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Bridging the Gap Between Resource Management and Project Management

The concept of managing people is straightforward—it’s a practice that many managers do well. The same can be said for project managers managing projects.

So, what goes wrong when it comes to project managers managing their project resources?

For matrixed organizations, resource management can be an overlooked and underutilized element of project management, leading to projects being delayed, going over-budget, and even failing altogether.

What is a matrixed organization?

Matrixed organizations support the horizontal flow of skills and information, where workers from different areas of the business are assigned to a team without removing them from their respective positions. This is used mainly during the management of large projects where a myriad of different skills are needed and at different times in the project.

For matrixed organizations, the multitude of teams, workers, and skill sets is both a blessing and a curse. The variety of skills allow the business to take on more work, and generally perform it to a higher degree of quality. But it is exceedingly difficult to integrate the combination of resources, and this can make managing them more difficult than it needs to be.

The main cause of this difficulty is that matrixed organizations (and many other businesses) are using project portfolio management (PPM) practices and tools to solve resource management-dominant challenges, and PPM software is unequipped to solve these problems.

This post will explore how organizations can bridge the gap between resource management and project management.

Different practices, similar problems

Effective resource management in a matrixed organization can be fraught with challenges. Project and program managers struggle to find the answers to pertinent questions:

  • How do I know if I have enough resources?
  • How can I request more resources?
  • What if I have too many people for the job?
  • How can I proactively search for projects or teams where more resources may be needed?
  • Can I react in time if changes to the project occur unexpectedly?
  • How do I keep communication flowing between dispersed teams or projects?
  • How does this factor into headcount planning?

It is often the resource request process that’s at the center of these questions; resource management is designed to provide the answers. Many PPM solutions have been updated or built from the ground up to address resource management capabilities, to varying degrees of success.

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Breaking down the resource request process

Project managers are constantly trying to attain the right resource request process, and it is proving a difficult process to implement, let alone perfect.

The request process, at least in theory, is straightforward enough:

  • The project manager identifies the demand for resources
  • The demand is set, and a request is sent for more or less resources
  • At varying times during the project, there will most likely be changes to the originally agreed upon resources—extended timeframes, budget cuts, worker time off, etc.
  • As requirements change or estimates get revised, the project manager needs to be made aware so they can react accordingly.

In the resource request process, the project manager needs to express the demand for the skills, talents and knowledge required, and swiftly recognize when these resources need to be changed. They must then supply the available quantities of skills, talents and knowledge. As project estimates or requirements change, those changes must be communicated so action can be taken.

So, what is holding project managers (and the larger business) back from applying an integrated resource request process effectively?

  • Resource management isn’t given proper consideration.

The first problem is that many organizations simply do not consider resource management to be as important a practice as project management. This leaves project managers to not only deal with identifying resource demand but use workarounds or sub-standard tools to supply resources.

  • A reliance on spreadsheets

Many organizations do not use dedicated solutions for resource management, instead relying on spreadsheets to manage resource planning and forecasting. Other organizations may try to use PPM solutions but end up falling back into spreadsheets due to fault of the tool or lack of user training and adoption.

  • PPM systems are not equipped with resource management functionality

Too many systems in the PPM space, which promise resource management capabilities, are task-driven. They do not address the variables and changes that so many projects undergo; they do not tackle the complexity of the resource planning and request process.

Give resource management its due

With PPM systems ill-equipped with resource management capabilities, the resource request process is all but doomed to fail. It is time to dedicate the proper amount of time, money, and manpower to resource management.

Organizations that commit to resource management can better identify resource availability, making it far easier to uncover (and resolve) the potential over or under-utilization of resources.

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