As any experienced project manager will tell you, you must first understand the various constraints that will influence a project before expecting it to succeed.
Although scope, cost, and time are often cited as the most critical project constraints, they are not the only limiting factors that you should be aware of as a project manager. Resource allocation and management are also crucial factors to consider, as they will directly impact other aspects of your project, such as its final cost and timeline.
For this reason, project managers dedicate time to generating a resource management plan before kicking off their projects. Below, we look at what a resource management plan is, why they’re essential, and the individual steps involved in creating one.
What are “resources” in project management?
In project management, the term resources refers to any assets required to bring a project to fruition. Depending on the goal of your project, this may include:
- Material costs
- Tools and software
- Office space
- Personnel (internal employees or contractors)
- Materials or components (vital for projects that result in a physical product)
- And more
Resources are, in short, meant to reflect everything required to successfully execute your project and which can influence both your project’s costs and timeline.
For example, your project plan will detail specific tasks that will need to be completed by the team to move a project forward. Depending on the resources at your disposal, you may find you will need to hire additional personnel to meet the project’s deadline, which would impact your budget. If the budget is not flexible, however, then you may find that the timeline must be extended in order to make do with the resources at your disposal.
Because your project’s resources will impact so much of your plan, the earlier in the process you can begin creating a resource management plan, the more accurate you will be.
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What is a resource management plan?
According to Ammar Aamer, associate professor for the Master of Science in Project Management program at Northeastern, a resource management plan is a guideline, roadmap, and reference that project managers and other members of the project team use to allocate, manage, and control the resources required to complete the project work. It is also sometimes called a resource plan.
Put another way, the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) defines the resource management plan as:
“The component of the project management plan that provides guidance on how project resources should be categorized, allocated, managed, and released.”
“The resource management plan is critical to the success of any project,” Aamer says. “A successful project means completing the work within the scope, cost, and schedule. As a project manager, to get the work done, we need to clearly define what resources we need, how to acquire them, and, more importantly, how to manage them. Not having a clear resource management plan would exacerbate waste and non-value added activities, translating into an over-budget run and project completion delay.”
What is included in a resource management plan?
While every organization will have its own specific approach to resource management, specific components must be included in all plans. According to Aamer, the plan should include any relevant information that is needed to answer the following questions:
- What resources are needed to complete the project work? These may include people, material, software, equipment, and other tools.
- How much of each resource is needed?
- How will these resources be acquired? Will they come from internal or external sources?
- When are the resources needed?
- Will there be any training required for personnel?
- What is the cost associated with the project’s resources? These costs should be tallied at both the macro scale and on a resource-by-resource basis.
- What methods will be used to manage the project’s resources efficiently?
- What metrics will be used to monitor and control each resource?
- What process will be used to release resources?
Depending on the specifics of your project, you may find that you have more questions to answer in the resource management plan as well.
How to Create a Resource Management Plan
1. Review related plans that will influence the project’s resources.
The first step in generating a resource management plan will be to review the project’s other plans and documents. This will ensure that you fully understand the resources required for the project and empower you to be more accurate in creating your plan.
For example, you should review the:
- Project charter, which will detail the high-level requirements of the project
- Work breakdown structure (WBS), which will provide a detailed understanding of the project deliverables and required activities
- Project schedule, which outlines the key deliverables, milestones, and general schedule that the project must follow
- Project quality standards and metrics, which will detail the quality assurance processes for the project and enable you to account for any required resources to maintain the required quality level
- Risk management plan and risk register, which will detail the risks associated with the project
2. Understand your organization’s resource-related policies.
Once you understand the level of resources that the project will require, you must understand your organization’s policies toward resources.
For example, if the project requires hiring additional part-time, full-time, or contract staff, you should consult with your organization’s human resources department. If the project requires that you purchase specific tools, software, or materials, you should consult with your procurement manager and finance team. The goal is to ensure that you are following your organization’s policies and workflows so as not to cause disruptions to the project.
3. Consult with the project planning team to generate the resource management plan.
The final step is to work closely with the project team members to generate the plan. These individuals will offer additional perspectives to ensure that you are not overlooking any critical resources or processes that might influence the completion of the project.
What It Takes to Be Successful
According to Aamer, being successful in resource management typically requires professionals to have a certain level of understanding of the general principles of project management and key methodologies and frameworks that guide the industry.
“My advice is to approach the resource management plan based on a system thinking approach,” Aamer says. “That is not to focus on cost only, but rather think about the interrelationships of the project impacting factors such as scope, risk, quality, time, and communication. One should also have the mindset of Lean and Six Sigma when approaching the resource management plan to plan for waste elimination and variation reduction methods.”
One of the most efficient means of gaining this understanding so that you can immediately put it to use in your career is to earn a graduate degree in project management, such as a Master of Science in Project Management.
When considering different degree programs, be certain to evaluate the curriculum to determine whether or not resource management is covered alongside other key subject areas. The MS in Project Management offered by Northeastern University, for example, offers students elective coursework specifically about project resource management in addition to courses on project management practices, scope management, risk management, scheduling, and more.
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