Resource Leveling- A Comprehensive Overview

Resource Leveling- A Comprehensive Overview

Damini Chandankar
Damini Chandankar
Table of Contents
Table of Contents

A surprising 70% of projects fail to reach their goals. This fact may have some similarities to your own experience. It’s all a game of proper allocation of resources throughout the process.

Utilizing a variety of resource optimization approaches, you may solve the issues and complete your project on schedule. And resource leveling is one of the best strategies to accomplish that.

Resource Leveling- A Comprehensive Overview
Resource Leveling- A Comprehensive Overview

A lot of work has been done in the field of project management over the past few years to enable project managers to successfully complete projects while also making optimal use of the resources at their disposal. One of the most crucial aspects of project management is resource allocation.

In this type of management, the goal is to reduce the disparities between resource availability and use. A challenging managerial issue is how to allocate different types of resources to project activities since poor resource management can result in overworked workers and greater overhead expenditures. Everything you need to know about resource leveling is covered in this article.

Following are the topics covered:

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What Are Resources?

A resource is a valuable asset that is primarily used to support the completion of a specific activity or project. A resource may be a person, a group, a piece of equipment, money, or time. The majority of projects need a variety of resources to be finished. You can employ two different sorts of resources in project management:

  • Intangible resources: ideas, time, procedures, talents
  • Tangible resources: equipment, software, materials, real estate, human and financial resources scheduling, availability, and optimization of resources are seen to be crucial for effective project management.

The limited resources are distributed according to the importance given to each project activity. The Critical path technique and heuristic analysis are used to determine their priority.

The goal is to establish the most effective timetable possible for a circumstance where there is a resource limitation, which minimizes project length and maximizes the utilization of the resources available.

What Is Resource Leveling?

Resource leveling is a method to assist you better accommodate resource limits by altering the start and conclusion dates of a project, according to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) Guide. Resource leveling is a project management strategy that ignores resource allocation and settles any potential conflict brought on by over-allocation.

Project managers must prepare their resources appropriately before starting a project. By doing this, you can meet project deadlines while avoiding overworking your team and raising the project's overall cost.

  • Resources are necessary for a project to carry out its activities.
  • These resources include the labor, tools, and supplies needed to complete the task. Workers include artisans, engineers, programmers, systems analysts, and other professions.
  • A few examples of equipment are cranes, test rigs, process simulators, etc. Materials include things like the wire that needs to be installed and the concrete that needs to be poured. A system for planning and scheduling the time-phased materials required for production activities is known as Material Requirements Planning (MRP).
  • Resources are limitless and readily available in the ideal world. Resource availability is typically restricted, so the project team must "level" out resource use and consumption.
  • As a result, the company won't have to deal with disagreements or late deliveries. One of the fundamental components of resource management in the company is resource leveling.

If resources are not distributed correctly, some may be over-assigned while others may be under-allocated, an organization begins to have issues. Both will expose the organization to financial danger. This is true for all project types, whether they be at the project or sub-project level or even in a more complicated setting at the program level.

A trade-off between two project limitations, time and resources, is always involved in resource leveling. But resource leveling is more complicated. The critical path method (CPM), critical chain management, project crashing, and fast-tracking are all project management techniques that use resource leveling.

As it involves balancing the demand for the same resources across several projects, resource leveling can be difficult for project managers.

These results could occur depending on your team's requirements:

  • More resources might need to be made available if the goal is to maintain the present project deadline.
  • The project's deadline might be extended if the aim is to complete it within the constraints of the resources that are now available.

To prevent resource overuse, resource leveling modifies project timetables or resource allocation. This could support preserving the standard of project outputs.

  • Project cost savings- Project costs can be saved if you don't need an extra resource to handle the two websites and other infrastructure requirements. Here, the project's completion date has been significantly increased to account for the cost savings achieved through resource leveling procedures.
  • It assures a flexible and realistic timetable- Suppose the project is delayed if the web developer becomes preoccupied with other high-priority tasks. Please keep in mind, nevertheless, that adding additional resource will increase the company's cost overruns.

Structure of Resource Leveling

A structured hierarchy of resource leveling exists in many companies. A structure based on work looks like this:

  • Stage
  • Phase
  • Task/Deliverable

The project's scope will be determined by each of the aforementioned levels, which will also look for ways to divide up tasks among the team members. The project team will find it simpler to perform the tasks as a result.

Additionally, the degree of resources needed (seniority, experience, abilities, etc.) may vary depending on the three aforementioned factors. As a result, the amount of resources needed for a project is always a variable, matching the above structure. For this reason, a lot of firms use manufacturing execution systems to organize their operations.

Factors in Resource Leveling

Since the major goal of resource leveling is to allocate resources effectively, the project can be finished in the allotted amount of time. Therefore, resource leveling can be divided into two basic categories: tasks that can be accomplished by fully utilizing all available resources and tasks that can be accomplished with a limited amount of resources.

