Home » Blog » Project Manager vs. Resource Manager: What Are These Roles About?

It’s hard to imagine an agency, a software house, or even a product-focused startup without a project manager. They make sure that projects (however they’re defined in a given company) get delivered successfully: on time and within budget. 

What our readers get thank to this article:


Resource manager during work
Resource Manager during project management process – assigning resources [Screen from Teamdeck – resource management software]

A resource manager, on the other hand, is a role that you don’t see as often in project management teams. It’s not because their job is not as important: quite the contrary. Most often than not, however, project resource management efforts are divided into multiple roles. In this article, we’ll shed more light on the role of a resource manager and perhaps even convince you that having a person solely responsible for managing and planning project resources is a valuable investment for your organization.

What’s the Role of the Resource Manager?

Searching for a resource manager in the project management process

Before you will get to know about the importance, skills knowledge, and duties connected with a resource manager, you need to know where he is placed in the context of a project and project management. 

As many know, by the project – especially in project management society – we understand many things, that involve many different resources. From materials, and equipment, to the most important – people and their skills. For the project you should picture: 

  • website development,
  • reshaping the design of bottles – for example – in the beer industry;
  • sales’ expansion onto a new market,
  • building a tam on some river, etc.

As you can imagine, each means many individuals, crafts, subcontractors, devices, tools, configurations, dependencies, little steps, and tasks that incorporate a project. But no project exists without the most important element – the people. The people – those who commission it and those who perform it. As the Project Management Institute suggests: 

Project management is the use of specific knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to deliver something of value to people.

From leaders to workforce and subcontractors. From people who schedule to people who are selected to participate at some stage of the project.

Of course, projects aren’t similar and need many different competencies. But even though there are many differences between them, they have something in common.

Resource Manager in project management process
Skills-based employee assigning to a task [Screen from Teamdeck]

Whether you are a specialist or a leader in marketing project management, whether you represent project management for creative agencies, each project is an arranged and organized process. To picture this in an easy way what project management is, let’s use a simple definition given by projectmanager.com

Project management is the discipline of planning, executing and completing projects.

Each term of this definition could pretend to be a separate topic, but it’s not what we’d like to stress. What you should see is the process. 

The definition above sees project management as a process composed of 3 steps. But this process can be broken down into 4, 5, and 6 steps. Nevertheless, each includes a few other groups of elements, smaller processes, assignments, and – of course – challenges.

The process has its own term. It is the project management life cycle. And the most widespread is the version with 5 phases. Developed by the Project Management Institute includes

  • conception and initiation,
  • planning,
  • execution,
  • performance/monitoring,
  • and project closure.

project management phases

Why do we talk about the project management life cycle?

Because the main topic of this article is about clashing two roles – a project manager and a resource manager – it’s worth staying for a while and peering closely at the picture above. Why? Because a resource manager takes a part in many of the above-showed phases and processes involved be each phase. 

Why is and what is resource management?

To visualize the importance of resource management (or resource manager – to say it straight) let’s use a summary of the annual research The State of Project Management introduced by Wellington company. 

[Source: “The State of Project Management” annual report, Wellington 2020].

Thanks to the APM Body of Knowledge resource management is:

(...) acquiring, allocating and managing the resources, such as individuals and their skills, finances, technology, materials, machinery and natural resources required for a project. Resource management ensures that internal and external resources are used effectively on time and to budget.

It’s not quite the easiest definition ever made, because of its ambiguous terms thus it could be pretty fine for an academic dissertation. But without digging too deep, the general role o the resource manager is to plan, schedule, and allocate the most useful, the most appropriate resources (mostly suitable skilled employees or subcontractors) to complete a project with the required expectations and predefined time and budget.

When we compare project management and resource management definitions, our eyes will show – at first glance – many similarities between the two. So how does a project manager relate to a resource manager?

Resource Manager vs Project Manager – What is the Difference Between Them?

