Resource management vs project management – what’s the difference?

project management vs resource management

In the organizational landscape, project management often takes the spotlight, while resource management quietly lingers in the shadows. Neglected or relegated to an afterthought. However, the reality is that achieving successful project delivery is an uphill battle without the seamless integration of effective resource management.

The void created by organizations neglecting the interplay of these techniques leads to project delays, overburdened staff, and inefficient resource utilization.

In this blog post, we explore two pivotal questions. What is the difference between project and resource management and should you be using both techniques to optimize your project processes?

Table of contents

Project management vs. resource management

While project and resource management are related and complementary activities they differ markedly in the approach they take and the outputs they seek.

Project management involves planning, scheduling and managing people to reach an end goal. It also includes activities such as managing costs, risks and issues as they arise.

With project management, the scheduling is normally low level and involves matching resources to task level assignments or sprints if agile development is being used.

On the other hand, resource management focuses on the resources required to work on projects. It answers questions such as:

  • How many resources do we need over the coming months?
  • Do we have the right mix of skills for the projects we want to run?
  • Which resources should I allocate to which projects?
  • Do we have any teams or resources with too much or too little work?

So to summarize:

  • Resource management involves deciding which people are going to work on which projects.
  • Project management involves assigning and scheduling work to people on the projects.

Resource management or project management? It's not always an either or question.

Our Ultimate Guide to Resource Management is a great resource if you are ready to take a deeper dive into resource management.

Project manager vs. resource manager

Probably the easiest way to grasp the difference between resource managers and project managers is to consider the level at which they operate.

  • Project managers operate at a project-level. They are responsible for getting projects completed by the project team.
  • Resource managers operate at an organization level. They are responsible for ensuring there are enough resources with the right skills to complete the projects that need to be done.

In a small organization, it’s perfectly possible for project managers to also perform a resource management role. However, as the number of resources, projects and project managers grows, it’s normally time to get a resource manager onto your team.

Project management vs. resource management software

Both project managers and resource managers get involved in scheduling. But PM’s schedule projects and tasks and RM’s resources. The difference is subtle but very important.

Look over the shoulder of your typical project manager and the chances are you will find them hanging around in something like MS Project, a Gantt chart or perhaps Jira. They will be concerned with low level scheduling, setting dependencies and tweaking schedules to hit delivery dates.

And crucially they will be planning a single project in isolation.

Whereas a resource manager will probably be hanging out in resource management software like Kelloo. These tools give a helicopter view of the resources in your organization, how they are being deployed, where there are skill gaps and heatmaps showing skills and resources with too much work.

And crucially they support cross-project planning and scheduling. Meaning you can easily understand the knock-on effects that changes to a project or resource have on others.

Take the examples below from the Kelloo resource planning software and notice how you get a cross-project view of resource utilization and projects.

resource scheduling software
resource capacity planning overallocated

Kelloo's resource management tools

Resource planning, forecasting and reporting in one place. We help you get the most from your projects and people.

Should you do project management or resource management?

The truth is, for all but the smallest organizations with a handful or projects or resources the answer is almost certainly that you should be doing both project management and resource management.

To make decisions about which projects you should be doing, resource hiring and optimal deployment of resources the data from project management systems is too low level.

For managing timelines and delivery dates to customers, data from resource management systems is too high level.

So embrace both techniques.

Get your resource management and project management working in step and you will see your teams and project performance improve and your profitability increase.

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