Project manager vs resource manager: what's the difference?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 24 October 2022

Published 19 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

The roles of a project manager and resource manager form integral parts of successful operations and often work hand in hand with one another, yet they differ significantly. Project management involves the overseeing of one project from planning to completion, whereas resource management tends to span multiple projects. Understanding the main purpose of both job titles and the skills associated with them can help you decide which role is best suited to you. In this article, we review the roles of a project manager vs resource manager, the differences between the two and the skills of an effective manager.

What is a project manager?

Project managers are responsible for leading a team in the execution of major projects within the workplace. Overseeing each stage of a project, from the initial planning to the final report, project managers ensure that team members use their skills to their full potential. They also develop the scope statement and statement of work, which estimates the time, resources and the team to complete a project.

As the face of the project, the project manager carries the responsibility on behalf of the stakeholders and owners. They use their skills and experience to aid in the success of the project. Making all of the daily decisions throughout, the project manager is responsible for achieving the desired goals per the company's expectations.

Related: How much does a project manager make?

Typical duties of a project manager:

The typical duties of a project manager include:

  • developing a project management plan per the goals of the company.

  • planning out all the individual tasks within the project.

  • liaising with the stakeholders/owners to ensure that the project plan is in line with the desired outcome.

  • organising a team of employees capable of carrying out each of the tasks.

  • managing and motivating the team to carry out their roles effectively.

  • scheduling and meeting deadlines throughout the project.

  • estimating and maintaining the budget for the project.

  • collaborating with external vendors and freelancers.

  • communicating with stakeholders, owners, managers, employees and customers to ensure that the project is satisfactory on all levels.

  • carrying out risk management assessments before and during the project to protect the integrity of the company.

  • monitoring and reporting on the progress of the team throughout the project.

  • developing reports and records on the completion of the project and submitting these to the owners.

Related: Project manager requirements (with duties & skills)

What is a resource manager?

A resource manager is a role that is not always given as much value within a company and usually takes the form of a multi-role position. This is not because it is of any less importance, as the proper management of project resources can be of great benefit to a company. Resource managers take charge of all business resources in a company.

From human resources, tools and assets, resource managers take care of all project resource requirements. The most common role of a resource manager is to hire, review and manage employees on a given project. This includes using resources from the company's existing pool of employees or deciding to hire new employees to complete all aspects of the projects effectively. Resource managers also review and take charge of all tools and assets in the company and decide if and when to acquire new resources.

Typical duties of a resource manager

The typical duties of a resource manager include:

  • planning the resources for a project and developing an allocation plan.

  • assigning staff to projects based on their skills, experience, availability and the project budget.

  • hiring new employees based on the requirements of a project. Based on the needs, the resource manager finds people with appropriate qualifications

  • making sure that the organisation has enough resources to meet the needs of the project.

  • assisting the project manager in acquiring, allocating and managing the required resources for a specific project. While the project manager may be overseeing the entire project, the resource manager can help with the reallocation of resources, adjusting goals and assigning new people to meet the requirements.

  • overseeing processes such as payroll, employee benefits and training.

Related: A guide to resource management (plus skills & duties)

Project manager vs resource manager

While project managers and resource managers often work in tandem with one another, using many of the same skills, the easiest way to understand the differences between the two jobs is to look at the responsibilities of a project manager vs resource manager:

1. Objective

The main objective of a project manager is to deliver the desired completion of a project within a particular budget and deadline. With a specific focus on one project, the project manager is responsible for devising and overseeing the completion of all tasks. This is to ensure continuity that meets the expectations of the owner.

Resource managers operate on a company level, attempting to juggle several different projects at once. The main objective of a resource manager is to ensure that the necessary resources, from staff to equipment, are continuously available throughout to enable the satisfactory completion of a project. With a specific focus on human resources, the resource manager is focused on building an effective team to allow the project manager to complete the given project successfully.

2. Approach

The project manager devises a plan, breaking everything down into a series of small tasks and ensuring that effective teams and resources are available to complete them. Developing project checkpoints creates a purposeful flow of work and allows for the deadline to be met effectively. The project manager oversees all aspects of the project, with total control of the plan. They have the autonomy to make decisions and effectively manage themselves, only reporting to the board of directors/owners to update them on the progress of the project.

When the board of directors/owners approve the plans, the resource manager then sets about acquiring the teams and equipment for the project. They assess the resource needs and hire new staff and tools where necessary. The resource manager is responsible for ensuring that the resources are there to complete all projects undertaken by the company, whereas the project manager is responsible for ensuring the effective use of resources. Resource managers generally report to the operations director of a company and tend to have several line managers due to their assignment to a multitude of projects at one time.

Related: A comprehensive guide to project management graduate schemes

3. Training and career opportunities

Project management training courses are plentiful and vary depending on the scope of the role. In-depth, two-day training courses allow experienced employees to review the required skills to lead a small project within a company, whereas Master Programmes offer qualifications in Project Management on a much larger scale and can help to acquire a role on a multi-national level. While training is essential in project management, many start as employees in the company and work their way up towards managing their projects. Gaining experience on smaller projects can then lead to opportunities on a much larger scale.

While there is no specific training for resource management, it tends to fall under the umbrella of administration and human resource training. Additional training can help to develop the skills for specific projects, but people rarely qualify solely as resource managers. Similarly, there is no obvious career progression within resource management, but experience in the role could lead towards project management positions in the future.

Related: On the job training examples with benefits & tips

Project manager skills

As such a diverse and demanding job, it is necessary to possess a range of skills to be a successful project manager, including:

  • leadership

  • communication

  • organisation

  • negotiation

  • team management

  • risk assessment

  • time management

  • problem-solving

  • budget management

  • motivation

Related: Project management skills & how to improve them

Research manager skills

Although many of the skills overlap in both roles, as a company-wide role, a resource manager requires several job-specific skills:

  • communication

  • scheduling

  • negotiation

  • leadership

  • confidentiality

  • technological awareness

  • quick decision-making

  • flexibility

  • analysis

  • forecasting

Related: Essential HR skills

Why are resource managers an important part of a successful business?

While project management is the most common and well known of the two roles, effective resource management is crucial if a project is to be successful. It is much easier to coordinate and complete a project to a high level when you have someone in charge of getting an effective team and purposeful equipment in place. While smaller companies may be able to multi-task, overseeing the management of resources alongside other roles, larger companies, with higher budgets and more staffing demands, benefit from having a member of staff specifically assigned to the management of resources alone.

Resource managers are particularly important in companies where you have a range of projects happening at one time. Having multiple project managers and growing demand for employees can cause a strain on the flow of resources available. Having a resource manager allows for more strategic decision making concerning resources and ensures that the required teams and tools are available to project managers at all times.

Related:

  • What is a resource manager? (With skills and duties)

  • Project manager requirements (With duties and skills)

  • How to become a human resource specialist (with duties)

  • What is a project manager assistant and what do they do?

  • What does a digital project manager do? Salary and skills


Explore more articles