For anyone involved in project management, resource management is a crucial skill to learn. It’s how you ensure that you have the right resources to complete the project — but even more than that, it’s how you ensure that those resources don’t go to waste over the course of the project.
Because resource management ties heavily into productivity and project success, helping you and your team to deliver projects on time and within the budget, resource management could also be considered part of your risk management strategy.
But what exactly is resource management? And what are some techniques you can adopt to manage resources effectively? We’ll answer those questions and more in this guide.
What is resource management?
Resources include anything that an organization needs to complete a project or task. Think not only about things like physical supplies, but also team member skill sets, software adoption, time involved, etc.
Resource management is how you plan, manage, and budget these resources. It involves forecasting how much you will need for upcoming tasks and projects so that you can deliver the task on time and within the specified budget.
Operational vs. strategic resource management
Operational resource management and strategic resource management are similar in concept but different in terms of time frames. Strategic resource management involves high-level planning — the resources you may need over the course of the next several years. Operational resource management focuses on the short term, like the things you will need to complete an upcoming project.
Operational resource management
Operational resource management delves into specifics, like supplies needed, skills your team needs right now, or time forecasted to complete a project.
It should help you build out an accurate project budget.
It should also help you plan deadlines for an upcoming project.
Strategic resource management
Strategic resource management is about future-proofing, like planning for skills you may need in the future as trends or business objectives shift.
Rather than specifying budgets or timeframes, this type of resource management helps organizations stay current and competitive.
Why is resource management so important?
Resource management is crucial for the same reason that grocery lists are crucial to weekly meal prep. If you shop without the list, you’re bound to forget things — and that will lead to lots of wasted time and money when you find yourself rushing to the corner store late at night to pay premium pricing for the ingredients you forgot.
Imagine that happening on a grander scale throughout the course of a project. To put it simply, managing resources well keeps things streamlined throughout the project lifecycle. It’s all about having everything you need to do the job on time and within budget constraints.
When resource shortages happen, bottlenecks form, which can lead to missed deadlines and ballooning budgets. But if you’ve planned out everything you need — from the people and skills to the supplies and facilities — then your project should move smoothly from one task or phase to the next.
What are the major benefits of practicing resource management?
Broadly speaking, resources (including things like time, budgets, software, hardware, facilities, etc.), can be broken down into three categories: materials, people, and costs. While resource management lets you streamline project workflow in lots of ways to improve every aspect of a project, it’s the human part of the equation that reaps the biggest benefits. We’ll show you some of those benefits below.
Benefit #1: It prevents burnout across your team
Everyone on your team is more than a number. They’re all essential assets that help you deliver projects. Part of resource management is managing their time properly — and by that, we don’t mean micromanaging them.
Rather, it’s all about ensuring that everyone’s workload is balanced such that they’re productive without being overloaded. When you do spot overallocation, it’s time to adjust workloads to prevent burnout. Burnout is a surprisingly common thing, too. According to a recent study by Indeed, over half (52%) of respondents experienced burnout in 2021.
When you can provide realistic schedules, you’ll find:
😃 Your team is happier, more productive, and less stressed out.
💵 Everyone’s calendars are weighted evenly so that everyone is at maximum productivity (no one working too hard while other team members wait their turn).
👀 Project managers can more easily track schedules and fill empty spaces without doubling up on someone else’s schedule.
That isn’t to say that you should always be filling empty spaces on team member schedules. Actually, it’s better to ensure that everyone has at least a little free space. There will be times when stakeholders ask for changes or when unforeseen problems create delays. When you’re managing resources well — including human resources — team members should be able to work these things into their schedules without too much disruption to their lives.
Benefit #2: It helps you predict problems
It’s impossible to predict potential problems 100% of the time. If we could do that, there would never be any problems!
However, it is possible to anticipate potential problems and be prepared for them.
Think about things that can happen, or that have happened on past projects for an indication of what could happen on future projects. Ever spent a day not accomplishing much of anything because of a network or server outage? Sometimes tasks don’t get accomplished because team members get sick. Sometimes, they even quit.
Resource management makes it easier to deal with these issues. This is because part of resource allocation should be devoted to creating contingencies just in case something goes awry. Or, allocating buffer time so that you and your team have breathing room to catch up and meet deadlines without losing sleep over it.
Resource planning also lets you compare costs to your budget so that you can predict costs before a project starts. If you have a $5,000 budget and engineers cost $100 an hour, then you can forecast that you’ll need to keep engineer hours under 50 (and actually even less, since they won’t be your only project expense).
