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Resource management vs task assignment

Written by HarmonyPSA on 2018-01-02 Last updated 2018-01-04

If you’re running a services business (or just a services team), it is very common to want to know the answer to two (possibly three) discrete questions:

  1. What’s everyone doing?
  2. When do I run out of work? and
  3. If I get that new project or contract, who’s going to do it?

In order to address these questions, there seems to be a conflation of functionality in the PPM/PSA software market. Indeed, when you look at some systems, you cannot recognise them as separate questions at all. They are often addressed by simply placing employees on work for the planned duration and seeing how over or under-utilised they are.

So, what’s wrong with that? Well, because one mechanism (and view) is struggling to address two very different questions, each of which has different users, data qualities, time horizons and more. All it actually shares in common is a relationship (and not the same one) between a user and work and that seems sufficient to insist on a single view being used. Which is the flaw in the logic and lazy system design…

Let’s break the problems down a little further to help explain matters under the two topics of resource management and task assignment:


Resource Management

Task Assignment


Revenue/cost forecast

Work control

Key user

Resource manager

Project manager

Effective time horizon

3-4 months

3-4 weeks

Assignment to



Group at

Team level

No grouping

Temporal granularity



Maintenance cycle



Problem level



Data coverage

Contracted plus what-if opportunities

Contracted only

Level of data certainty

Forecast only



Now in normal system design, these two columns would represent two very different specifications, data sources, processes and views, even security profiles. But for some reason, in this space, most systems think that a single methodology will do. This is why it seems that half the planet is seeking good resource management, the single view doesn’t work because:

  • It is really a task assignment view, but with the expected reporting capability that belongs to resource management
  • It is carried out at the employee/task/day level (in hours!), but data is expected to run out to the time horizon of resource management. This plainly works if you have 5 people and a time horizon of days, but then you really don’t need resource management anyway, you can do it in your head. If you have the real-world problem of 50 staff, with multiple projects going out an average of 3 months, that is potentially a staggering 3,000 data-points to manage if you only assign daily, more for sub-day. Now, each of these are liable to change due to many factors each day, slippages, change orders, new work, sickness, productivity etc. Maintaining that daily could take the whole day….
  • The process control between the staff manager and the project manager has too many edge cases to control effectively in a system
  • Taking revenue forecasting from project manager controlled views is always likely to be error prone, incomplete and misleading. This rule really applies to any distributed data process, different standards get applied to the judgement needed to update such views, meaning the answer cannot be added up to a common standard or trusted

So, if all this is time consuming and still manages to be inaccurate and incomplete, why do people use it? Well, people buy these system because they firmly believe it will help because they are in chaos, often without really thinking through what it takes to not be in chaos.

For a problem too big for a spreadsheet, it takes huge and continuous dedication, not helped by the way these views are designed.

The answer to true resource management, is (1) to understand it is a different problem; and (2) to use the factors and dimensions described in the table above. Understand that this is about the future, so it is a guess, it will change (frequently), it is not “right” - it is a view only. Find software that thinks this way, and you will solve the problem and still have time to have a family life.

Read More

Just what is resource management?
Capacity management

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About the Author: Harmony Business Systems Ltd (HBS) is the company behind HarmonyPSA, the most complete cloud PSA software on the market. Developed with functionality to cater for even the most complex needs of MSPs, VARs, ISVs and Professional Services organisations, HarmonyPSA truly is the next generation of PSA systems. HBS is an independent company based in the UK. Follow HarmonyPSA on

Tags: BUSINESS, resource management, task allocation


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