Multi-project resource management – Do I need a central resource manager?

Senior managers in project-based organizations need to know their team’s current workload and the planned utilization of their staff. They also need to be sure that they have the capacity when committing to new project delivery dates. Suitable processes backed up with resource management software must be in place if acceptable multi-project resource management is to be achieved.

Preparing the resource estimate on a particular project is typically a shared activity, involving both the project manager and the team leaders who will supply the resources. These are the individuals closest to understanding the resource needs of the project and best able to estimate the work required.

There are a couple of approaches to ensuring effective multi-project resource management and other work that  teams undertake. Both require support from effective resource management software.. The quality of the information produced must be first rate, as expensive decisions on hiring additional staff or contractors will be based on its output. The underlying data must be credible, current and complete.

The first approach is to hire a resource manager in a central role, whose job is to ensure that:

  • all projects are properly resourced.
  • individuals are not vastly over or under utilized.
  • you don’t commit to impossible timescales with existing resources.
  • resource conflicts and trade-offs are flagged.

So what are the costs of employing such a resource manager? Obviously the employment costs of the individual, which might all up be more than £50k a year, but there are also the costs in time spent by project managers and team leaders in discussion with the resource manager and correcting misunderstandings.

The other alternative is not to have a central resource manager, but instead devolve the resource management responsibility directly to project managers and team leaders. Good resource planning tools enable such collaboration, supporting the ongoing process of project managers requesting, and team leaders allocating, resources with the right skills and competencies.

Provided that these key users take full responsibility for their part of the data in the system, this is the better way for multi-project resource management. The integrity of the data will be higher with the direct involvement of these key players, giving the required confidence in making those difficult, hire, fire, or retrain decisions.

So, before hiring that expensive resource manager, see if you can improve collaboration between the guys (and gals) at the sharp end, with the help of resource management software.

Barry Muir is a Director of Innate Management Systems Ltd. We have been implementing resource management software in a wide variety of professional services organizations for more than 20 years.
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