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Project Resource Management: the Ultimate Guide in 2024

Learn how to manage resources for your project by following a tried and tested method.

Geoff Walters
Writer at Motion
Feb 26, 2024
Table of contents

Do you have a big project coming up that requires intelligent allocation of resources? To maximize your odds of success, you'll need the right resource management strategy in place and the appropriate project management tools to support you.

If that's you, you've come to the right place! In this article, we'll explain what resource management is, give you a time-tested process to follow, and suggest a tool that will simplify your resource management.

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Quick definition: what is project resource management?

Resource management is the strategic process of allocating, scheduling, and managing project resources to create the best business outcome. Often, this means ensuring projects meet milestones without consuming too many resources. It also means knowing when to bring in additional resources in order to finish a job on schedule.

One of the biggest challenges faced in resource forecasting is opportunity cost. Put another way: resources needed in one part of the business are often required in another part of the business at the same time. Balancing resources across projects requires an ongoing planning process that the business owner or project manager oversees.

In larger companies, a project management office might be responsible for managing resources across the organization.

Whatever the size of your organization, there can be so many variables to consider that keeping all the resource data in your head is impossible. As a result, project managers use project resource management software like Motion to offload some of the mental burden.

Why does project resource management matter?

Effective resource management is of critical importance to every business. All businesses need to manage their limited resources, whether financial, human or otherwise. It’s why planning the budget at the beginning of a project and sticking to them matters a lot. Proper resource allocation prevents having too many resources or too few available — both of which can lead to delays and sub-optimal results.

But this is about more than just time and money management. By determining who and how many resources you'll need to complete a project, you can estimate the level of effort required and how long project tasks will take. As such, resource management is a big determinant of your team's schedule, not just how your company's money is spent.

Here’s why you should care about managing resources correctly

‎Resource management techniques become doubly important when managing a portfolio of projects. If you're managing resourcing centrally, you'll know all the commitments for a particular resource, allowing you to allocate the same resources to multiple projects for improved efficiency.

This brings with it some beneficial second-order consequences. Customers will be happier if projects are managed correctly and delivered on time. This means more referrals and increased customer retention rates. Businesses often overvalue bringing in new clients and undervalue keeping their current ones!

Optimal resource management will give you an improved sense of control and predictability in your business and make operations feel more sustainable.

Types of project resources

In resource management, your people are referred to as "human resources." Your people are an essential resource for every company — that is until AI puts us all out of a job! Jokes aside, regardless of whether your project team is full-time, freelance, outsourced, or a mixture of internal and external resources, you'll need a degree of management oversight to allocate this resource.

Here are the main resources you need to manage

‎Of course, you'll need financial resources in order to pay your people, acquire machinery, buy equipment, and acquire office space. But remember that money isn't the only financial resource. Equity is also vital, especially in a start-up context where founders use it to motivate key employees they can't necessarily afford to pay.

Not every business needs physical resources, but raw materials are an essential consideration if you're manufacturing anything. Wood, steel, sugar, copper, diamonds… the list is endless. Many businesses still need a physical space to work in, such as an office, a factory, a conference room, or a landfill site. That being said, a trend towards working remotely is making this less important, particularly in digital industries.

Speaking of the digital world, don't forget to account for your technological resources. In general, these are either software or hardware. The range of different types of software is endless, whether it's SaaS tools, ERP, on-prem or open-source. And hardware is more than just computers and smartphones. Outside the digital space, businesses need lawnmowers, chainsaws, printing machines, conveyor belts, escalators, desk fans, and more!

As we move into the age of the Internet of Things, in which everything is connected, data is becoming an important resource. This could encompass everything from your Social Security number to what you bought in the supermarket. Growing public concern and international regulation about data protection means companies must be careful how they use and manage this resource.

The resource management process

The Project Management Institute publishes its Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK), seen as a quality source of information about resource management principles. Knowledge Area 9 in the 6th edition summarizes the resource management process as follows:

Steps in the process that the PMBOK recommends for managing resources.

‎1) Plan resource management

Before you know which resources you'll need, you first need to map out the overall approach you'll take at a high level. Unless your project is a carbon copy of a previous project, you'll need to vary your approach somewhat according to the context.

In general, resource managers create their initial estimates at this stage based on a work breakdown structure (WBS). This yields a sequence of tasks and dependencies, which in turn yields the amount of effort and number of people needed per task. From here, you can build a project schedule, map out project requirements, and create a budget in the subsequent steps.

This part of the process is a little easier if you're using Agile (or the Scrum framework, in particular), as these dictate your approach to some degree. For example, if you're using Agile, you already have access to your product backlog, which provides a prioritized list of work to do. In that way, the product backlog provides a function similar to the WBS.

