How to Plan for Managing Resources on Your Project?


A project needs to have right set of people in the team, and right type of physical resources, in order to execute project work. After all, these are the ‘moving parts’ of the project that take it to completion.

That is driven with a sound resource planning exercise, the one that acts as a guidepost throughout the project life.

Resources generally mean two types – people (or, human resources), and physical resources.

The plan to identify, acquire, and manage these two types and the skill needed for the same are completely different.

When it comes to people, we look at the skills as well as attitude in order to make a selection.

Skill needs range from low skilled (manual labor at construction site), to semi-skilled (handling machine tools), to highly skilled (precision carving, handling complex machinery) – depending on the type of project.

Irrespective of the skillset needs, the success in getting right people is governed by supply-and-demand situation in the organization, or outside in the industry.

For instance, let us say you work in a software development organization and require junior engineers with 1-2 years of J2EE experience for your project. Usually this is not a problem. But getting them on your project may be still difficult if many other projects in the organization require similar skillset, and hiring from outside the company may have a lead time of several months.

As with physical resources – there may be few that are scarcely available, there may be few that are available based on seasonality, and few that are more/less expensive due to demands based on certain events. Acquisition of such resources need to be planned by keeping in mind the schedule (when are they needed?) and cost.

What does a Resource management plan contain?

In short, the Resource management plan contains list of type of people needs and physical resource needs. For people – their skills, roles and responsibilities, reporting hierarchy, the duration that they need for, resource ramp up plan, resource utilization across different phases of the project, their training needs, and release criteria. The last few aspects common for physical resources as well.

What’s needed?

Quality management plan gives us the practices and processes put in place to ensure quality, and their dependency on availability of resources. Scope baseline gives us information about activities and their needs of resources.

Estimate Activity Resources process gives us to activity resource requirements.

Schedule and requirements documentation are essential to understand when resources are needed.

Similarly, risk register tells us what are the risks associated with resources, their non-availability, and also opportunities associated with resources.

Stakeholder register gives us insights into who are the influencers we can depend on to acquire scarce resources, and who can create problems for the project in the context of resources.

You can use templates human resource management plan template, staff management plan template, or similar documents from other similar projects – and get a head-start on coming up with an effective human resource plan. You can also use assets such as standard descriptions for roles and organization structure.

One can have all the plans around training people, motivational team building activities, rewards and so on, but they are governed by the organizational human resource related policies. Hiring people from outside the company depends on the marketplace conditions.

You will be fortunate to get right talent for your project within the organization, either available in resource pool or coming out of other projects that are ramping down. A niche skillset may be hard to find in the market, and the lead time to hire such positions may impact your schedules.

How’s it done?

Expert judgement – is your friend when it comes to resources. Get as much help as you can internally, and if needed externally in terms of hiring a consultant or industry support network.

During planning stage many aspects need to be analyzed and put in place based on anticipation and experience. The resource ramp up plan for instance need to be put in place looking at feasibility and lead time for getting right talent on the team. Analyzing staffing related risks, assessing right role and positions required for preliminary work and so on, need expertise.

Expert judgment can be given by someone on the team, outside of the team from other projects, or Project Management Organization (PMO) or even outside of the organization.

Involving right stakeholders, project management team and core project staff in planning process yields maximum dividend in terms of getting commitment from these people and letting them see the big picture, which helps them perform better in their roles.

Exam pointer:

Remember these acronyms –

  • RAM – Resource Assignment Matrix
  • RACI – Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed
  • OBS – Organizational Breakdown Structure
  • RBS – Resource Breakdown Structure

Organizational chart and description of positions what reporting relationship everyone in your performing organization have, right from CEO and downwards. You will need to know who is who in the organization, and their reporting hierarchy. This helps in understanding path of escalation, where permissions are to be sought, and who can influence resource allocation decisions. This also gives you an insight into who you should be networking with!

There are three formats in which that this can be shown –

1. Hierarchical format

Organizational chart is usually shown using this format.
This is similar to WBS chart we saw in Create Work Breakdown Structure , shows reporting hierarchy of people and their positions. Also called OBS – Organizational Breakdown Structure.

Here is an example –

Functional organizationFigure: Example of hierarchical Organizational Breakdown Structure (OBS)

RBS or Resource Breakdown Structure is another type of hierarchical structure that shows resource mix of the project.

For instance, in our earlier example of Kathy’s landscaping project, her workforce may contain gardeners working on different garden projects across the gated community project. Having an overall RBS for the project will help someone interested in finding all gardeners, irrespective of which sub-project they work on, together and to see who reports to whom.

2. Matrix format

is usually used to show responsibility assignment matrix (RAM). RACI is one of the formats to show which team member is responsible for which work package.

RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed. An examples of this, as applicable to Kathy’s landscaping project we saw in earlier posts, is given below.

RACI matrixFigure: Example of RACI matrix

What are the benefits of RACI chart?

Notice that this matrix enables you to ensure that there is at least one person responsible for every work package. This is a great tool for the team, to know who should they go for consultation or approving decisions.

RACI assigns someone as Accountable, and someone as Responsible for a work package. What is the difference between accountability and responsibility?

While opinions may differ, this is what works for me in the context of project management.

Responsibility is action oriented. Which means that I have been assigned some work and I complete it. I am responsible for its success or failure.

Having said that, I am answerable to all of the work done by my team, although I myself might not have performed the work. I am involved in the outcomes, decisions – hence I am held accountable for the outcome.

3. Text-oriented format

This is used when long positional descriptions are to be maintained.

Networking a way to meet up with other project managers and people in positions of influence, who can impact the way you get resources in the organization. Networking can happen over formal or informal meetings, coffee or lunch discussions, as common participants at seminars, or at office functions.

Networking is especially useful in large organizations where you will be working with people across functions. If you are working in a matrixed organization, networking is an important tool to get support from functional managers. You could also share project management knowledge with fellow project managers and pick up a best practice or two from them to try in your own project.

Organizational theory about getting to know the culture of your organization. It is about knowing how people, teams or functions behave in the organization. This information might be useful in ensuring that you draft your plan with better feasibility of success.

What do I get out of this?

Resource management plan

is the primary output. The three main components of this are –

  • Roles and responsibility matrix
  • Project organizational chart
  • Staffing management plan

A quick overview of these is here, spend few minutes on this to internalize.
Click on the image to open in a new window, from where you can right-click save to disk.

Resource Management Plan smallFigure: Contents of Resource Management Plan

Roles and Responsibilities is very essential for team members to get clarity about what is expected out of their role. Many a times people go about doing work as the situation demands and end up either losing sight of what they are expected to do, and/or end up doing some other team members’ work. This happens quite often on projects. Such incidents may build frustration in ‘better skilled’ people because they may find themselves doing ‘others’ work’ most of the times.

Documenting roles, responsibilities, authority and competency needs from each position helps team members find gaps and approach project managers for their training needs.

Project organization charts show how people working on the project are professionally related to each other. It shows the hierarchical and reporting relationship amongst team members – including people from vendors’ team or customers’ team working on this project.

Staffing management plan is an essential plan that must be updated throughout the project as staffing needs, training and development needs change. This plan also includes,

  • RACI matrix (who does what work),
  • Resource calendars (who is available when),
  • Staff ramp up plan (when people are to be brought into the team as per their skillset needs),

…among other aspects such as training needs, safety needs and so on, as shown in the mind map above.

A sample resource needs on the engagement on a time scale, is shown below –

Resource spread chartFigure: Resource calendar – resource histogram

As a project manager, it is essential for you to remember Booke’s law which states that “adding manpower late in the project makes the project later“, from his book The Mythical Man-Month.

There is an optimal team size for every project to get it done in the least possible amount of time, with least possible cost and least possible friction. Adding more people to this optimal mix increases overheads such as communication and ramp-up time, which drags the team down and actually makes the project slower. This has to be kept in mind while planning staffing needs on the project.

Well, there is an ‘organizational chart’ in tools & techniques, and there is one in outputs. What is the difference?

Good question. The one used as part of tools & techniques is the organizational chart of performing organization, and the one in outputs is for the project itself!

Why is performing organization’s chart required?

Because you need to understand who is who in the organization, and figure out who has influence in the project decisions.

The organizational chart as an output represents hierarchy of your project. You may have some external consultants working on the project, and they will NOT be part of performing organization’s chart. Hence project organizational chart specifically talks about the people involved in your project, and their reporting relationship.

Team organizational chart is as much important to team members as it is useful to people outside the team. Every individual on the team should have a clear understanding of their role and responsibilities, and this chart provides that.

Team charter

Team charter is a guiding document.

It shows the aspects that constitute acceptable behavior, values the team swears by, common criterial to follow while making decisions, guidelines to conduct effective meetings, the escalation hierarchy, and conflict resolution process and so on.

Before we move ahead,

Earlier in the post I wrote definition for accountability and responsibility as applicable in the context of project management in this post. I do not expect you to agree to it, and you may have a different definition.

What, according to you, is the difference between responsibility and accountability? Do share your thoughts by leaving your comments below.

Next, let us see how do we get into action from the planning stage – acquiring project resources.

And yes, if you have not yet estimated resources needed for activities (in order to come up with the schedule), here’s where you should head now.

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