Project Management vs. Resource Management

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What is project management?

Project management is a methodology for completing an array of tasks that bubble up to an overarching initiative with multiple stakeholders and contributors. This approach focuses on a range of specific, well-defined boundaries to see the project through to completion (e.g., detailed task tracking, team communication, and project risk). That means the project manager is hyper-focused on allocating each team member’s time and tools according to the manager’s single frame of reference.

Within this paradigm, the project manager sits at the top of the pyramid. If it’s within their scope, then it’s included as part of the picture. If not, then it doesn’t show up on the project management radar screen at all.

What is resource management?

As the name implies, resource management focuses on a project’s resources. Often “resources” refer to people, available tools and technologies, and time. Effective resource management means a team’s needs are anticipated and potential gaps are accounted for while maintaining solid ROI. Examples include:

  • ensuring a team has the proper talent to achieve a project’s goals, 
  • confirming that a team has the proper budget to complete a project, and 
  • Validating the resources have available capacity
  • maintaining an effective means of communication and collaboration.

Ultimately, resource management is all about making sure teams are doing the right jobs at the right times—and mitigating problems before they arise.

What is the difference between resource management and project management?

Both project management and resource management are core elements of any project—and they have a lot in common. For one thing, both methodologies make it a whole lot easier for leaders to juggle multiple tasks and keep the proverbial plates spinning. But the difference lies in where each method focuses its efforts. In short, project management is largely task-focused, completing multiple tasks in order to accomplish a larger “project.” Whereas resource management focuses on business strategy, objectives, and most critically, time—this can be the historical, future, or present time needed by the resources to complete a project. 

Of course, that’s an extremely high-level definition of both processes. To understand the major differences, we have to dig a little deeper.

Project management is task-focused.

A well-organized project manager often has a list of tasks that need to be carried out to see a project through to completion. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Many individuals are task-focused, and having a list of duties to check off one by one turns a massive undertaking into bite-sized portions. It keeps a huge project with many steps from feeling like a “too many cooks in the kitchen” situation.

However, project management only tells a partial story, which presents challenges in a team setting. It provides a functional view of resources, tasks, and time, but human-centered resources are rarely so objective. Timelines and tasks can look very different from project to project, and it all depends on several factors. Put simply, project management often leaves the human element out of planning. 

Resource management is people-focused.

While tasks are a critical part of overseeing any project, proper resource management ensures the end result is on time and on budget, and that your team isn’t overburdened. A list of assignments is of little help when your team doesn’t have the bandwidth to complete them. Instead of assigning tasks and hoping for the best, resource management helps leaders assign the right people to the right project or tasks, and can anticipate gaps that may bring work to a screeching halt—and ultimately, cause employee burnout.

Should you use resource management or project management?

So, which method is right for your team? The simple answer is that every manager should apply project and resource management principles to their strategy. However, many leaders focus on one area and not the other. The following is a list of signs that you’re using one methodology and not the other:

You should invest in project management if:

  • Your team is often confused about who should complete which tasks—and when they should complete them.
  • You lack a set of project templates that account for different types of projects.
  • Your project lacks a single repository for all documents and completed tasks.
  • Your team often completes unnecessary double work. (Note: This can also be an indication of poor resource management.)
  • Upon completion, the project is missing components or deliverables of the required scope.

You should invest in resource management if:

  • Team members struggle to meet deadlines due to workload.
  • You’re unsure how to carry a project forward after a key teammate’s departure.
  • Team members cite a lack of proper tools or equipment.
  • Your team has multiple silos that struggle to communicate or collaborate.
  • Your customers often receive deliverables after the intended deadline.
  • Your team’s projects frequently exceed their budget.
  • You fill roles too late.
  • Leadership fights over people and priorities.

What's the difference between project managers and resource managers?

Another major facet of software project management and resource management is the leaders who carry out these two equally important methodologies. While there are many differences between the two, there’s also plenty of overlap—and the smart money is on any leader who considers themselves a little bit of both.

Project managers ensure a project is completed on time.

