Whether Project managers are planning one or many projects, they should first review where the assigned resources are allocated. If resources are over-allocated, Project Managers should resolve those over-allocations. This process is known as resource leveling.
Resource over-allocations can occur either between tasks or within tasks. Resource conflicts occur between tasks because a resource is assigned to simultaneous tasks. In this case, it is possible to level resources using delays because one task can be shifted with respect to another task, eliminating any overlap. Resource over allocation within a task occurs when a resource has too many hours assigned to a single task. In this case, no amount of task delay can remove the over-allocation, because the over-allocation exists no matter where the task is placed.
Sciforma levels resource over-allocations that occur between multiple tasks by fulfilling a Start Delay for those tasks that have not yet begun or by splitting tasks that are in progress (moving the uncompleted portion of a task to a later time period). This does not change the resource assignments; it simply moves the tasks to time periods where the resource assignments of multiple tasks won’t continue to create over-allocations. If the resource over-allocation occurs between tasks with multiple resources, Sciforma allows the option to delay the conflicting assignment only or delay all the assignments in the task. Resource leveling is most effectively done on a weekly basis, although Sciforma allows project managers to level resources hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly.
Although Sciforma offers an automatic resource leveling function, there will be instances where the project manager will choose to level resources manually. One of the many responsibilities of a project manager is to analyze and optimize the overall usage of resources over the project.
Not all over-allocations must be leveled. Depending on the situation, it may be more efficient to leave a resource slightly over-allocated for a short period of time. What is the best situation for the project, the schedule, the cost, the resources, and the goals of all involved? These are the types of decisions a project manager is faced with when trying to level resources.
In addition to looking at the over-allocations, the project manager must also pay attention to under-allocated resources. Under-allocated resources are those resources that are not fully utilized or idle but still assigned to the project. An under-allocated resource may be able to help with other project tasks, or can possibly be released from the project to help on other projects. The goal is for all project resources to be assigned close to their full capacity each week. This is a difficult challenge for the project manager.
The following table lists several methods project managers can use when considering how to level resources. With the exception of delaying or splitting tasks, all of these leveling methods must be done manually. Sciforma provides project managers with the tools to analyze the resulting changes and their impacts on cost and schedule.
May have an impact if the delayed task is on the critical path or a non-critical task is out of its float
Due to project extension if a critical task is delayed
Extend task duration
May have an impact if the duration of a critical task is extended or a non-critical task is out of its float
Due to project extension if the duration of a critical task is extended
Add or replace resources
May need to consider learning curve for new resources
May impact if substitute resources have higher cost
Increase the availability of a resource
Could shorten the schedule
Due to higher resource cost
Split a task
May impact if the task is critical or extended out of its float
Due to possible project extension and inefficiencies in splitting the task
Modify the scope
Could shorten the schedule due to less work or quality of work being accomplished
Could cost less due to less work being accomplished but the long run costs may be increased
Quality will decrease
Modify the task relationship
Could shorten the schedule
Outsource the job
Could increase the cost
In order to level resources in an efficient, meaningful way, a manager must keep in mind the following:
Resource leveling is not just a math problem. A project manager must consider more than just how much effort is required over the duration of a task. Instead, one must also think about what makes sense for the type of work being performed. Some tasks can be completed in less time by adding more people, but sometimes splitting up the work can actually increase the time required to complete it, since multiple efforts need to be coordinated and integrated, making it even more time-consuming.
Keep an open mind. There are many different alternatives to consider when addressing resource leveling.
Sometimes it makes sense to work on multiple tasks concurrently, while at other times, dedicated effort is more practical.
Some alternative ways of accomplishing the work can be considered.
General workload must also be considered. Asking people to juggle too many tasks at once is not very efficient.
Don’t try to be too precise. Essentially, the plan that is leveled is based on estimates. Timelines may change along the course of the project. Good resource leveling requires a focus on the big picture of what will go on in the future rather than on granularities and/or micromanaging. Moreover, resource leveling does not need to go too far into the future. There is no need to level at an hourly granularity six months into the future. Resource leveling is about making a reasonable schedule, not a perfectly precise schedule. The more granular you are, the more you will need to adjust when things change.
Resource leveling is an important part of the project management process, but it isn't something that can always be done automatically. While an automatic tool may be useful, it is not a substitute for good old-fashioned common sense. Resources need to be managed by human beings, not machines.