What is a Resource Manager? Enhancing Workforce Allocation and Impact

Matti Parviainen

What is a Resource Manager? Enhancing Workforce Allocation and Impact

Effective management of human resources is a cornerstone of success in agencies and professional service firms. Central to this management practice is the resource manager, a role that ensures projects have the right people with the right skills at the right time. This article explores the resource manager's role, their distinct responsibilities compared to other managerial positions, and the traits that define their effectiveness.

Distinguishing Roles: Resource Manager, Project Manager, and Human Resources Manager

There are many similarly sounding roles in an agency, which might cause confusion. Understanding the unique responsibilities of resource managers, project managers, and human resources managers clarifies their contributions to an organization:

  • Resource Managers focus on the strategic allocation of employees to projects, optimizing the balance between project needs and employee skills to ensure efficient project execution and employee satisfaction. These are the people who know everyone in the company. Their the ones who keep the wheels turning when client requests come in with specific skill sets being asked.
  • Project Managers oversee the execution of projects, managing timelines, budgets, and project scope, ensuring that deliverables meet client expectations. Project managers discuss actively with resource managers to make sure the right competences are working on their projects.
  • Human Resources Managers handle recruitment, compliance, employee relations, and benefits, focusing on the broader aspects of employment and organizational culture. Human Resources Managers discuss with resource managers to make sure people are not overburdened in projects. They also help resolve conflict situations that might arise with resource allocation conflicts.

Executing the Role: What Do Resource Managers Actually Do?

As mentioned, resource managers are the brains and engine of the company at the same time. Communicating with different people around the organization, their main task is to make sure the workforce is optimally utilized. Here's their job broken down to different areas.

  • Dynamic Resource Allocation: Discussing with people and utilizing a resource management tool, they assign personnel to projects by aligning individual availability, skills, and development goals with project requirements. The work of a resource manager is piecing together a never-ending puzzle. The job is demanding, dynamic – and definitely not for the faint-hearted!
  • Strategic Workforce Planning: The work is not only short-term optimizing. They forecast long-term project needs and assess the current skills within the workforce to identify gaps and inform recruitment and sales. The supply and demand signals the resource managers are able to pick up from capacity forecasting are crucial for an agency to optimize their hiring velocity, and focus on the right kinds of sales activities.
  • Monitoring Billable Utilization: Tracking how resources are utilized across projects to make sure the company is not leaving money on the table, while also keeping the workforce's resource allocation balanced.
  • Skills Management: Identifying skill gaps within the team and planning for training, hiring, or subcontracting to fill these gaps.
  • Reporting and Analytics: Providing reports on resource utilization, project status, and other KPIs to senior management for strategic decision-making.
  • Performance Monitoring: They track project progress and billable utilization, adjusting allocations as needed to address any imbalances or to respond to changing project scopes.

Key Qualities of an Exceptional Resource Manager

Great resource managers share several key traits that enable them to excel. As mentioned in the previous section, this job is not for the faint-hearted.

  • Analytical Skills: They can assess complex information from multiple sources to make informed allocation decisions.
  • Communication: Effective in negotiating and resolving conflicts, they maintain clear communication channels between project teams and management. 90% of resource managers job is communication.
  • Adaptability: They quickly adjust allocations in response to project changes or unforeseen challenges, ensuring resource optimization.
  • Emotional Intelligence: Resource managers have to be able to get along with all the different people in the company, and understand both explicit and implicit cues when ensuring sure people are allocated on the right projects.
  • Stress Tolerance: Things happen fast in sales, recruitment, and resource management. Resource managers have to juggle between multiple tasks at once, and to be able to tolerate uncertainty.
  • Strategic Vision: With an eye on both current projects and future needs, they guide strategic planning for workforce development. They are the company's brains on capacity forecasting.

When do you need a resource manager?

Signs that your organization may benefit from a resource manager include:

  • Frequent Project Overruns: Difficulty in completing projects within the allocated time or budget may indicate poor resource allocation.
  • Employee Burnout: High levels of stress or turnover among staff suggest imbalances in workload distribution.
  • Underutilization of Skills: If employees are frequently working on tasks that don't match their skills or growth aspirations, resource management may be ineffective.
  • Scaling Challenges: As firms grow, the complexity of managing resources increases, necessitating a dedicated role to oversee efficient resource allocation.

How the Role of the Resource Manager Evolves with Company Growth

The necessity for a resource manager within an organization is closely tied to the company's size, which varies depending on the dynamics of project turnover and the diversity and complexity of people and skills being allocated. In scenarios where projects are lengthy and require a simple skill set, the need for a dedicated resource manager is not pressing. Conversely, when there's high project turnover and a diverse skill set that's being allocated to projects, especially in growing companies, the work of the resource manager becomes a necessity.

Read more on how the resource management process evolved when companies grow from Operating Method.

Small Companies: 1-20 People

In small companies, the operational scale and project simplicity often mean there's no pressing need for a dedicated resource manager. Resource allocation tasks are typically handled part-time by someone already involved in the company's core operations, such as the founders or sales team. At this level, things should be kept practical, and it's important for the whole team to focus on client work.

Growing Companies: 20-100 People

As companies get bigger and their projects more varied, they start needing someone to focus on organizing the resource management process. At first, this job might be done part-time by someone from sales or operations. But as the company and its projects grow, having a full-time person to manage resources becomes a must. This change helps the company keep up with the need for different kinds of projects and skills. At some point, tooling is also introduced to support the resource management process. Often first with spreadsheets, and later on, using a resource allocation software.

Larger Companies: 100-500 People

For bigger companies, it's crucial to have at least one person whose whole job is to figure out resource planning. As the company continues to grow, each area or department might need its own resource manager – often this is the competence lead or team lead who knows the people and their skill set. They make sure resources are used well across all kinds of projects and teams, making the process more focused and effective.

Enterprises: 500+ People

At the level of big enterprises, managing resources gets even more complex and structured. Companies with thousands of employees might need teams of resource managers. This team's job is to make sure everyone is on the right projects at the right time, helping the company work efficiently and deliver projects successfully.

If you want to get your agency on a growth track, read our playbook on growing an agency successfully.


The resource manager is key to running a professional service company smoothly. They ensure that the right people are working on the right projects, which boosts efficiency, keeps employees happy, and satisfies clients. As companies expand, the need for resource management grows, leading to larger firms having whole teams dedicated to this task. Recognizing when to bring in a resource manager or expand their team helps companies grow steadily and stay competitive.

Matti Parviainen photo

Matti Parviainen is the chief product officer at Operating. He's trained hundreds of consultants on what it means to build trust, earn the right to advise, and how to build relationships.


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