Our project resources are the things that we require to complete the project work. Resources include both physical and human resources. In order to make sure that we can complete the project, we need to have a robust resource management approach.
Resource management involves ensuring that the project manager knows what resources are required and when. Organising resources effectively can have a significant impact on project success and completion. Resource management is therefore critical to ensure the successful completion of the project through managing people, materials and equipment effectively to complete project work as efficiently as possible.
What is resource management?
Resource management is the organisation of the tools, supplies and human resources that we need to complete a project. We can split our resources broadly into five categories: budget, schedule, human, materials and equipment.
Resource management involves procuring resources and then allocating them to the appropriate tasks or elements of the project. We need to manage both the quantity and availability of resources. It is important that we do not give one precedence over the other. Both should be balanced, as a project will still be under-resourced if we are able to access the required quantity of resources, but they are not available until after our project end date.
Resources can be both internal and external to the project organisation, and these will require management in different ways. You may be able to manage internal resources more informally whilst external resources will be governed by a formal contract, but there should be a consistent approach to managing all resources, whether internal or external.
Where to begin
In order to undertake resource management, we first need to understand the project that we are doing and the resources we will need to complete the work.
There are some key project management planning structures that you can use as part of resource management:
- A work breakdown structure. This will help you understand all of the work involved and the human resources required.
- A product breakdown structure. This will help you understand all of the products that will be produced and therefore the materials and equipment required to produce them.
- A cost breakdown structure. This will help you understand the costs of all the component parts of the project.
- The project schedule. This will help you understand the deadline for the project, as well as key milestones.
Each of these structures provides us with key information about our project. By using them together, we will have a thorough understanding of the work required to complete the project, and what resources are needed to support it.
Types of resources
Before we think about how to manage our resources, we need to consider the types of resources that will be available. As mentioned, we can broadly consider our resources in five categories: budget, schedule, human, materials and equipment.
Budget: The budget is perhaps our most important resource. Without funding for our project, we won’t be able to secure the other resources required to complete our work. We need to manage our budget carefully to ensure that we can acquire the appropriate number of resources for our project work and pay our staff or external contractors (our human resources) to complete that work.
Schedule: The schedule sits alongside the budget as a key resource. We will have a set amount of time in which to complete our project. As such, we need to make sure we are using our time efficiently. We also need to be aware of limitations on that time, both overall and in the case of individual tasks, and determine how we can manage our schedule to accommodate other resource limitations.
Human: Human resources are the people required to complete project work. These can include both project team members and external contractors who we need to employ to carry out specialist work.
Materials: The materials that we require for our project are those things that will constitute parts of our final product(s). This would include things like bricks, if we are building a house, or wheels, if we are building a car.
Equipment: The equipment for our project is anything that we will need to help us complete our project. It is different from materials in that equipment is usually reusable and not something that will form part of the end product. Examples include a digger on a construction project or computers on an IT project.
Finite and reusable resources
One important consideration we need to make when thinking about resource management is whether our resources are finite or reusable.
Finite resources are those that, once we have exhausted them, cannot be used again – they will be consumed by the project. If we return to our five categories of resources, finite resources are our budget, schedule and materials. Once we consume our budget, we will not have further money to use on the project, the same with time. The materials that we use to produce the project’s products are also finite, in that they will be used to create the product and we cannot reuse them.
Reusable resources are those that we can use over and over again (within reason) to complete our project. Reusable resources are our human resources and equipment. The people working on our project are able to complete certain aspects of work and can either repeat that work or complete other work – we are able to use their resource capacity again. Similarly, equipment can be used over and over again on a project.
Understanding this difference helps us to plan our resource capabilities and think about how to manage each resource independently and in conjunction with other resources.
How do we manage different resources?
Now that we understand the types of resources that we might need to manage and whether they are reusable or finite we can think about how to manage them most effectively.
When managing the budget, we can make use of our cost breakdown structure to understand the costs of the resources needed for our project. As our budget is a finite resource, we need to carefully consider where we are spending our money to ensure that we use our budget effectively. Doing this will also have an impact on our other resources – we need to manage our budget so that we have enough money to pay our staff and buy materials to complete our project.
Managing our schedule effectively is critical to managing our whole project effectively. It is important that we understand the timeline of our project and any key milestones. Having a clear understanding of these time-bound aspects of our project ensures that we can plan the use of the rest of our resources effectively. We can be sure that we can complete tasks on time with the required number of resources.
As a reusable resource, our human resources need to be managed effectively to ensure that they can carry out their work and, if necessary, can be used again to complete other project work. It is important that we ensure that we have enough people to complete the required work. We don’t want to cause burnout within our team, so the project manager must take care to manage the team, making sure that they have sufficient time and experience to complete the tasks that they have been assigned. Creating a responsibility assignment matrix (RAM) chart (also known as a RACI chart) will be useful here, ensuring that each task is appropriately resourced by a member of the project team.
Using a product breakdown structure will help us understand the materials required for our project. From this breakdown structure, we can then plan the quantities and types of materials that we will need. We need to ensure that materials are delivered at appropriate times and are available so that the work can be completed as planned. Ensuring that materials are available when we need them ensures that we can complete the project to the intended schedule.
The product breakdown structure and the work breakdown structure can help us to understand our equipment requirements. By using these two breakdown structures we can understand what equipment will be needed and when, as we can understand the work we need to do and what will be produced by that work. It is essential that we understand this so that the project doesn’t fall behind due to a lack of equipment availability.
3 resource management tips for beginners
- Understand whether your resources are finite or reusable
One of the first things to consider is whether your resources are finite or reusable. Doing this will help you to understand the types of resources that you have available, the levels of resources required to complete various aspects of the project and how to plan their use within your project.
- Think about what other tools you can use to better understand your resources
Don’t try and manage resources in isolation. Make use of breakdown structures and other project plans to better understand what your project involves, the resources you need and how best to deploy them.
- Consider the relationship between different types of resources
Think about the interaction between resource types. Your budget and schedule in particular will be connected to many of your resources, but also consider the interaction between, for example, human resources and equipment when undertaking resource management.
Resource management is an essential part of project planning. Ensuring that resources are managed allows the project manager to properly provide for their project and enable their team to carry out project work. It is important that the project manager considers what types of resources they need and whether they can be used once or over and over again. By making these assessments, they can then think about how to manage them most effectively, ensuring a properly resourced project that can be completed on time and within budget.