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The following exchange took place in the comments to an answer to another question How do I manage development with testing and get proper reporting in JIRA?, which seem to highlight a different viewpoint between the principles of Agile, which is all about delivery of value, and the desire of a Resource Manager to keep people working / contributing at all times. I have highlighted the key elements in Bold. There is a fundamental difference between these positions, so what is, or what should be, the role of a resource manager in an Agile (Scrum) environment?

Please don't answer this by reference to restructuring into multidisciplined teams - that's not my question. It is purely to do with the organisational roles of resource managers in an Agile environment, and how much they should be involved / interested in what individuals are doing on a daily basis.

Edit: I am neither a resource manager nor an Agile practitioner, so I'm not asking this question with any pre-formed opinions. I just wonder what the community's view is on the subject.


"For example... why is development wrapping up at 5pm on Friday, instead of at 5pm on Thursday so the work can be tested on Friday?" - let's say they will finish on Thursday, so what will they do on Friday?? – user48230 yesterday

@user48230 That's the 100% utilization fallacy. The goal isn't to keep people busy; the goal is to deliver increments of value on a dependable cadence. You have implemented the wrong goal. – Todd A. Jacobs ♦ 16 hours ago

@ToddA.Jacobs - you do have a point, 100%. still, as a resource manager I also have to ensure that people are delivering value on Friday 9-17 while QA is finishing up the testing. – user48230 15 hours ago 1

@user48230 No. In a Scrum environment, the "value" being delivered on Friday is the demonstration/review with the stakeholders, not "more work." If no one else takes this into account, I'll write a longer answer when I can. Value in Scrum isn't about busy-ness; it's about consistency, quick feedback, and collaboration. – Todd A. Jacobs ♦ 13 hours ago

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  • Not an answer, but siloing dev and QA and doing a hand off is so anti-agile that it makes most arguments irrelevant. Also, "consistency, quick feedback, and collaboration" add absolutely no value to the users. You might be asking about a non-agile process dressed up as agile, and answers here might reflect that (not criticizing any existing answer)
    – Blueriver
    Oct 20 at 20:14
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    @Blueriver - yes, I agree and understand that there should not be a handoff as you describe. That was made clear in answers to the original question that I referenced, and is also why I specifically asked that people didn't focus on that aspect in their answers!
    – Iain9688
    Oct 22 at 6:31
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A resource manager as a organiser of day to day productivity has no place on an agile team. We know why they don't belong, it's in your question. They're trying to optimise things that oughtn't to be optimised. It's counterproductive.

It could be possible that this "resource manager" is more strategic role than it sounds. For instance, at a staff-augmentation agency, there are people making sure that developers have new engagements to move on to after their current ones finish. That's a useful job, but it doesn't involve day to day meddling in a team. And if that's happening, the team need to object to it and escalate their concerns.

But, if the "resource manager" is a role that exists day to day in the team that we have a problem. That person will have to look past their role and at how they contribute the team's outcome. Something needs to be arranged, by the team and by their reporting manager, to best use their skills productively. Ideally something that doesn't undermine their career progression and leaves them with a role they enjoy and can do well. This is a hard problem and depends on the individual. Their job isn't too far away from agile coach or Scrum master (they are, after all, asking process questions), but their attitude and abilities may be incompatible, it's impossible to say from a distance.

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  • I don't have a view on this... that's why I asked the question! It seems that some organisations use resource managers, so are you saying that these organisations don't understand Agile principles? Or is there a light touch role for a resource manager to allocate resources to teams then stand back and let the team get on with the work? This is a genuine attempt to get a better understanding. I am not a resource manager or an experienced Agile practitioner, but I am interested in what works and what doesn't.
    – Iain9688
    Oct 19 at 7:27
  • Thanks for the edit - that helps to clarify.
    – Iain9688
    Oct 19 at 8:14
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    Have I misunderstood "resource manager"? Is their job to make sure 15:17 on a Friday is productive for an individual or is it to make sure that individual has a product/project team to be a part of after the current engagement ends. Those are two different activities, and I'm talking about the first. Oct 19 at 8:17
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    I think that is the key to this question. The role of the resource manager seems, by all responses to date, to be inappropriate for day to day management of members of the team, but it may be relevant as a way of ensuring that resources and workload are balanced in the longer term. That's certainly the impression that I am forming.
    – Iain9688
    Oct 19 at 8:20
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There is no 'Resource Manager' role in Scrum

The question that you are quoting has the 'scrum' and 'scrum-master' tags. How do I manage development with testing and get proper reporting in JIRA? So, I am answering this question in the context of Scrum.

