For any Project Management Office, optimizing the assignment and management of resources is a key concern. It is all about assigning a typically limited pool of resources in a way that maximizes value and benefits the organization. What is at stake is no less than the efficiency and competitiveness of the company, as the use that you make of your key resources directly correlates with the profitability of the business.

The goal is clear: you need to have your resources work at the optimal utilization rate and to make sure you allocate the right resources to the highest-value projects. But the way to achieve that goal isn’t necessarily obvious. As a matter of fact, resource management is a complex discipline that involves many different variables, resulting in the coexistence of multiple resource allocation and management models.

Here is an overview of the options, along with some guidance to help you identify the one that’ll suit you best.

Project Manager vs Resource Manager Assignments

In the case of Project Managers managing their own resources without the support of a dedicated Resource Manager, they can perform direct assignments. All they have to do is to determine which resource they need and to ensure availability.

When adding a Resource Manager to the equation, it will require collaboration between your Project Manager and your Resource Manager who’ll need to talk to each other in order to find the most relevant and efficient solution while reconciling both project and resource constraints.

Most of the time, Project Managers state their requirements, based on which Resource Managers analyze capacity and provide an allocation proposition. Upon acceptance, the Project Manager just assigns the allocated resources to the project’s activities.

In some cases, Resource Managers are actually in charge of work management, and they directly assign their resources to specific projects and activities.

Hard Assignments vs Soft Assignments

Sometimes, for example, when the project or activity that you are looking to staff isn’t due to start soon, it may be challenging to identify the specific resource that you’ll need to assign.

This is why Project Managers have the option to use “Soft Assignments”. Simply put, they start by stating which type of role they need (based on job, function, or skills — for example: a senior DevOps Engineer). Later on, when project requirements and resource availability become clearer, they can just convert the generic assignment into a “hard” one by assigning a named resource.

Activity-level Assignment vs Project-Level Assignment

You can either assign resources at the scale of a project or at the scale of an activity, depending on scope and duration. When working at the project level, Project Managers and Resource Managers usually build a project team that is dedicated to the project for a predefined period of time.


When using the Agile Scrum framework, resources are not formally assigned to projects or tasks. The team members who are working on a sprint just self-assign to any activity of their choice, then report the work in time sheets.

Many variables should be considered in order to determine a working model for resource management. The shape and size of your organization, your organization’s PPM maturity level, its line of business, and its culture, are some of the factors that you need to take into account.

For example, putting Resource Managers in charge of the actual assignment process requires great collaboration and solid relationships between the Project Manager and the Resource Manager — since the latter needs write permissions on the project planning.

Self-assignment can actually be used as an operating model for organizations with highly empowered teams, even outside the Scrum framework. The quantity and quality of interactions between Projects Managers, Resources Managers, and resources themselves may not be the same in a matrix organization and in a traditional hierarchy.

Don’t forget to take into account the time and effort required to implement and use the resource management model of your choice: according to the granularity of the process and to the number of team members involved, resource models can be more or less complex and demand more or less energy.

This is a matter of organizational choices, based on an audit of the features that make your company unique and based on the needs and expectations of the various stakeholders involved.

Each organization has its own specific challenges and will need its own specific resource allocation model, but they all share a common requirement: they need a proper resource management process with a clear definition of roles and responsibilities.

You should ideally turn the model you’ve designed into a resource management charter in order to clearly establish the rules and conditions that govern the allocation and assignment of resources across projects and activities. Among the questions that your charter should answer are:

  • Who initiates the resource demands, and to whom? When and how?
  • How do you manage the conflicts that may arise in case of shifts in projects or resource availability? Who is responsible for making trade-off decisions when unexpected events occur?

Make sure your process is communicated and accessible to all, that it is understood and put in practice — and get ready to reap the benefits of a high-performing resource management system.

Some other pieces about resource management that you may find useful:

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Shi Jackson

Shi Jackson is the Digital Marketing Manager for Sciforma in Germany. Her daily work is characterized by operational marketing activities and optimizing the strategy behind it. The main focus of Shi's work is on process optimization, digital transformation and effective collaboration.