If you're using Scrum, you can look at past burndown charts and sprints to help determine current resource needs. In both cases, having a dedicated team helps, too.

2) Estimate resources

In this stage, you move from the general to the specific. It's time to go into detail about which of the previously mentioned types of resources you'll need — people, facilities, raw materials, or something else.

For each type of resource, be as specific as you can. For example, in the case of human resources, you might consider questions like:

  • How many people do you need?
  • What skills do they need to have and how qualified do they need to be?
  • When do they need to be hired by?
  • How expensive are they?
  • What will you do if you can't find the right people?

When making these estimations, relying on more than just your intuition is smart. Look at data from past projects, and don't be afraid to consult with experts.

3) Acquire resources

Now, it's time to execute the plan you made in the previous two steps. Use your resource schedule to document when particular resources are needed and keep the team accountable for delivering their parts of the project on time.

Inevitably, things won't go exactly as you intended, and not all of your contingency plans will work out. As such, you'll need to be willing to be flexible in order to deal with unexpected events. For example, if the actual cost of your raw materials is more than expected due to inflation, you'll need to adjust your project budget accordingly.

4) Develop resources

Just because you have your resources in place doesn't mean they'll have all the skill sets you need or automatically gel together to form one cohesive whole. Very often, you'll need to onboard team members, for example, by giving them access to their assignments, showing them a product demo, or training them in your company's unique business processes. If you want to go further, you might also consider investments such as mindset coaching at the individual level or team-building activities for the whole group.

You'll also need to communicate to your team how they should collaborate, whether in person, remotely, or a mixture. Whether remote or hybrid, you must establish a communication platform to facilitate collaboration. You'll also want to make sure that each team member understands their role, the role of the people working alongside them, and how they fit into the project's broader goals.

5) Manage resources

Once the team starts work, you must hold them accountable for any milestones you've communicated. You’ll need to remove any obstacles in their path. Resource management tools like Motion can help you do this by automatically adding tasks to your employees' calendars and managing any changes to tasks and schedules.

As the project progresses, you'll need to use your emotional intelligence to resolve any conflicts or find solutions when a team member is underperforming. You'll also want to ensure that your human resources are used optimally by comparing the timetable you planned against what happens in reality. Just don't forget to account for non-billable time, or non-project activities!

6) Control resources

Controlling resources is sometimes considered the same as managing resources, except it's for physical resources, not human resources. Whether for physical or human resources, you'll want to analyze the effectiveness of your resource utilization and adjust your resource requirements as necessary.

For physical resources, be prepared to answer questions like:

  • Were enough raw materials procured?
  • Do you need to get more materials?
  • Are the premises available? Are they big enough?
  • Do you need to spend on an office, or would the money be better spent elsewhere?

How Motion can help with resource management

Even with the best processes in the world, project resource management is so complex that project managers need resource management software to help them keep track of everything.

Motion can allocate your resources automatically using AI based on priorities, deadlines, dependencies, available work time, and reported progress that you and your team share with it. Provided you set it up correctly, it will automate scheduling and calendaring, contributing to your team’s productivity in a major way.

‎Once it knows what you want done, Motion will automatically prepare employees' calendars to ensure that the most important tasks get worked on during the time that's available. This is valuable because your team won't waste time figuring out what to work on next— Motion will tell them. And, unlike a human manager, Motion won't over-allocate tasks, meaning that your most critical team members won't burn out.

From an employee's perspective, Motion will automatically insert their tasks into their calendars. It will also reschedule tasks as priorities and urgencies change. This is helps to ensure that no one is focused on juggling to lists – tasks are visible and stay top of mind throughout the work day.

‎If any of your resources change or a new, high-priority task or event is introduced, Motion will automatically revise the task work accordingly. If it can't meet all those parameters, it will alert you so you can address and provide new, achievable deadlines. You'll also be able to see bottlenecks and resource shortfalls, and each team member’s workload on the Kanban view (seen below) in real time.

Motion provides a centralized platform for your team to collaborate. All the tasks, deadlines, meetings and other appointments and communication are in one place. This makes management easier because your team sees all their work in one place.

Use Motion to automate your resource management

Hopefully this article has helped you understand what project resource management is and why it matters so much. Whether you're managing human resources, raw materials, or something else, follow the processes outlined here to help avoid missing something important.

And if you're looking for a tool to automate your resource management, we hope you'll consider Motion. Sign up for a free trial today and check it out for yourself!

Geoff Walters
Geoff has been a writer and content marketer for ten years and counting. The majority of his work has been with agencies and SaaS companies, where he's worn just about every hat there is. Outside of work, Geoff loves to play and design board games, and is currently learning to hold his own at badminton.
Written by Geoff Walters