Benefit #3: It helps you utilize the right skillsets
It’s easy to look at a big picture calendar and decide that since most of the team has availability, that means you must have the capacity to take on another project. That kind of decision-making is also a hallmark of poor resource planning.
Doing it the right way means analyzing everyone’s skillset, then making the decision based on which skills are currently available. If the engineering team is currently at max capacity, for example, and the new project needs to start with some preliminary engineering, then the truth is that you don’t have the resources available to start the new project.
Resource management also helps you balance the workload across all skillsets. Think about that hypothetical engineering team, hard at work on the first steps of the project. Now ask yourself: In this scenario, what are the graphics designers doing while the engineers kick things off? What about the marketers?
If the answer to that question is, “Well, they’re just kind of waiting for information from the engineers,” then resources aren’t being managed as well as they could be.
Even if some members of the team need information from other members of the team to do some of their tasks, there are almost always tasks to start while they wait. Marketers can perform market research or develop buyer personas, for example. While graphic designers may not be able to do much as far as page or UI design yet, they can still begin collecting image assets or developing logos and other branded image files for later use.
Managing resources well means not just allocating resources, but also careful resource scheduling so that specialists or specialized groups within your team don’t find themselves overburdened at particular phases of the project.
Benefit #4: It creates transparency for everyone
Resource management keeps your resources organized and easy to view, which creates transparency — and transparency is key for several reasons. For team leaders and project managers, transparency means they’ll have an in-depth view of resources, assets, tasks, and more, which gives them the tools needed for project optimization and effective management.
For team members, transparency helps with time tracking and scheduling. Individuals can see where individual tasks are in the pipeline to gauge when those tasks will be headed to them for the next stage of completion.
Other teams value transparency, too, because it helps them assess your team’s bandwidth. In large organizations where teams are divided up by specialty, this lets other teams know when your team will have availability to lend their skills to a new project.
And then there are the stakeholders. Transparency lets them monitor progress, which in turn allows them to provide timely notice of changes that need to be made or other items that your team may need to consider.
Benefit #5: It makes early and on-time project delivery possible
When you get right down to it, effective resource management is the backbone of every project. As you can see in the benefits listed above, it helps you with project planning, resource allocation, and even with things like forecasting potential problems so that you can prepare for them in advance. It also helps the project stay organized.
And all of that put together means you can make on-time and even early delivery happen.
Better yet, you may even be able to produce deliverables with fewer billable hours and fewer resources used. That’s the power of efficiency. Managing resources well keeps your team running like a well-oiled machine, which lets your team meet or even exceed the project timeline.
Case study: Pravda Media Group
By now, some of the benefits to resource management are easy to see — but you can get an even clearer picture by examining how one agency ditched spreadsheets and email threads in favour of a much more efficient real-time resource management strategy. We’re speaking of B2B digital marketing agency Pravda Media Group.
Spreadsheets, email trails, status meetings: This was the old way of doing things for Pravda, and it caused a lot of problems in that it was a scattered, time-consuming approach. Worse, team members found it impossible to communicate clearly on each project or see what everyone was working on.
To correct the problem, Pravda invested in Teamwork for resource management.
The result was a night and day difference. Pravda’s CEO Kfir Pravda reports that teams now schedule projects in Gantt charts to keep track of tasks while using Teamwork’s Notebooks feature to store and keep track of plans and meeting notes. Filters help analyze project health by tracking resource allocation, potential bottlenecks, and budget projections, helping ensure that projects stay on track.
“Now I’m able to do what I call ‘proactive mentoring,” Pravda says, “because I have transparency with tasks and progress, I’m able to jump in and give them guidance on everything from client interactions to troubleshooting. We’re not wasting time finding information, or trying to figure out next steps, or get status reports of other people’s work. We’ll all 100% aligned now and working at full power, pushing ahead towards a clear goal.”
See what we mean? By managing resources, Pravda knows when a team member’s schedule is overbooked, and they also know when a project is running late. That’s the power of tracking and monitoring resources in real time.
3 resource management techniques to boost productivity
Resource management is a powerful way to track project metrics and predict problems. But what about specific techniques you can use to implement resource management? We’ll cover that below.
Allocate resources using data 📊
To allocate resources, you need to be able to take a deep dive into the numbers. Start with your resource allocation reports to get a bird’s-eye view of where people are working, how full their schedules are, and what projects need to have their resources re-evaluated.
Now, imagine that you’re working on a project for a client and it’s nearly done. The team is running behind, and the first test of the software is just two days away. Looking at the project schedule, you can see that the two software designers who are working on the launch actually need three full days to prepare for the software test.
