A Step-By-Step Guide to Improving Your Resource Management
By Analuz Montejano | IIL Instructor and Sr. Consultant
Project Managers and their teams carry out planned projects on a daily basis, such as the development of new applications. To be successful, they must be able to evaluate and allocate resources necessary to complete deliverables on time, with quality, and without exceeding the budget. However, there are a lot of challenges, many of which arise because of limitations in current processes and tools, which impede success.
Project Resource Management is a process designed to use human and tangible assets, materials, and equipment efficiently and effectively. Since 2017, project resource management has focused not only on human resources, but also on the equipment, materials, and supplies. The process consists of identifying, acquiring, and managing the resources at the right time and place because the goal of resource management is to manage all their sources. It is one of the most difficult processes in which to plan, control, maintain, and achieve objectives.
Read on for steps you can take to improve resource management on your projects!
- Prioritize work and include all the resources in the WBS:
- Evaluate the objective of the project in order to complete the decision-making process, rather than contract or buy with a provider. Use the WBS – work packages.
- Include change control procedures in your methodology; you will need them in the different phases of the project.
- Resource planning begins by creating a detailed list of every resource, human and non-human, needed to complete the project. Involve team members in the process, since some aspects of the project may require resources you don’t know about. It’s better to plan for every possible item and not use them than to underestimate your needs and end up scrambling and paying a premium at the last minute.
- Take adequate time to make reasonable and realistic estimates:
Perfection is nearly impossible to achieve in resource management, but you should still aim for it. Once project priorities have been clarified, take adequate time to estimate schedules and budget. Look to completed projects, including what went wrong, to help develop reasonable estimates and forecasts. Additionally, while you need to listen to management, estimates and forecasting should be realistic, and not simply fit management targets or unreasonable periods. Update estimates periodically to reflect changes such as new decisions, shifts in resources, and the impact of these changes on the project as they happen.
- Review which resources are available in your company, capability, and number, or if you need a supplier to hire or buy them:
Pay special attention to the people or technical suppliers that have more demand in the company or the times that you need to accomplish the procurement or bidding process, in order to schedule and reserve them on time. Review their availability and try to be proactive, which is the most important aspect in order to complete the deliverables.
- Consider the options of working in the organization with the technical and human resources:
- Different types of programs and projects will obtain benefits with specific technologies; it is important to know the size, cost, duration, and participants on the project
- Ensure that the tools and techniques that you selected will be aligned with the company, create efficiencies, and obtain the benefits for the project
- This will enable your organization to plan, manage, and deliver work – utilizing a range of methodologies such as traditional or milestone-driven, iterative, Agile, and even collaborative work
- Embrace different ways of working across the organization and resources
- Always include the Procurement area when you have suppliers on your project
- Use a Responsibility Assignment Matrix:
Once you prioritize the needed resources, define the people who are responsible for task or overall project completion with a responsibility assignment matrix (RAM). Use the matrix to clarify roles and responsibilities for the full scope of the project. RAMs are often simple RACI charts (responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed). Charts can be created by naming the individual or role. Learn more in “A Comprehensive Project Management Guide for Everything RACI”
- Expect the unexpected throughout the project life cycle:
In the life cycle of the project, is common to find different changes or lack of resource planning, quantity, capacity, or lack of quality specification; there is increased risk and conflicts will occur because unexpected events and changes are inevitable.
- Plan work and resources with a Work Breakdown Structure:
You need a strong WBS with a work package for planning work, managing assignments, and assigning deliverables; when assigning resources to work, you need to provide all the quality specifications and the deliverables acceptance.
Consider each activity with start/finish dates and durations for defined work and assignments; don’t forget one responsible for each activity.
Utilize processes where possible to reduce administration.
- Manage resource allocation:
There are many parts to planning a project and all of them are important. But the project won’t get done if you have not efficiently assigned your resources to specific tasks.
Don’t forget resources can mean many things. The people on your team are resources, but so are the tools they use, equipment, and even the site where you’re going to do the work.
