Nothing gets done unless people do it. And those people need tools, materials, and a place to work. So, resources are vital to project delivery, and that makes Project Resource Management an essential skill set for any Project Manager.
In the sixth edition of its Project Management Body of Knowledge, the PMI widened the scope of the former Project Human Resource Management Knowledge Area. It’s now Project Resource Management. That’s a huge area of knowledge.
So, we’ve had to split our guide into two parts:
This is not to
Resource Management is a big topic, so I have divided it up into six major sections:
Then, take a look at our Guide that focuses on Project Human Resource Management.
So, let’s start with defining our terms…
Let’s get into it by defining what we mean by ‘Project Resource Management’. It means identifying, assigning, and overseeing the project’s resources. Here are some formal definitions.
First, the PMI:
‘Project Resource Management includes the processes to identify, acquire, and manage the resources needed for the successful completion of the project.’The Project Management Institute (PMI), in the Project Management Body of Knowledge, 6th Edition (the PMBOK Guide)
Next, the APM:
‘Resource management comprises the acquisition and deployment of the internal and external resources required to deliver the project, programme or portfolio.’The Association for Project Management (APM), in the APM Body of Knowledge, 7th Edition (APMBoK)
Finally, the IAPM:
‘Resource management as part of project management serves to identify, allocate and use project participants (resources) as efficiently as possible.’The International Association of Project Managers (IAPM) adopts a definition from the German edition of Wikipedia
Notice that this definition focuses exclusively on people – unless you are happy to think of a lathe, a laptop, or a licence as a ‘participant’.
I think you probably get the picture!
By far the most detailed description of Project Resource Management is the one in the PMI’s PMBOK Guide. And it is also the articulation that is likely to be most widely used among our readers.
I think it is significant that, of all the knowledge areas (KAs) in the PMBOK, it is this one that got the most significant changes in the 2017 revision. It went from an exclusive focus on Human resources to a wider view of all resources, and the number of processes went from 4 to 6, with:
|9.1 Plan Resource Management||This is the planning process and sets out the approach you will take to PRM|
|9.2 Estimate Activity Resources||Determining your requirements: what resources you’ll need and the |
|9.3 Acquire Resources||How you will get the resources you need onto your project|
|9.4 Develop Team||Creating the team capabilities and culture you need. |
This is Human Resource Management and we’ll look at this in more detail in Part 2 of this guide.
|9.5 Manage Team||Day-to-day and performance management, along with your team leadership role|
|9.6 Control Resources||Monitor and control processes to keep your resource availability matching demand from upcoming activities.|
There are two reasons we need resources in projects – whether people, assets, or materials. These are:
So, if resources are there to help us do more than we can do alone, what sorts are there? There are five types:
Our primary resource is Project Cost Management: What You Need to Know and Do
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I’m glad you asked! Many people regard time as a resource. I do not. It behaves in a fundamentally different way to the resources I have listed above.
All of those resources can be set aside and stored for future use. You can draw them down when you need them, and stop using them when you don’t. Time is not like that. This is why project scheduling and schedule management is a separate discipline within Project Management.
I think it is unhelpful, but I won’t go so far as to say it’s ‘wrong’. Other sources may treat time as a resource. But, as always, what matters is that you understand the issue, think it through for yourself, and reach your own conclusion. Once you have done that, be consistent in your usage within your project.
It’s also worth noting another useful distinction: between internal and external resources.
Internal resources belong either to
A number of factors can influence how easy you’ll find it to access internal
As a result, it can sometimes be easier to access external resources…
External resources are available. They just don’t belong to your organization. As a result, you’ll need to borrow, hire, or buy them.
The first step will be to specify and source what you need. Then, assuming you are unable to borrow them, or barter services or favors, you will need to procure them.
Our primary resource is Project Procurement Management [All the basics you need to know]
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It’s time to get into the main challenges of Project Resource Management. It’s all about getting it ‘right’:
Therefore, this suggests a number of challenges:
I will leave the challenge of securing an advantageous price and contract terms to our article on procurement.
In Appendix 1 of the PMI’s 2016 Pulse of the Profession Report: ‘The High Cost of Low Performance’, there is a powerful table. It shows the causes to which respondents ascribed project failure. PMI asked them to select up to three primary causes. The figures include:
These are far from the biggest causes of failure – they are in the lower half of the table. But it does show that at least a quarter of respondents believe poor Project Resource Management was a primary contributor to a project’s failure.At least a quarter of respondents believe poor Project Resource Management was a primary contributor to a project's failure. Click To Tweet
The poor performance a Project Resource Management means we’re going to need a rigorous process for Project Resource Planning. I want to keep it as a simple four-step process.
The four steps are:
Then, we can manage our resources. We’ll look at these one at a time.
The route to understanding your activities is your Work Breakdown Structure.
If you use the US-based approach, you’ll use your WBS as the basis for listing the activities needed for each product. If you use the UK-based approach, then your WBS will directly list those activities.
Either way, against each activity you’ll be able to list the types of resources you’ll require – people, materials, assets, or intangible, and the length of time (duration) you will need them for.
For documenting resource types, text forms will be the most useful:
For the durations, you will need to understand the craft of estimating and, guess what? Yup, we have a guide:
You may also like: Make Your Project Estimation More Reliable, Using the PERT Method
There are three parts to this step:
The links above will take you to five-minute videos explaining the terms.
To get the most efficient allocation of resources, you will need to balance their utilization, using resource smoothing and resource leveling. Note that the steps of applying resources and balancing them up are iterative. You’ll rarely get the best allocation at the first pass.
We will examine these soon…
When you finish the planning, you’ll move into delivery of your project, and active management of your project resources.
The PMBOK Guide is full of ‘
In the case of Project Resource Management, it’s the Plan Resource Management Process. Therefore, this is where you will determine and document how you will do what we have just described, above.
The inputs to the process will be your suite of planning documents. And the outputs will an updated set, with the addition of:
There are four key Resource Planning techniques:
Here’s a video that describes resource Leveling and smoothing – apologies for the British English spelling!
We are now nearing the end of this guide. So, I want to offer six of my personal tips to help you make the most effective use of your project resources.
Let’s face it. People are rubbish at multi-tasking. And serial mono-tasking is inefficient. To get the best from your people, schedule them to work one work package at a time, so they can focus 100 percent on that set of tasks.
When you are planning your resources, think through the messy ends of tasks. For:
For each planning element, determine what will serve you better:
Never forget your leadership responsibilities. You are responsible for the learning and morale of your team members. And, of course, for their safety and welfare.
When you are planning, keep a focus on critical resources that are in short supply. These are resources that, if they are not available when you need them, will cause delays to the project. This is just as you would do in schedule planning, where you would focus on critical path activities that can cause delays to key milestone dates.
There will be some resources, ‘key resources’, upon which you will be highly dependent. Too much will be at risk if those resources are compromised. This could be key:
I want to end this guide by pointing out some of the trends and emerging practices that the PMI identifies in the 6th edition of its PMBOK Guide.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences of real-world Project Resource Management. If you put something in the comments below, I will always respond.
Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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