What comes first the chicken or the egg? In a similar vein there’s always been an underlying tussle in business operations between what is more important. Resource management versus project management.
Steve Brooks has written an interesting White Paper about resource management. ‘Five Pillars for Great Resource Management.’ The whitepaper breaks down the complexity of resource management into five core pillars: People, Process, Data, Technology, and Culture. For professional services organisations (PSOs) to thrive, Brooks suggests they need to have these components at a certain level of maturity, in place and aligned. Brooks says, “Holding up a roof with five pillars of different consistency and height is doomed to failure. For example, one can have the best consultants, but if they are not used in the right projects or are part of a broken team, it can lead to disaster. Each of the five pillars is important, but people are at the heart of every PSO.”
Brook’s whitepaper clearly articulates the core foundations of resource management and the interdependency between people, technology and culture, underpinned by business processes and data. However, what the whitepaper fails to fully explore is the symbiotic relationship between resource management and project management.
Resource management a by-product?
In the past, some managers misunderstood the difference between Resource Management and Project Management. Resource Management is often assumed to be a by-product of Project Management. Some consultants and companies still believe that all resource management issues can be addressed by simply adding the resource allocation details into the project management tool. However, Resource management is an entirely separate discipline that complements project management and other applications such as ERP, PPM, CRM, HR, and more.
Resource management is about allocating the available resources across all enterprise projects effectively and efficiently. This role is vital. PSOs need to be able to deploy the right people, with the right skills to support their client projects. They can’t afford to get this wrong! This directly drives client satisfaction, employee well-being and positive revenue margins. However, to succeed they must have the right processes in place that effectively utilises professional services technology. A tool that supports people, processes and data to achieve positive outcomes for the businesses, customers and employees.
So going back to the original question: What comes first project management or resource management? Normally, it’s project management that is first to hatch from the egg. Most PSOs start business life with spreadsheets. As they grow, and win more projects and employ project managers, they eventually formalise their process and develop resource management functionality. Some PSOs also incorporate professional service technologies to support their evolving processes and businesses. Effective resource management becomes a crucial factor in successful project management.
People managing projects creating business success
PSOs are dependent on the continuous successful implementation of client projects by project managers. The effective management of people is ultimately the key driver for project success which is the main dynamic in resource management. Soft skills like empathy and emotional intelligence are vital for communicating with team members in order to inspire and motivate. This is what differentiates PSOs from other sectors in business. They are totally reliant on the expertise of their people.
Attracting and retaining people is vital to the success of professional firms. Individuals within firms have often undertaken specialist training over many years, especially in the legal, accountancy, engineering, and technical fields. They expect stimulating work that is distributed equally and aligned to their skillset. As Brooks notes, “Resource management can assist with that. Business leaders want to maximise the utilisation of the most expensive resource to deliver profitability and customer success.”
Trust and transparency
Another important factor identified in the whitepaper is trust. The paper correctly suggests that resource managers need to build an atmosphere of trust around them. To build that trust, they need access to data to allocate engagements that leverage the employees skills, enthusiasm for their clients work and advance their careers. Organisations also need to be transparent with resource management within their enterprises. As a result, employees and freelancers need visibility of allocated project tasks. Project management also needs to see how resources are allocated. This means planning is transparent both ways.
Organisations running multiple complex projects, operating on fixed budgets with scarce technical resources is often the normal environment for some PSOs. The weekly resource meeting based on spreadsheet information which may be outdated the minute it was circulated, become the internal battleground within firms. It is not surprising that miscommunication is one of the main reasons why projects fail. This is where a central resource management tool pays dividends. A platform that helps avoid misunderstanding created by spreadsheets.
Project Management and Resource Management are essentially two sides of the same coin for all enterprises. Both of these disciplines are needed to maintain sustainability and profitability. Brooks concludes, “Resource optimisation is not a magic wand that will fix a Professional Services organisation, but it is critical to its success. It needs to be at the heart of a wider ecosystem that it both feeds from and helps drive success into the modern PSO’s key metrics.”
PSOs need develop a co-operative relationship between resource management and project management. This will be needed to facilitate the deployment of the right people, with the right skills to support their clients projects. However, to succeed they must have the right processes in place that effectively utilises technology. A professional services platform that supports people, processes and data to achieve positive outcomes for the businesses, customers and employees.