As explained in the previous section, project management tends to be task-focused, which means project managers tend to oversee projects from that perspective. The main goal of a project manager is to ensure assignments are completed in the right order and that the project is completed by the set deadline.

Below is a list of common project manager responsibilities:

  • Conceptualizing an overarching vision for the project.
  • Communicating that vision with the team.
  • Facilitating and leading team meetings concerning the project.
  • Managing expectations on deliverables.
  • Coordinating with consultants/freelancers and in-house talent.
  • Monitoring key performance indicators (KPIs).
  • Providing regular updates on the project to leadership.
  • Maintaining tasks within the project management software.

Resource managers ensure each project is poised for success.

On the other hand, resource managers are responsible for anticipating the needs of the team for any given project. They focus more on the efficiency of the team and any potential blockers to success.

Below is a list of common resource manager responsibilities:

  • Identifying gaps or opportunities in the team’s experience or skill set.
  • Tracking budgetary and time allotment.
  • Planning task management with current and future staffing needs in mind.
  • Owning the project or resource management software.
  • Accounting for staffing needs.
  • Allocating the necessary and correct team members as needed.
  • Forecasting potential project schedule roadblocks. 

Depending on the organization’s size and structure, a resource manager may either be responsible for filling staffing needs or work closely with HR to bring in the right talent. And in other organizations, project managers may wear both project and resource hats. Alternatively, other leaders within an organization, such as department heads or team leaders, may play the role of project or resource manager. In the smartest organizations, though, teams democratize resource management, making every staff member play a role in contributing to the planning of work. 

What's the difference between project management software and resource management software?

In an age of remote and hybrid work models, using tools that simplify projects and bring teams together is no longer optional. However, the undeniable importance of such tools means there are more options on the market than ever before. Picking the right tool for the job is mission-critical.

What is project management software?

Project management software (PMS) is a task management system that helps project leads stay organized and on top of deadlines. In addition to assigning and managing tasks, many PMS include key metrics and KPI tracking tools that give them a broad overview of their team’s productivity. A PMS also acts as a repository for all assets and collateral for a given project. You can also keep track of multiple projects simultaneously. Many include portfolio functionality that allows you to organize related or similar projects into portfolios for strategic management.

What does project management software do?

On top of overseeing the completion of individual tasks, the most sophisticated PMS includes features like:

  • scheduling,
  • time estimation,
  • priority setting,
  • task relationships,
  • KPI tracking, and
  • template creation.

How do you use project management software?

Specifics will vary depending on the software. Generally speaking, though, the best way to use project management software is to develop templates for different types of projects that you—and your team—typically produce. Start by visualizing the end product and identifying needs by working backwards. Once you’ve pinpointed deliverables and deadlines, you can assign tasks to team members.

Throughout  the project, you’ll communicate with the team and house or link to all project assets within the PMS. That way, it’ll be super easy for anyone on the team to find what they need when they need it. Once the project is complete, you can run KPI reports to assess project efficiencies.

Why use project management software?

The answer to this question depends on how you use project management software, but generally speaking, the benefits include:

  • fostering better team communication,
  • housing all project tasks, assignments, and assets (when warranted) in a single location,
  • organizing tasks to streamline the deliverability of projects, and
  • managing project timelines.

What is resource management software?

Resource management software (RMS) is similar to project management software but includes several features that make it easier to track resource capacity, KPIs, and budgets. It also makes it much easier to identify and build the right team for each project and avoid future blockers using forecasted resource utilization.

Why use resource management software? 

As for why a team should use RMS, there are several important reasons: 

  • Streamline project management by reducing waste and accounting for inefficiencies.
  • Prevent overallocation by flagging resource gaps and employment needs.
  • Predict budgetary needs based on project timelines, workload, upcoming projects, and development plans.
  • Optimize planning based on workload, work deliverability, budgets, and billing, and improve billing of services.
  • Provide vital information to key stakeholders and leadership (e.g., justification for additional resources).
  • Assess the true ROI of projects based on team effort versus the cost of service.
  • Increase team collaboration and communication.

