Solutions for Project Managers

Resource Management Skills: Learning to Crawl


July 26, 2019


This is part one of our series on Resource Management skills.

What is resource management, and how do we develop resource management best practices in our businesses?

The journey into resource management often starts with one, or several, of the following statements being broadcasted long and loud around a conference room table.

“We need resource management!! Let’s purchased (XYZ) tool that will provide it.”

“Our problem is that we don’t have enough people! We need resource management.”

“I need to prioritize my team’s work. I need some resource management!”

And with those magic words a decision is made to dive headfirst into the world of resource management, often without having the slightest idea of where to begin or even what the practice of resource management encompasses. Tools are purchased and some unfortunate soul is tasked with implementing “resource management”.

Whoa!!!! Slow down there… Take some time to learn to crawl and walk before you run full speed ahead into the world of resource management.

What is Resource Management?

Throughout my career I have heard the statement “we need resource management” more times than I can count. My responding question is always: “What does resource management mean to you?” While the solution of resource management may mean different things to different teams, the concept of resource management is quite defined within the resource management industry:

Resource management is the practice that uses information and processes to align skilled team members with the requirements and expectations of current and future projects.

Stop! Go back. Read that statement again.

Resource management is a practice. It is something that you must grow and develop, nurture and expand, and constantly monitor. It takes time, knowledge, and skill to successfully implement and maintain. I liken resource management to playing chess. You must be able to identify when to move the right people, with the right skills, into the right location to gain maximum advantage or ROI on your workforce.

What Resource Management is Not

Just as you must understand what resource management is, you also need to understand what resource management is not.

  • Resource Management is not a tool – A tool (or commonly known as an application), will not provide you resource management. It will provide you with a location to gather and analyze the fact-based data that you need for the resource management iterative process.
  • Resource Management is not people management – If you are understaffed for the number of projects that your team has in the portfolio, no amount of resource management will fix this. However, it can be used to identify that you are understaffed and provide the data to support that conclusion. After that identification, it is up to Leadership and HR to help resolve those issues.
  • Resource Management is not task management – When team members are overloaded or jumping from one task to the next extinguishing fires, managers often assume they need resource management. Remember, resource management is about aligning the appropriate skilled team member with the appropriate project at just the right moment. It will not alleviate the expectation that you drop everything you are doing to put on your firefighting hat. Only project control process and changing expectations can assist you with this.

Crumpled up paper on a notebook with a pen. MaxPixel CC0

Establishing Your Practice

Now that you have a better understanding of what Resource Management is and is not, you’ll need to understand how to get started. The first thing you need to know is that there is quite a bit of work that needs to happen before you can start building your resource management practice. This is your “crawling” stage.

I’ll just go ahead and state it – this stage can be very frustrating! With everyone screaming that they need immediate help, you may be tempted to skip this step entirely. I strongly urge you not to. This is when you gather your base, your building blocks. If you take the time to walk through each step of the process, you will have a good foundation to build your resource management practice.

  1. Analyze if resource management is what you need to resolve your current pain point. Look at what isn’t currently working. Write down where your team is struggling and be specific! Overloaded resources are absolutely a pain point, but how are they overloaded? Do you have one or two team members that can barely breathe because no one else has the skills to assist with the workload? Are your projects behind schedule because you frequently must stop what you are doing to jump onto something else? Is your entire team drowning because, even with focused work, the demand is simply too much for the available capacity? Put on your truth googles here, managers – A good manager will be able to identify where the issues are. Ultimately, will resource management really resolve your issues?
  2. Identify a single location to house the data that you need to gather for resource management analysis. This may be the tool your company has been itching to purchase from the start! I recommend using an application that is designed to provide both project and resource management activities. The practice of resource management is much easier when you have a single source of information to pull from.
  3. Compile your foundational data. This often means that you have months of information gathering to complete but this is a critical step in the development process. As you gather the necessary information, you will want to ensure that you capture it in a manner that can be consistently monitored and managed. You will need to consider the following data points:
    • Get to know your team – recognize the soft skills and how your team members work best
    • Capture the current demand on your resources
    • Identify the pipeline and forecasted efforts
    • Learn the natural flow of your projects and how it impacts resources
    • Accurately estimate resource effort for each request
    • Identify project roles
    • Identify resource skills
    • Identify skill levels
    • Capture additional resource factors that impact projects

If you determine that resource management is right for your team or organization, understand that it requires careful planning and execution to successfully implement. Resource Management is only effective when there is synergy of multiple units including live data that can be analyzed, tools that house the data and aid in analysis, knowledgeable resource managers that understand what to do with the data, and Leadership’s support to act on the resource management process results. Start to crawl towards your own resource management solution by getting a handle on the data that will support it.

For more information on what exactly data you need, check out the next article in this series, “Resource Management Skills: Foraging and Gathering Data.”

Next Steps

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