When we think about resource management, we tend to think about how it impacts projects and the project portfolio. After all, if we don’t have the resources to execute work, our projects don’t get done. What we sometimes forget is that resource management and the role of the resource manager goes far beyond assigning people to projects.
So what is a resource manager and what do they do? Anyone who manages people is a resource manager. It is the resource manager who is responsible for ensuring that their organization has the right people with the right skills available at the right time to accomplish the work that needs to be done. In addition to managing people, a resource manager frequently has functional responsibilities in the enterprise; he or she is responsible for running a group that may provide resources to projects, but may have day-to-day operational responsibilities as well.
The successful resource manager is someone with the ability to do a number of things well. Obviously, they need to have top-notch people skills and be able to effectively set and articulate performance goals and standards. They need to be able to evaluate individual performance against those goals and provide meaningful and constructive feedback to the people that they manage. They also need to be mindful of team dynamics (the strengths and weaknesses of the individuals in the team and how they interact with one another), resolving issues or conflicts and supporting team morale.
The effective resource manager is also adept at managing a limited supply of resources against constantly changing demand. This requires a good view of what is coming up and creating short-, mid- and long-term resource plans:
Long-Term Planning is taking a longer view of resource demand that is anticipated for six, eight, ten months out, or beyond. In the long-term plan, the resource manager is not planning an individual’s time against specific tasks, but rather looking at general roles, skills and/or the locations of resources needed against general categories of demand (ongoing operational work vs. strategic projects, etc) using forecasts based on historical data or trends. The long-term plan gives the resource manager the ability to anticipate resource needs and proactively plan for staff acquisition, training or other activities that typically have longer lead times or may represent their own drain on resource capacity.
Mid-term planning focuses on the next one month to six months and identifies commitments for a specific type of resource or even an individual. But typically the mid-term plan represents these commitments as a level of effort as opposed to a specific date or time. For example we may identify that we need an engineer for about 30 hours over 2 months for a specific project – not that the engineer will work for 10 hours on a specific task in a specific week. The benefit of the mid-term plan is that it can be more accurate and provide more detail than the long-term plan, but is not subject to constant adjustment.
In the Short-term plan, the resource manager can look out a limited amount of time at specific task assignments – either for projects or ongoing work. The short term plan then provides the information needed to make last minute adjustments due to emerging priorities, schedule changes, scope changes, or changes in the available resource pool due to illness, resignations or reassignments. Because the short-term plan focuses on a limited timeframe it can be more precise than the long- or mid-term plans since we have a higher level of confidence in what is going to happen.
As a part of planning, the resource manager needs to be aware of the changing needs and priorities of the enterprise to ensure that the resources available to do the work have the requisite time and skills to do the work. This means that the resource manager needs to understand the skills and interests of the team, and make sure that those skills are being developed to meet both current and future needs of the organization. Changing business strategies, technologies, regulations and a plethora of other factors can all require significant changes in job responsibilities and the skills needed. The best resource managers will follow developments across the enterprise, their discipline and in their industries to anticipate and prepare for these changes.
Last, but not least, getting the right things done is more important than working on everything and getting nothing done. The best resource managers understand both the strategic and tactical priorities for their organization and communicate these clearly and consistently to their teams. Likewise, they set realistic expectations for people outside of their team regarding delivery dates and standards – and they are able to say ‘no’ when appropriate.
While the scope of responsibilities for a resource manager may vary from enterprise to enterprise there is no question that the resource manager controls a most valuable asset – people. Applying the skills and talents of that asset to provide the most value to the organization requires understanding and setting priorities, looking to the future to develop capabilities and capacity, and proactively working with the individuals and the team to develop skills and cohesion.