Since you can’t add more to the software designers’ schedules, you’ll need to search your team’s availability to see if there is someone else with the right skillset who can drop their current tasks to do the urgent one — and that’s a bad place to find yourself, since it means you have no available resources and you have to risk derailing a different task or project just to tend to this one.
When you’re allocating resources, incorporate a buffer into everyone’s schedule. If everyone’s calendar has a buffer, you can resolve these issues before they derail a project. This gives everyone the breathing room needed when tasks are running late or other things happen, like when clients ask for extra features.
Level up your unused resources 🙋♀️
Project management is a constant juggling act to make sure everyone’s schedules have an even workload. In reality, that’s easier said than done. It’s normal to have at least some underutilized resources — but you don’t want that to go too far.
And a technique called “resource leveling” is one way to approach this problem.
Resource leveling is simple. Start by searching for underused resources within your team. To verify that these resources are actually underutilized, check that they’re not:
Working on other tasks
On vacation or off sick
Asleep (because they’re in another time zone)
If none of the above applies, it’s a sure sign that these team members have underutilized time on their calendars — and it’s time to fill those calendars up.
Next, consider the skillset of each team member with underutilized time, and evaluate why that skillset isn’t being used. For instance, let’s say you have a graphic designer on your team. Maybe their schedule is thin because at the moment, there is little in the way of graphical work to do — they’re waiting for someone else to finish up tasks before they can get going on the next batch of graphics.
In this situation, is there something else the graphic designer can do? Can they create marketing content or start building different skills, like product promotion?
If that’s a possibility, then allocate them some tasks like writing blog posts or brainstorming ideas for new products and services. This solves two problems: Your underutilized team member will make the most of their schedule while building new skills, and you won’t have to hire more staff to handle the brainstorming or blog writing.
Track every budget 💰
Staying on budget is one of the hardest parts of project management — and these statistics underscore the problem:
Seventy percent of projects fail.
Fifty-five percent of project managers say that budget overruns are the reason for project failure.
That’s why budget management is such a huge part of resource management — and budget management has its own set of components to track. You’ll need to forecast resource utilization by estimating how many people you’ll need to complete the project, you’ll need to keep project scope in check, and you’ll need to predict (or account for) unforeseen problems and risks.
Fortunately, Teamwork saves the day by giving you a resource management tool kit to better manage budgets as part of your overall resource management plan. Use it to create budgets based on:
After project kick-off, each time a team member logs time working on that project, Teamwork automatically deducts that time from the right budget based on the team member’s rate. Then, through Teamwork’s dashboard, you can check the health of the project budget, seeing how much time you estimated for the project and how much of that time has been used to date.
This gives you a better way to analyze project profitability since you have a simplified view of your team’s billable time — and with that info, you can prioritize high-value clients. It also gives you transparency, which means you’ll be better at resource forecasting. That equips you to accurately create proposals, timelines, and cost forecasts for future projects.
What to look for in a resource management tool
Now that we’ve covered the basics, it’s time to consider what you’ll need in a resource management tool. The right software should offer a blend of key features, which we’ll dive into below.
Provides real-time data and insights
Real-time data and insights are crucial. This data not only helps you stay on top of resource availability at any given time, but it also lets you spot trends that can point to potential bottlenecks or problems that may be coming in the future.
Enables seamless resource scheduling
Resource management software should give you not only the tools to track each project resource, but also the tools to schedule and allocate them. You can reduce your workload, increase transparency, and keep everything organized when you can update budgets, schedule tasks, and more, all in one space.
Offers organization-wide visibility
Organization-wide visibility is critical when you’re balancing resources across multiple projects. You’ll need to be able to assess each team member’s availability no matter what projects they’re currently working on so that you can allocate as needed. The right workload planning tool will let you see availability across all projects — and handle scheduling, budget management, and other key metrics across each of your projects.
Integrates with other go-to tools
Are spreadsheets still part of your resource management process? What about other software suites? Chances are, no matter what resource management tool you use, you’ll still use other types of software to drill down on budgets, billable hours, and other numbers. To that end, your resource management tool of choice should offer integrations for all of the apps you plan to use.
Ready to implement better resource management?
Then Teamwork has what you need. We’re a fully featured, easily configurable app that lets you automate processes and workflows while centralizing project data all in one place — including the data you need to effectively manage resources.
Ready to give it a shot? Learn more about how marketing teams leverage Teamwork for resource management and try us out!