Let's consider Jenna, a 12-year-old baking enthusiast getting ready to cook her favorite vanilla-flavored cake. Before she starts her task, she reads the recipe and determines what products she'll need, what quantity of each to buy and in what order to add them to the cake mix. She also monitors the correct timing for every step of the baking process. When everything comes together, Jenna ensures the final product is presented on an attractive plate, nicely decorated with piping and shimmering fruit glazing topping the cake.
In this analogy, the baking of the cake itself is the project, and, by proxy, Jenna is considered the project manager. But at every stage (reading the recipe, determining what's needed, buying supplies, measuring and so on), Jenna is also the resource manager. Why is this? Jenna manages the use of the resources she needs to produce the cake, and she does so effectively, efficiently and timely while keeping within the constraints of her budget.
What is resource management, and why is it important?
From the previous analogy, you can surely grasp that diving into a project without understanding what you need and how to allocate items would create a degree of chaos and uncertainty. So, a resource manager minimizes a potentially messy situation by ensuring her team has all the parts it needs to complete any given task. The manager also checks that those parts are available in the quantities and at the moment the team needs them. In a nutshell, this is the definition of resource management.
The strategic assignment and monitoring of resources maximize two factors in business operations: efficiency and productivity. Herein lies the real value of resource management as these two factors are closely linked to higher profit margins, especially in manufacturing processes like those in the construction and engineering sectors.
What are the types of resource management?
A project may have many facets, and each one of these facets may call for its specialized kind of resources. Managing a particular type of resource may require a specific set of skills. A human resource manager will have a set of skills different enough from those skills needed by a financial resource manager to warrant a different title and position within a company.
On the flip side, a single aspect of a project could call for an amalgamation of different components requiring close monitoring because of time sensitivity and governmental regulation, like in the case of the pharmaceutical industry, that will be the responsibility of one manager. Ultimately, there are a few different types of resource management jobs, and the kind you do will fall in line with the enterprise you work for and your domain knowledge.
Here are some examples of resource management within different industries:
Construction projects are capital-intensive and require abundant and diverse resources from different areas to finish a product. Of course, all this will vary depending on the scope of the construction project. A potential resource manager could find employment in the departments that handle products and material management, construction plant, tools and equipment management, human resource management, space and facilities management, subcontractors management and financial resources management.
Environmental resource management.
Environmental resource managers oversee programs designed to align their organizations with government-established ecological goals. They ensure that their companies' implementation of ecologically-friendly policies follows proper guidelines and regulations. In other cases, natural resource managers work directly with the government overseeing conservation efforts and proper land management practices and monitoring environmental issues. Environmental managers could also track how certain economic activities from specific sectors impact natural resources. Furthermore, they identify how the practical management of natural resources impacts a given industry.
Engineering projects are not only large, but they are also involved. A candidate hoping to land a job as a resource manager in the engineering sector needs to have an engineering background and domain knowledge of the specific niche she's entering. Just like in construction, engineering projects demand large amounts of resources to be completed. As a resource manager, you're responsible for overseeing the project, ensuring that it follows the scheduled timeline, is on budget and all the supplies will be available at the right time and in the right place. Managing resources in engineering projects requires collaborating with other departments like logistics, supply chain, operations and others.
Software development projects are very different from one to the next because developers design software to solve the problems for a particular client. Often, a resource manager handling a software development project would need to work with more than one team of developers, and it's not rare for these different groups to be located in different parts of the world. A fantastic resource manager in the software industry should have excellent time management skills to navigate the hurdle of relaying data between different timezones. She also needs to have a background in software development because she'll need to monitor the project for potential hiccups. She'll need to understand the software development language to communicate with the teams and understand the project deliverables. In this industry, the manager will handle three major resources: budgets, human labor and time.
An IT project manager coordinates staffing, audits deliverables, forecasts financial and budgetary requirements and coordinates with clients, among other tasks. She's also responsible for developing and implementing policies, procedures and systems to aid in reaching project milestones and goals. Like in the software development scenario, a resource manager in the IT sector must be knowledgeable about the technology areas she will be working in because she'll be responsible for evaluating trends, benchmarking results and inspecting deliverables for clients.
By now, you know the role of a resource manager is critical because large-scale projects are complex and can get out of hand pretty quickly. Large-scale projects have moving parts that must be coordinated and synched to deliver results. In the healthcare sector, this level of complexity is heightened because a manager has to consider how her strategy and decisions will affect a crucial element: patients seeking care in her organization. Trying to save money by cutting corners to maximize benefits could backfire. Efficiency and productivity might not be as desirable if achieving them has the potential to endanger human lives.
Just like in the healthcare industry, the stakes are high in the pharmaceutical industry. The risk that comes with developing drugs is one of the aspects a resource manager will need to consider. Also, drug development projects can take years to complete even after the research and development phase is over because of extensive government regulation that can be difficult to navigate. So, in addition to understanding the particulars of the pharmaceutical industry, a resource manager also needs to understand government regulation as it affects drug companies because improper implementation could make all the difference between launching a drug to market successfully or being shut down by the government.
Marketing professionals not only supervise the teams working on marketing campaigns to ensure the timely delivery of the marketing product, but they also deal with client-facing aspects of the business. They are expected to communicate with clients periodically because it's important for the resource manager that her team is executing the marketing message appropriately as it relates to the client's product positioning. The relationship with a client is arguably the most important resource for a marketing firm as clients are its bread and butter.
In the business world, there are different approaches to achieving the same goals. Still, when it comes to the effective management of resources, understanding best practices yields greater benefits. The following ideas can help you form a framework or template to use as a departure point for managing resources effectively when first starting:
Understanding the scope of the project is an important first step to determine what resources are needed to complete it. Taking the time to perform this first step is important for identifying what's in short supply and what needs immediate attention.
Once a manager has a global overview of the project and understands what she needs to see it through to completion, she must create a plan outlining time frames, budgetary needs and allocations, staffing and benchmarking points. A general plan can be used at first, and once she knows how to break up the project in different parts she can zoom in to a granular level.
Embrace digital tools designed for resource management. Spreadsheets work, but it can be cumbersome to deal with them. Software designed to help you implement your resource plans offers a return on investment we often forget: time. There are applications developed to help managers keep track of and monitor projects. These tools become increasingly important in the long-term as resource management is an ongoing process requiring constant monitoring. A project could stall because a manager neglects to account for something small, but this small mishap can unleash a snowball effect that halts the entire operation. Digital tools help prevent setbacks like this if you use them properly.
With the use of software, a manager should be proficient at monitoring resources effectively. But, in addition to managing tools, implementing strategic checkpoints like benchmarks, costs assessments and quality control should be essential steps in a rigorous management plan.
The ultimate goal is to deliver a product or service to a client and to do so in a timely manner while working under tight budgets. Keeping the end in mind helps prevent or remove roadblocks that could potentially delay delivery dates. Running out of a particular resource in a critical moment, although too common, is a problem you can prevent. Not delivering a project on time can damage your company/client relations and affect your ability to secure future projects. So always keep the delivery in mind at every step of the process.