Efficient Resource Management using MS Project

-- Vivek Prakash

Team Planner

If you look at any survey or even ask a manager about biggest constraint, in most of the cases the answer would be resources.

Lack of resource is almost always seen as primary constraint. You may find project managers complaining  about non availability of resources for the project and how project is getting impacted due to lack of resources. However if we focus a bit on utilizing available resources more efficiently we can greatly reduce impact of non-availability. Adequate number of resources with adequate skills are always required  to get the outcome of the project but if you closely observe, inability to use the available resource impact more than unavailability.

The optimal utilization of the resources requires understanding of resources’ capabilities, their available productive time during the day and sequencing of activities based on their interdependencies (we understood in last posts) There will be several parallel threads running at a time. Though we need to minimize parallel threads but in the interest of time and efficient resource utilization, we should perform the activities in parallel wherever possible. This opens up the danger of over allocation i.e. one resource get allocated to multiple activities demanding number of hours more than resource has in a day and under allocation, a situation when a specific skilled resource is not allocated or allocated less than available hours for a specific duration.

If you do not use any specific tool, it would be hard to detect situations of over and under allocation. Managers almost always face such situations and find it difficult to level the work load. This is one of the questions .which is asked invariably in all my …

…training classes on project management or MS Project

MS Project or any similar scheduling tools helps in knowing such situations and balance them out. If you are using MS Project, it will highlight all the resources that are over allocated. It does not highlight under allocation. This is because over allocation will cause delay in committed delivery date while under allocation not.

There are various view and tables that help in identifying under allocation. Resource Usage is one of such view where you can see allocation on a day to day basis to find out over as well as under allocation. You can also manually alter the planning hours. Resource Graph is another view to know over and under allocation.

In MS Project 2010, a new view is introduced called Team Planner view. Team planner view is a platform to view resource wise allocation, detect over and under allocation and level the resource for optimum utilization. Team Planner view provides an interactive bar graph showing allocation of resources to various task over a time line. It highlight all the over allocation. It provides features to automatically level resource either one by one or all resources in one go. It also provide facility to reassign by dragging and dropping  tasks from one resource to another. Auto leveling create appropriate room for small task within bigger tasks by splitting them which would be difficult manually. Using options, you can provide your preferences that MS Project will consider while auto leveling the resources.

If you have a scenario like a resource is slowly ramping up or down on your project and slowing increasing or decreasing hours on the project. You can apply contours to the assignment.

Resource leveling or contour often extend the project schedule. This should not be seen as bad. It provide more realistic schedule. If the extended schedule is not acceptable, we can apply schedule compressing technique like fast tracking or crashing but we know upfront that we need to take an action to complete the project on time.