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Allocating human resources to projects and services in dynamic project environments

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)486-506
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Managing Projects in Business
Issue number2
Early online date19 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


Purpose: Resource allocation is challenged by dynamic environments where changes are frequent. The purpose of this paper is to identify resource allocation challenges and practices in service units that perform both project and non-project activities in dynamic environments. Its goal is to show that top-down mechanisms of project resource allocation need to be replaced by or supplemented with mechanisms that are more flexible. Design/methodology/approach: A qualitative comparative case study was conducted in two service units of two project-based firms. The main source of data consisted of semi-structured interviews with 17 service managers and staff members. Findings: This study shows that resource allocation is not necessarily a top-down process at all, and the practices are context-dependent. Two more flexible approaches are revealed – hybrid resource allocation and bottom-up resource allocation – as examples of managing resource allocation in service units that engage in projects under uncertain conditions. The results of the analysis highlight prioritisation and adapting to change and delay as the main issues that managers face in allocating resources to different types of projects and service activities in dynamic environments. Research limitations/implications: The two target companies chosen for the qualitative research design limit the analysis to project-based firms in a business-to-business context. Further, the viewpoint of the service unit is central to the study. Studying project resource allocation in different organisational contexts and uncovering the perspectives of product development and delivery units would offer promising directions for future research. Practical implications: The study reveals that in dynamic project settings such as service organisations, top-down mechanisms of resource allocation need to be accompanied by other, more flexible approaches to ensure the sufficient resourcing of projects and related services in dynamic environments. Companies need to establish practices for resource allocation changes that are caused by re-prioritising tasks and accommodating changes and delays in their project and service activities. Originality/value: Compared to a top-down perspective taken in previous research, the study proposes a more flexible approach for resource allocation in constantly changing environments with different project and service activities. Previous studies have focussed on resource competition between projects, placing project managers in the central role for resource allocation. By contrast, this study discusses hybrid and bottom-up resource allocation, both of which involve broader personnel engagement in resource allocation tasks, drawing on the experience of all employees.


  • Activities, Contingency view, Project-based firms, Resource allocation, Services, Uncertainty

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