How do you use resource management software?

As with PMS, the features available in resource management software (RMS) will vary from platform to platform. However, any RMS worth its salt will have the following features:

  • Resource utilization timeline
  • Resource data reporting 
  • Automation tools
  • AI functionality that tells you when to hire new talent
  • Project deliverable timeline
  • Visual representation of the entire resource portfolio 

Using these features, you can:

  • track employee availability across multiple engagements and easily adjust projects as needed;
  • set realistic deadlines based on team availability and future engagements;
  • assign tasks according to true availability and skillset;
  • forecast workload and compare against current capacity;
  • use data-driven insights to justify hiring needs; and
  • automate scheduling and rescheduling.

There are resource management solutions on the market that leverage the power of AI and automation, enabling many features to essentially become “hands-off,” meaning less time is spent reviewing complicated formulas and spreadsheets. Some systems can also integrate, and work in tandem, with existing project management platforms and ERPs. This means you don’t have to move the whole company onto a brand-new system, and there is no need for double data entry; the information flows between each software.

What are the benefits of resource management software?

Implementing resource management software can be a real game changer for organizations. Teams gain a breadth of benefits, many of which, directly or indirectly, increase profitability

Here are eight advantages of using resource management software.

  • Planning optimization:  Plan work and projects faster by creating templates, cloning past projects, and quickly updating dependent timelines. Work that used to take hours can literally be done in minutes. 
  • Transparency: Software gives leaders visibility across the entire organization so they can see who is working on what and when—and stop fighting over resources and priorities. Also, stuff happens: a teammate gets unexpectedly sick; the power goes out; a tree falls through your living room window. The fact is, no matter how much you plan for it, life—and work—has a way of throwing you curveballs. When that happens, all you can do is your best, and sometimes that means deadlines and budgets get exceeded. With an RMS, you’ll have the data to prove that you did everything you could with what you had. 
  • Operational efficiency:  Organizational insights arm you with the data you need to better manage and optimize operations. You can more purposefully divvy up work and allocate people to projects. And team members can more easily pass the baton between each other.   
  • Increase utilization: Most companies that bill by the hour average a 60% utilization rate. Resource management software helps maximize utilization. Even modest gains can lead to big boosts in profit.  
  • Inform headcount planning:  Switch to a proactive, not reactive hiring strategy. The software makes it easy to compare upcoming project requirements against your teams’ capacities and skills so you can determine if people can help from across the org or if you need to hire, for what roles, and when.
  • Eliminate burnout:  Burnout is the result of prolonged, excessive work demands. Resource management software makes it easy for project managers and team leaders to balance demand with individual capacity so no one has too much on their plate. )We hosted a webinar on this exact topic, outlining 5 steps for balancing team workload and avoiding burnout. Watch it on demand here.)
  • Improve customer experience:  Smarter planning and more efficient execution lead to projects being completed on time and on budget—two outcomes that result in happier customers. 
  • Increase retention:  When customers are satisfied and employees feel balanced and productive, they tend to stick around longer. Resource management software can reduce customer churn and employee turnover

What is the best project and resource management software?

These days, organizational leaders have a bevy of choices when it comes to project management and resource management software. Very rarely does an organization use one project management system; most companies will use several, depending on department needs, work approach, team makeup, and culture. Ultimately, the best project management system is the one that works for you and your team. To determine that, ask vendors the following:

  • How will this software set my team up for success?
  • How can I track individual metrics and the ROI of each project?
  • How will this system foster communication and collaboration?
  • How can this software help me anticipate the needs of my team?
  • How does this system identify gaps and resource waste?

While organizations may use several project management systems, it’s less common to use multiple resource management software. Instead, top-notch resource management software, like Mosaic, will sit “on top” of project management systems, integrating with each one in use across the organization. This enables executives to have a high-level view of everything in-flight and better assess workload and demand across the entire company, which creates an ideal environment for effective strategic planning and forecasting. 

Jonathan Arnone

Director of Operations
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