is that project start and end dates are flexible based on available resources.

Resource leveling techniques include:

  • Critical path method
  • Critical chain method
  • Fast tracking
  • Resource crashing

Resource Smoothing

When your primary resource constraint is time, meaning your project start and end dates cannot be shifted, you can employ the resource smoothing technique to try to reduce demand while staying within the given time constraints. An example of resource smoothing might be engaging a more experienced person who can complete the work in a shorter amount of time.

Resource Forecasting

Resource forecasting predicts future resource requirements for a project. To refine your forecast and avoid overallocation, schedule periodic project health checks to:

  • Compare actual costs against plan
  • Ensure team members are performing work aligned to their competencies and interests
  • Improve project processes based on learnings

Capacity Planning

Capacity planning predicts whether your existing supply of resources will be sufficient to achieve project objectives in the first place.

Resource Management Best Practices

Here are some resource management best practices, tips, and tricks to keep in mind:

  • Be conservative. Things always take longer than we expect them to. Make sure to build in a realistic buffer to account for potential delays
  • Document your assumptions. It’s important to clarify what you were thinking when you composed your resource plan. This helps you align with stakeholders on scope and level of effort. 
  • Monitor and update your plan. Your resource management plan must be a living document for it to remain useful. When the project ends, you can also extract lessons learned that will help you estimate the level of effort for future projects.

3 Ways To Manage Resources

Now that I’ve covered resource management techniques, I’ll go over several tools that you can use to help you manage your project portfolio.

Resource Management Plans

A project resource management plan outlines a strategy for how to allocate, schedule, and engage resources during a project. Resource plans maintain accurate information for project stakeholders at a glance to empower organizational decision-making.

how to create a resource management plan
Here are the six steps involved in creating a resource management plan.

Resource Calendars

Resource calendars show staffing availability and are therefore useful for scheduling project tasks. Project managers should create resource calendars at the beginning of a project and update them regularly as the project progresses and new information is learned.

Project Calendar VS Resource Calendar Graphic
An example of what your resource calendar or resource schedule might look like, contrasted here with a project calendar.

Resource Breakdown Structures

A resource breakdown structure outlines the resources required to complete a project, typically in the form of a hierarchical outline or tree diagram. Whereas a work breakdown structure shows the tasks required to accomplish project deliverables, a resource breakdown structure lists the people, equipment or other materials, time, and money needed to perform the work.

Developing a resource breakdown structure aligns team members with required tasks to showcase dependencies and improve project workflows.

Tools For Managing Resources

Resource management software is the easiest way to manage your people and assets more effectively and accomplish initiatives more quickly. Read more about why you might use resource management software here.

There are a few different types of software you might use, but the best resource management software for you depends on your specific needs and which stage of the project life cycle you're in. Find more info about each type of software, along with a list of tools and their pricing, below.

Need expert help selecting the right Project Resource Management Software?

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Sarah M. Hoban
By Sarah M. Hoban

Sarah is a project manager and strategy consultant with 15 years of experience leading cross-functional teams to execute complex multi-million dollar projects. She excels at diagnosing, prioritizing, and solving organizational challenges and cultivating strong relationships to improve how teams do business. Sarah is passionate about productivity, leadership, building community, and her home state of New Jersey.