What are Resources and How Best to Manage Them?

Project management has too many acronyms. PM, PPM, PMBOK, SCRUM, PMP, ACWP, BAC, BCWP, BOM, CPF, CFF, PDM, PMO, WBS, SWOT, TQM... you get the picture.


We even have a unique way of using terms like "resource" or "resources" that doesn't make sense to many people outside of the profession. Is it any wonder people don't get what project managers do? Whenever I speak with someone who isn't a "PM" or doesn't work in the "PMO" about what it is we do, I have to choose my words carefully or they will not have a chance of understanding what I am talking about. Take "resource management" for example. "What is resource management?" they might ask.

As I explain that we consider the people who work on project teams part of the "resources" associated with getting the work done. The response is usually something like, "So you call people resources? People aren't things." They're right.

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Some project managers will suggest that people can't be managed—only things can be managed.  According to Steven Covey, the greatest tragedy of our time is that many so-called business leaders confuse management with leadership. Business schools have been excellent at equipping would-be business leaders to completely manage costs, cash flows, stocks, machinery, and so on. This is very correct. Things lend themselves to management because they can be controlled.


'Things' do not have choices. Extending the principles of managing costs, cash flows and stocks to people yields disastrous results. That's why many so-called business leaders resort to 'turning people into things' so they can manage them."
As project leaders, I think it's important to remember that words have meanings, and how we use our words really does make a difference in how we are perceived, the words we use form the way we perceive the world around us and even how we perceive others. If we de-humanize the people we work with by the language we use, I think that has a subconscious effect on how we ultimately relate to them.

I'm not sure what term would be better than resource management, but I know that I try to avoid calling the members of my team "resources" as much as I can. In project environments (or any work environment for that matter) we rely on people to actually get things done. Empowering people to maximize their contribution to something worthwhile, to create and invent, should be our goal. I know that many of you might be saying, "What difference does it make if we call them resources?" 


Except for the fact that they are people, I guess it doesn't make any difference at all. Or does it?

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Bill has been a member of the technology and publishing industries for more than 25 years and brings extensive expertise to the roles of CEO, CIO, and Executive Editor. Most recently, Bill was COO and Co-Founder of CIOZone.com and the parent company PSN Inc. Previously, Bill held the position of CTO of both Wiseads New Media and About.com.