Project Planning - Resource allocation and levelling

time vs resource balance in project management

This is a guide to project planning covering 4 steps. If you haven't read stages 1 - 3 you can access them here. Stage 1 - Work Breakdown Structures, Stage 2 - Precedence Diagrams, Stage 3 - estimating effort and scheduling.

You have entered all of your tasks and task duration in your scheduling software, so now it is time to add resources. resources are usually people, but they can also be materials, for example machinery or automated process - on software projects you might have tasks that are completed by an automated script.

Against each task in your scheduling software enter in the name of the person, machine, process or team who will be responsible for the task's completion.

There are several ways to add resources in Microsoft Project. If possible enter a named person, generic terms like Developer are fine if you don’t yet know which developer will be working on your project. However, as soon as you do know the person name them, this will help you to hold them accountable for progress and to manage their work by producing to do lists, calendars and work load profiles.

Mastering the Key Skill in Project Management - balancing Time and procurement

The skill in project planning comes in balancing two key factors: time and procurement.

Plans may show a finish date that is acceptable, but resource may be overloaded to achieve that date. Alternatively resource requirements may be within limits, but the project end date is much later than your Client would like.

Solving the most common challenge in Project Planning

This simple example illustrates the common challenge in Project Planning. Let’s say that you are laying a new garden wall. You are going to use reclaimed bricks, which require cleaning and you need to lay a foundation. You will start on 28/06 and you want to complete the wall by 30/06 in time for your barbecue.

The dependencies are:

simple precedence diagram for building a brick wall

If we put this into Microsoft Project we can see that the project can be completed in time, but that you will have to work two 12 hour days!

example of a project plan with overloaded resources
We could change the project logic so that the foundation is laid after the bricks are prepared. This would resolve the resourcing issue, but this would move the end date to 01/07.

resource levelled project plan
Alternatively you could recruit extra resource so that you can still finish the wall in time for your barbecue.

There are many ways to resolve scheduling issues and more detail is given in the Microsoft Project User Guide provided with our Microsoft Project Templates.

Congratulations! you now have a strong, achievable project plan for your project.

Project Planning Guide - the Key points

Thank you for reading this guide to project planning. I hope it was useful. During stage 4 you probably started to notice how important the previous stages were.
  • Stage 1 - Work Breakdown Structure - ensures that you have captured all of the work required to deliver the project.
  • Stage 2 - Precedence Diagram - gives a clear understanding of the order the work needs to happen in.
  • Stage 3 - Estimate Effort - focuses on accurately estimating the effort involved to complete each piece of work
  • Stage 4 - Resource Allocation - brings everything together by adding resources so that the time bound schedule takes into account resource availability and constraints.
If any project planning steps are missed or incomplete you considerably reduce your chances that the project will be delivered on time, on budget and to scope/quality.

Always plan your project with your project team

Understanding your project scope and breaking down the work is best done with your project team and building up the often complex logic requires a team effort involving subject matter experts who truly understand the order in which tasks can be completed.
As Project Managers we often have a background in our industry, but technology and practice changes and we risk missing key tasks and dependencies if we don't involve our teams in project planning.

You don't need expensive software to plan your project

This guide to project planning has deliberately avoided including instructions for using scheduling software. Project planning can be carried out perfectly well without scheduling software and indeed was done so before programs like Microsoft Project were available. This applies to all stages of planning and I recommend that you avoid even opening your software until you have completed stage 2 and have a detailed precedence or workflow diagram. If you are a Microsoft Project user you will find tutorials and best practice suggestions here.

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