Scrum has only three roles:

  • Product Owner
  • Scrum Master
  • Dev team

In addition, as @todd-a-jacobs has explained very well, your goal should not be to make sure everyone is kept fully loaded with work and kept busy the full 40 hours per week.

That's the 100% utilization fallacy. The goal isn't to keep people busy; the goal is to deliver increments of value on a dependable cadence.

So, there is no 'Resouce Manager' role in Scrum.

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  • OK - I get that. But who allocates people to Scrum teams when the project is set up, and re-allocates them if and when projects close down? Just for clarity, I'm neither a resource manager nor an agile expert: just an interested bystander.
    – Iain9688
    Oct 19 at 7:30
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    That is a different question. Large orgs may have Program Managers (you can call them Resource Managers) who might help form and reassign project teams. Here we are talking about work assignment on a day-to-day basis. Oct 19 at 7:52
  • Fair enough. I have no problem with that. If organisations are using Resource Managers to try to ensure that people are "productive" (whatever that means!) on a day to day basis in an agile environment, then I think you are saying that is an organisational problem, which seems logical to me.
    – Iain9688
    Oct 19 at 7:56
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    Scrum is a framework for teams (actually, for a single team), not organizations. There are other roles in an organization (such as CEO, accountants, HR, building security, Resource Managers, etc) that are not a part of Scrum.
    – Blueriver
    Oct 20 at 20:19
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If the role of Resource Manager in your organization is seen as maximizing measurable activity instead of produced value, you've got a serious problem. You're going to create more waste by keeping people busy on things that can't contribute to value at that time.

If you look at the QA situation, the time in a sprint when final QA is being performed (and thus any further development cannot be included in the sprint results as there isn't time for testing it) can be used by developers to look over the fence, learn new stuff, read tech blogs, read and post to StackExchange, try tools, or sit down and contemplate how common situations could be handled better. But these should be activities growing out of developer's desire for improvement and quality, not imposed upon them to fill their time.

The same is essentially true for the QA specialists at the beginning of a sprint when no sprint related code is ready for testing yet. It may be a time to reflect upon their work and learn stuff.

Note that this reflection on an individual level is different from the sprint retrospective which covers the overall process on the team level, not primarily individual improvement.

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I decided to approach this, not from the perspective of the previous question that sparked this one, but from a more creative, brainstorming approach, with sympathy for the perspective of the person whose job is Resource Manager today, facing an organizational move to Agile, and wondering "what's my job supposed to be then?"

I'm also explicitly not using Agile as a synonym for scrum. There are other frameworks! ;)

So what might a Resource Manager do in an agile organization?

First of all, I don't think they are part of an agile team. I think this is an organizational role that is outside the teams.

Perhaps they become a traditional people manager, supporting the career growth of their direct reports, including training.

But I think a better fit would be to have a Resource Manager taking a broad view across multiple agile teams. In agile, the "resource" is more fundamentally the team than the individual.

They would be the person responsible for solving problems like "we don't have all the skills we need in the team", whether by adding team members or arranging for training, and "there are 5 teams but only 3 DBAs, what do we do".

They might be responsible for figuring out which projects should go to which teams, matching strengths to project needs. They might be responsible for deciding whether, when, and how to mix up the teams.

They could also be the person to whom the SM brings impediments that are outside the team's influence or control to resolve. They could be responsible for impediments that are affecting multiple teams.

If you leave the job description of "ensure all staff are 100% occupied" on the table, it seems there are several possibilities that could benefit the organization and the teams.

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