Use high-level buckets at the project or phase level as a starting point if resource management is new to your organization.
Start by collecting all the WBS activities that will be necessary to complete the project. Activities are smaller parts of a larger job. They are the steps you must take to get from the beginning of a project to the finish line.
- Use Schedule and Budget Reports:
Each activity has duration and resources, and you must determine how long it will take those tasks to go from start to finish – in other words, the activity or task duration. In addition, you need to know the cost for each resource.
Keeping an eye on all the moving parts of a project ensures that you maintain control of time, budget, activities, risk, and changes. Visually representing data in one place facilitates transparency and communication with team members and holds the line on schedules and approved budgets.
You need to keep things simple and easy in order to complete the schedule and budget report.
Adopt a tool for tracking time and cost for the different types of resources.
- Use Resource Leveling:
Also known as resource smoothing, this is part of the resource management juggling act. It means you are aware of and managing resource availability across a single project or multiple projects. You can extend planned timeframes for specific tasks, avoid over- or under-allocating team members, and prevent team burn-out.
- Calculate the Utilization Rate:
This number tells you exactly what percentage of a team member’s time resources are being used based on your time allocation. The goal is to work to full capacity, so you don’t waste any time (or money). To calculate the utilization rate, take the number of hours a resource worked relative to the total number of hours they had available to work.
- Consider the importance of Risk Management and Change Management:
Resource management carries a high-risk element as it is an issue that PMs face every day. Resources are borrowed from existing teams to work on new projects, high-visibility projects, and new business all the time, and the resource manager is forced to “recast” the teams. There is a lot of negotiation between teams for the same talent, and the resource manager is central to that negotiation; it may require rolling delivery dates for the talent to be able to move from deliverable to deliverable.
A project can bring about change in the workplace. Every phase that is reached must be assessed for positive and negative impacts to the project itself and the overall work environment. Measure and monitor impacts and report them to project sponsors and team members. Resource managers also have a part in organizational change, as companies continue to create innovative processes and systems, staff roles and responsibilities, and incorporate technology for greater efficiency.
- Maintain constant communication with the Procurement team and its suppliers:
Share the schedule in advance, as well as risk or contingencies with the suppliers and Procurement team in order to obtain alternatives for project control.
- Schedule and budget for non-project time:
Ensure that administrative time, paid time off, meetings, emails, etc. are accounted for when planning for both the long term and short term.
Don’t forget about unexpected project activities (risk and changes); be sure to provide a mechanism to capture this time – otherwise, you will lose visibility for this reduction of capacity and you need to use the contingency reserve.
- Keep your team motivated and happy:
Keep your team trained and updated. This will help productivity; don’t ever over-utilize human resources.
Most “resources” are people – and people are ultimately responsible for a successful project. Resource and project managers need to be master negotiators as they navigate between multiple project management teams who (of course) each consider their project to be the highest priority. Motivation and happiness are important for all individuals in the project life cycle.
Complexity, flexibility, soft skills, and planning for the unknown – dealing with the unknown is the norm in resource management, and managers need to be flexible and be ready to deal with complexity.
- Avoid or limit multi-tasking:
Multi-tasking sounds efficient, but often results in lower overall productivity.
Try to limit the number of parallel tasks and your resources will perform better.
Have ways you’ve improved your resource management? Tell us about it in the comments!
Ana Luz Montejano is an instructor and senior consultant, specialist in project management, program and portfolio, as well as PMO implementation and soft skills abilities. She has extensive experience providing support and advice to corporations for various industries and sectors, which shares through such activities as instructor and consultant in a wide range of multinational companies in Latin America, Ana Luz is Professor and speaker for several universities in Mexico. She was Financial Vice President of PMI® Mexico Chapter in 1999 and 2002, member of PMI® since 1996 – present.
Join us for more project management insights and presentations at IIL’s International Project Management Day Online Conference on November 1.
Kerzner, H. Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling and Controlling, 12th Edition. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2013.
Project Management Institute, Inc. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Sixth Edition, Newtown Square, PA, 2013.