Resource Management

November 11, 2010

Introduction

Within a project of nearly any size there are bound to be many moving parts to keep track of. While many of the components, such as scope, deadlines, budget, etc., should remain mostly fixed that is not always the case. Having to deal with this complexity has led to all sorts of methodologies and best practices being developed to effectively deal with the various facets of project management.

Within this posting we will examine one of the key components of project management: resource management.

What is a resource and why would I manage it?

The dictionary defines a resource as a source of supply, support or aid that can be readily drawn upon when needed.[1]

Not included in the dictionary definition are these important facts: resources are only applied in order to gain some kind of benefit for someone and resources are almost always limited in some form or fashion; be it quantity, cost, availability, or some combination of these.

In the context of project management most tend to immediately think of employees as the resource but there are actually many different types of resources to deal with in a project such as financial resources, inventory, technology and yes, people. Additionally, not all resources are tangible; with the advent of technology, more and more resources are becoming intangible or virtual.[2]

Because of the inherent scarcity of project resources it becomes vital to efficiently allocate, utilize and monitor them. This is where the idea of resource management comes into play.

Considering these factors, it is imperative to have concrete data and trustworthy estimates of the resource needs to ensure that decision makers within an organization fully understand what is required and can be convinced to dedicate all the necessary resources to the project.

OK so how do I manage resources?

When it comes to actually managing the resources in a project, a multitude of plans, schedules and other documents have been created to track the different aspects. Many of these tools have been rolled into various project management software suites such as Microsoft Project.

Which of these tools will be needed and which will work best will, of course, depend on both the specific project and the organization but below are just a few of the key documents/processes that are frequently seen with nearly any project:

· Resource Plan – Put simply a resource plan is a summary of all the resources that will be needed to complete a project. At a minimum it should include estimates on the amount of labor, equipment, and materials required. It should also identify the specific roles or purpose for each resource in the project. This document contains the hard data needed to get a commitment of resources from the project sponsor and will also be used to continue further planning such as scheduling, budgeting and leveling of resources.[3]

· Resource Calendar – Just as it sounds, this is a calendar that is used to track the availability of each resource. It contains all of the working and non-working days in the project and information on which resources are used when. This becomes useful when trying to identify which resources may be overutilized or when a shortage of resources may occur.

· Resource Leveling – Perhaps one of the toughest aspects of resource management is trying to balance the utilization of resources; the ideal situation is that the demand for resources never exceeds supply and vice versa.[4] In order to achieve this goal it is important to be able to identify the dependencies between tasks as well as the availability of resources and attempt to level out the allocation so that no resources are overutilized while others are underutilized. While it will be possible to smooth this out, it is rarely possible to reach total equilibrium. Software suites like Microsoft Project typically have the capability to help automate resource leveling which is difficult to do manually.

So what if I don’t bother with all this?

Without resource management, there is no way to accurately estimate what resources you’ll need and how many nor will you be able cope with any unexpected events that can delay a project or halt it all together. It’s a given that complex projects will have many variables to keep up with but resources simply can’t be ignored.

References

1. Resource – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary – http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/resource

2. Resource (project management) – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resource_%28project_management%29

3. Karkhanis, Santosh. Resource Plan – http://www.karkhanisgroup.com/consulting/management/project-management/project-management-activities-project-initiation/project-planning-activities/project-planning-activities-1.html

4. Project Management Knowledge – Resource Leveling – http://project-management-knowledge.com/resource-leveling/

Author: Robin Martinez

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