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Is It Time to Hire a Resource Manager for Your Agency?

Have you ever wondered how much time your team actually spends on admin, rather than billable work? Or whether it’s possible to anticipate increased demands far enough in advance to get someone hired and on-boarded before there’s a bottleneck?

If the answers to these questions seem inscrutable, it might be time to hire a resource manager.

This may sound like a rash and costly decision (“Resource manager? Do we even need one?”). But here’s the thing: if your agency is losing money owing to poor time management, inaccurate capacity planning, or high staff attrition (among other things), then it might be worth it. 

A resource manager is going to be able to work on these problems, and, in time, make your agency more profitable.

The question you need to ask yourself, then, is whether it makes sense for your organization. Everyone’s circumstances are different. And so, let’s delve a little deeper and see if it might be a good idea to hire a resource manager for your agency.

First up: what is a resource manager?

A resource manager, also known as an allocations manager, is responsible for planning, scheduling, and allocating resources for projects. The resource manager will assess the organization’s resource demand and verify the company’s capacity to fulfill the staffing needs during the projects.

Resource managers also match employees to project tasks that fit their skills, plan targeted upskilling, and take part in recruitment decisions in order to fill skills gaps.

Other tasks that can fall under the resource manager’s responsibilities include:

  • Providing project managers with support in resource management processes or issues
  • Familiarization with resource management trends and labor laws
  • Having up-to-date information on the organization’s current and upcoming projects, and their resource needs
  • Implementing resource management strategies to overcome resource shortages and ensure adequate resource provision to different projects (such as resource leveling)
  • Detecting potential resourcing conflicts and reallocating resources where necessary
  • Capacity planning, where a resource manager ensures that the organization’s resources have the necessary capacity to tackle future projects

Is a resource manager different from a project manager?

In short, yes. Resource managers and project managers will generally find that their work is very interconnected. But ultimately, these roles are focused on different goals:

Project management focuses on successful delivery of projects

A project manager’s responsibilities include planning, budgeting, scheduling, and implementing project activities. Success is measured in completed tasks, juggling budget, timeline, and client expectations.

Project managers teams operate at the project level, seeing each one through to completion. They often work with project management software, which tracks the tasks and subtasks that form the overall project.

Resource management focuses on providing the right people

In contrast, resource management is focused on achieving the most efficient, balanced use of a company’s resources. And because resource managers operate at an organizational level, they oversee allocations to multiple projects simultaneously. 

Many resource managers make use of resource management software tools, to keep a bird’s eye view of all the projects that are being worked on at once. If they need to, for instance, reallocate some resources from one project to another, this high-level overview can help.

Compared to the project manager, the resource manager’s involvement with day-to-day project tasks is less granular. However, they are concerned with factors that impact the day-to-day – such as whether the project team has all the skills needed to complete the work, and what their workload is like. 

Project managers and resource managers work together

Project managers and resource managers work together to ensure projects are adequately resourced. Project managers make resource requests to resource managers, who then consider the skills needed for the role and the availability and capacity of the company’s staff.

How can a resource manager help your agency?

Ultimately, the skills and talents of your people are your greatest asset as an agency. Whether you’re working with first-rate designers who know how to take a brief and run with it, or developers who are adept at thinking their way around any problem, you hire gifted people because you want to deliver work that thrills your clients.

And so, a resource manager’s job is to guarantee that your team’s talents are being used to their maximum potential. With this is mind, here are some of the benefits a resource manager can bring to your organization:

As well as allocating the right resource to each project, resource managers can create plans for the best utilization of your resources. By establishing transparent communication, highly skilled resources can be shared across complex projects throughout the organization.

Resource managers engage in demand forecasting, which allows managers to predict resource demand and establish a plan ahead of time. By analyzing the skills gap in the organization, the resource manager can create a resource plan that allows the company to bridge the gap between capacity and demand proactively.

By keeping their finger on the pulse of staff workloads and the demands the team is facing, resource managers can take a proactive role in safeguarding staff wellbeing. Whether this involves reallocating and rebalancing work so that it doesn’t fall disproportionately on one person, or reminding employees to book their PTO, resource managers can be a vital buffer between your team and the threat of creative burnout.

Signs your agency needs a resource manager

So, we’ve established what a resource manager could bring to your agency. But you may feel that your company is not yet at the stage to justify hiring someone specifically for the role of resource management. 

In truth, a smallish agency that doesn’t take on too many projects at once might not yet need a resource manager. But what are some symptoms that you might be at the stage when you do need to tackle resource management as a priority?:

  • You’re not sure of your staff’s utilization rate

The more chargeable hours your team does, the more revenue you’re going to bring in – and so, billable utilization is a pretty useful stat to have a handle on if you want to understand your agency’s income statement.

That said, there always needs to be time for internal work and admin – just (hopefully) not too much time. However, if you’re not sure what your team’s billable utilization rate actually looks like, how can you tell if time is being used well?

A resource manager can help here. They can help you understand utilization rates and set reasonable targets for billable hours. From there, you can set up a plan to get the best from your employees without overworking them.

  • Your projects are over-budget

If your projects are frequently coming in over-budget because of time costs, it’s a sign that a resource manager would be a worthwhile investment. 

Overspending on staff time is an indicator that the wrong resource has been assigned to a task, the resource has not been working optimally (perhaps their attention is spread over too many projects at once…?), or that the time estimates for the task were wrong in the first place. 

A resource manager can help tackle all of these situations. They can help manage resource availability, ensure that resources are not spread too thinly, and propose work-time estimates that take a variety of factors into account.

  • You’re not clear when or who to hire

You may be aware that there are some skill gaps in your team or that you need more capacity, but perhaps you’re not sure how to translate that into a solid hiring plan. Resource managers can forecast demand and capacity, which helps identify the best time to recruit, as well as analyzing the new employees’ skills and determining the suitability of potential organizational hires.

  • Your staff’s workloads are inconsistent

It’s not unusual for agency work to be a little inconsistent: your team probably accepts the fact that they’ll have some busier weeks, some quieter weeks. But if the “feast or famine” is really getting out of hand, a resource manager may be needed to strike the balance. By introducing capacity planning, a resource manager can help ensure that, for instance, project deadlines or kick-offs don’t overlap too frequently.

  • Your key resources seem overstretched since you started to scale

More clients means more competing priorities. And so, if your project managers are currently in charge of resource allocation, this is only going to get more and more complicated for them as the agency grows. This can lead to inefficient resource allocation, and indeed overallocation in order to meet all the demands. 

However, because a resource manager takes a higher-level view of all projects happening simultaneously, they can look at the bigger picture. This gives them the opportunity to anticipate increased demands ahead of time and take proactive steps, like bringing in contractors or freelancers to ease some of the burden.

From scrappy agency to well-oiled machine…

It’s easy for a company to get stuck living in the chaos, especially when tackling multiple projects and servicing a variety of clients. However, a resource manager could help you chart a path out of the uncertainty and towards a more stable future. Complementing project management, and focusing on the entire organization’s overall success, they can shore up the sustainability and profitability of the company.

If you want to move your agency to the next level, away from ill-defined processes and towards strategic, structured resourcing decisions, hiring a resource manager could be the best choice you could make.

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