Probably the easiest way to grasp the difference between resource managers and project managers is to analyze the level on which they operate:

  • Project Managers operate on a project level: they manage a single project (or a couple of projects). They are responsible for having it completed by the project team. 
  • Resource Managers operate on a company level: they’re responsible for allocating appropriate resources to multiple projects. 

Yet another aspect that differentiates PMs from RMs is the fact that a project manager usually deals with a series of time-boxed processes. Their projects have fixed timelines or e.g., sprint calendars they adhere to. A resource manager, on the other hand, works continuously as they’re typically involved in all of the projects happening at a given company.  

Typical Duties of a Project Manager:

A project manager’s role involves:

  • Building a project management plan and coordinating the delivery of a project. 
  • Identifying staffing needs (an RM can manage such requests).
  • Employee’s time tracking and cost estimating. 
  • Setting expectations for the project team. 
  • Communicating with clients/stakeholders.
  • Team performance management by regularly monitoring project’s KPIs. 
  • Monitoring and tracking project budget.
  • Identifying risks and opportunities in the project throughout its lifecycle: making necessary suggestions and improvements.  
  • Reporting on the progress of the project.
  • Documenting the project.
  • Streamlining work and maintaining project transparency with project management software. 
  • Collaborating with external vendors and/or freelancers.
  • Leading the project team: optimizing processes, nurturing employee engagement, and encouraging feedback.  
  • And – like project managers – resource manager track time, plan projects budget, and control availability of particular employees for particular projects.

Of course, different projects require different tasks to be performed by PMs. However, the critical aspect of their work is to ensure the successful delivery of their project. 

Typical Duties of a Resource Manager:

A resource manager is usually responsible for:

  • Resource planning and allocation. Assigning people to projects based on their skills, previous experience, availability, or project budget. 
  • Resource capacity planning. Resource manager needs to make sure that their organization’s resources have enough capacity to deliver upcoming projects.
  • Supporting project managers in ongoing project resource management efforts. A project manager is often the first person to spot problems: employee overutilization, uneven workload, or overtime. A resource manager can step in and help PMs by reallocating resources, adjusting goals or requirements, or assigning new people to the team. 
  • Hiring new employees. Knowing the requirements of each project, Resource Manger is often the best person to hire people with project-appropriate qualifications.

Resource managers can also be responsible for HR-related processes: payroll, employee benefits, and training. It all depends on the organizational structure of a given business. 

Resource Managers collaborate with multiple teams within organizations:

  • HR – they need to work together closely in order to hire appropriate people and define their roles. 
  • PMO/Production – defining duties for particular employees within a project.
  • Sales – planning team capacity and forecasting recruitment needs. 

Resource Managers may expect to work with other departments as well, depending on the company size and structure. As Neil Whitten put it: THE RESOURCE MANAGER has a nearly impossible job—with demands coming from every imaginable direction—yet a job that can have a profound impact on the organization’s success.

When to Appoint a Resource Manager?

Effective resource management is a crucial factor in successful project management. It’s much easier to coordinate a project when you have a team that’s capable of meeting its demands (both in terms of skills and availability). Companies usually start to notice the negative consequences of poor resource management when they grow. In a small organization, it’s perfectly doable for PMs to assign their own teams or get advice from the management when there’s a resource conflict. When there are more projects, more employees, and more PMs, it’s a good time to introduce a resource manager to your team.

Keep in mind that a dedicated resource manager is a tremendous help, but it’s not the only way to make better resource planning decisions. Even before you hire your first resource manager, you can support your project managers by giving them access to dedicated SaaS resource management software

Introduce a Resource Manager at Your Company with Teamdeck

Resource scheduling experts and successful project managers name Teamdeck their favorite resource management tool. Our app helps to schedule resources, monitor their workload, and measure their performance. Teamdeck’s resource calendar shows who’s available, who’s busy, and who’s on vacation: assigning people to projects is much easier this way. Want to see our tool in action? Schedule a call with Aniela. 

A complete resource management solution for in-office and remote teams

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