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Resource Management - What do I need to know?

I’m finding a majority of organisations tell me they want ‘resource management’, but when I ask what this means I get really narrow replies.

It seems that resource management (to many) involves line managers maintaining a spreadsheet of where their people are allocated between competing projects, simply because a line manager has to do something to track where his / her people are deployed.

There seems patchy appreciation of the wider organisational context, mainly because I think this is the way organisations have grown, and become comfortable / stuck (delete as appropriate) in this management intensive way of doing things.

However, resource management is a BIG subject, which I believe should be thought of as an organisation wide capability to operate, not as something to load onto line managers and then forget about. 

There are many issues that impact or are impacted by resource management:

  • Organisation structure – what is it, and does it permit effective use of resources?
  • Portfolio item identification, estimation, prioritisation and start-up – is this actually done? Surely if we know what (roughly) is coming, we can make provision for resources when it lands on us? Moreover, when we are making the call to send Johnny to ‘Project A’ or ‘Business as usual Task B’, how do we make the priority call?
  • Planning – do we do it, and will this give rise to a good and complete picture of current and future work?
  • Estimation of resources required – are we any good at it?
  • Allocation – how do we define which real people are to do which emerging work, and how do we track what was allocated vs. what becomes required?
  • People – do we know their skills and abilities, and are we developing people in line with any kind of roadmap?
  • Talking – are we effectively able to communicate to people what we want them to do?
  • Actuals – do we have any way of knowing what has been done vs. what was planned?

In summary what I find is:

  • Organisation Structure is a limiting factor to what is possible;
  • Portfolio management will define how effective any other measures to manage resource will be;
  • BAU and Change Projects need balancing, and this is not always possible
  • Planning ideally needs common consistent tools on a database
  • Capabilities, Support roles and Controls need to be defined, operated and governed
  • Implementation is a change programme – from the simple first step to the richest process necessary to realise the vision
  • Stakeholders are not engaged in the change process so the problem never gets solved
  • It is too easy to end up treating symptoms – because dealing with the underlying problem is too difficult

    More thoughts here: Resource Management – What do I need to know?

5 comments

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  1. Owain Wilson
    Owain Wilson 06 March 2014, 04:42 PM

    Some more detail on resource management, taken from the APM Body of Knowledge, 6th edition:DefinitionResource management comprises the acquisition and deployment of the internal and external resources required to deliver the project, programme or portfolio (P3).GeneralThe resources needed to deliver a project, programme or portfolio include people, machinery, materials, technology, property and anything else required to deliver the work. Resources may be obtained internally from the host organisation or procured from external sources.The P3 manager must identify the resources required to deliver the work, as part of planning, and determine when the resources will be required, through scheduling.The acquisition of external resources will normally be through a procurement process that involves provider selection. This results in a contract for the provision of goods and services. Once a contract is in place, the relationship between the project, programme or portfolio (the buyer) and the provider (the seller) needs to be managed to ensure that the work proceeds according to plan.Where resources are acquired internally, there may be service-level agreements or terms of reference between the project, programme or portfolio and the department or function providing the resource.Setting up the management infrastructure is called mobilisation. Projects and programmes are temporary organisations, whereas a portfolio may be permanent or semi-permanent. Therefore, while the infrastructure for managing a portfolio is mobilised once, project and programme infrastructures are mobilised and demobilised on a regular basis.The policies and procedures to be used for acquiring and deploying resources will be set out in the resource management plan.

  2. Adrian Pyne
    Adrian Pyne 18 May 2011, 12:50 PM

    Big subject indeed! And I am not surprised that David gets narrow replies. As usual, the "why do you want (need) this?" question is usually the most difficult to answer. Quite often I get "well what I don't want...." but that at least is a place to start. Also as usual the answer lays in the scale of solution an organisation is willing - or has the energy to - go for, and the management maturity of that organisation.I suspect there are two general scales;[1] strategic workforce planing[2] resource management [1] is about planning of resources to meet the predicted business needs. This could be; [a] for change, [b] for a part of an organisation (e.g. Division), [c] the whole organisation and maybe [c1] the whole BAU operation plus change![2] is about day-day recruitment and management of those resources. But that is BIG in itself, do we mean the number crunching for those "heads", and/or do we mean them as people too! with development needs etc.Those involved could in all of this could include;- strategic planning- finance- HR- Operational heads- Sponsors of change- managers (operational and of change)- portfolio management function if there is one- staff associations- ITOh yes....its big and its difficult and I am sure I have left LOTS out

  3. Sion Jones
    Sion Jones 17 May 2011, 04:54 PM

    David,I recognise exactly the same problems you've listed across a number of organisations. Some were better, some were worse at it, and I'm note sure there is a 'right' answer to this headache. Apply a general process then it breaks down when the specifics of individuals and projects needs are addressed. Try to create something that works in the weeds of the specifics and it becomes unmanageable in quick time.What experience I have boils down to presenting the resource/skill managers with a shopping list of generic needs which is then followed by a negotiation over individuals; quite often involving other PMs to phase them between projects. Once acquired, I always assume that one day I will lose my prized resources because they will be coveted elsewhere; so I try to do some project succession planning before that day arrives. Not foolproof, but fairly pragmatic and I get by despite the organisational challenges.I'll close off by asking this question : Is resource management an aspect of portfolio management, or vice versa?

  4. David Dunning
    David Dunning 18 May 2011, 12:38 PM

    In my opinion - Resource management is the term for a wide number of activites, some of which overlap with what you need to to to manage the portfolio. There are intersections, but I would not say one is an aspect of another.

  5. Michael Webster
    Michael Webster 19 October 2017, 07:34 PM

    Hi David, I am looking to propose a different strategy to resource management within the company. To move probably to ms project where we could integrate production planning and maintenance planning. Could you recommend any resources that might help in building the planning strategy or relevant case studies that I can refer to for my discussion with senior stakeholders?