Projects that need a finite amount of resources may be postponed until more resources are available. Again, it is better to postpone the project for a later date if an organization takes on more initiatives than it has resources to support.

Process- Resources must be assigned to activities (deliverables) that must be carried out in order for resource leveling to occur. Ideally, responsibilities are given to resources (human resources) during the project's initial planning stage; however, at this time, the resources are not specified. These responsibilities are subsequently assigned to particular tasks that call for specialization.

Dependencies- Dependencies are established to ensure that the job is completed in the correct sequence. Before using any of the following task dependency types, make sure you understand them because using the wrong ones will delay the completion of your schedule and impose additional restrictions.

Essential to the nature of the activity being done; mandatory. They frequently entail physical restrictions, requiring the implementation of a test case before testing.

  • Discretionary (soft/preferred/preferential reasoning) - Based on prior knowledge, desire, or preferences; for example, the team decides to develop the user manual following the initial testing, even though it is not required.
  • External- Based on requirements or preferences of a party external to the project; for example, the server must be acquired before setting.

Leveling of Resources: Resource leveling assists a company in getting the most out of its resources. Resource leveling is intended to reduce resource waste, or to stop resource over-allocation. A resource's underutilized time will be noted by the project manager, who will then take action to stop it or capitalize on it.

Resource disputes cause the organization to have a number of drawbacks, including:

  • Inability to add more tasks
  • Delays in completing some activities
  • Inability to remove some task
  • Challenges in allocating a different resource
  • Inability to adjust task dependencies
  • Overall project delays and budgeting

Importance of Resource Leveling

In the end, resource leveling serves as a band-aid for a growing issue. If it fails, the outcome can be a postponed project, the loss of resources as they are transferred to other departments, and financial loss for your business.

  • Poor resource leveling may cause problems that snowball.
  • Production might be offset and put under a time crunch, suppliers could be delayed, facilities could be unavailable, shipments could be lost, and leadership could be affected by the disruption to their bottom line.
  • Resource leveling is fundamentally a crisis management technique. Managing escalating conflicts? leveling resources untangles them. But it typically does so at the price of one of the three project management constraints—cost, scope, or time. Therefore, there is a considerable danger of error even at the beginning, and minor mistakes are inevitable.
  • Due to the resource juggling involved in this process, things could end up becoming significantly more complicated than they would have been at the beginning of the project.
  • It's crucial to have a system in place to monitor the timetable and milestones of your project so you don't miss a beat. Resource leveling will assist you in identifying imbalances in your resource allocation and preventing the overuse of certain resources.

And this is, of course, the main benefit because, if you can prevent over-allocating resources, productivity will grow.

But there are still more benefits you'll enjoy:

  • Identifying and taking advantage of downtime.
  • Reduce production delays.
  • Provide team members more time to prepare for assignments.
  • Team members aren’t working on projects they aren’t trained for.
  • Better resource allocation

When to Use Resource Leveling?

Let's talk about when resource leveling would be used in project management now that we have a better understanding of what it is, as well as the many sorts of resources that go into a project or projects.

When a project is first being planned- When a project manager is first starting to set together a timeline at the beginning of a project, resource leveling may take place. The budget would be reviewed at this time, along with the staff members that would need to be involved in the project and other resources to get it moving.

This approach can be used early on to establish team expectations, define procedures, and remain vigilant about the demands of the project and team.

During the process- The stage when resource leveling is implemented is the one that is used the most frequently. Projects never actually go as planned, as we all know. Eventually, many unforeseen events occur that have an impact on everyone participating in the process and can either speed up or slow down progress.

But at this point, a project manager can employ resource leveling to effectively overcome the majority of challenges. This would cover situations like delays (internal or external), under or over-allocating resources, availability changes, or unexpected time limitations. The resources allocated to the project can all be reviewed by the project manager, and changes can then be made.

Put the most important tasks first- The more comprehensive task of resource management, in general, enables you to distribute the supply of various resources in a strategic manner. As a result, it is easier to rank projects and activities according to their importance.

Assume, for instance, that you are leveling software programmers as a resource. The most skilled programmers can be given the most important or challenging tasks, while the less skilled ones can do easier ones. In addition to maintaining equitable workloads that are adapted to each team member's capabilities, this decreases the likelihood that something will go wrong with the complex and important duties.

Optimize your resources- You can maximize the use of your available resources by using resource leveling. It assists you in determining which projects are flexible with deadlines and which ones require additional resources.

Assume that half of the people on your project team are specialists in widget manufacture, and the other half are experts in widget design. Before manufacturing can start, the design must be finished, but if the manufacturers of the widgets are just waiting around, resources are being wasted.

Instead, a resource leveling technique can use staggered projects, where the makers of one set of widgets are actively making that set while the makers of the next set are planning the next. As a result, more total work may now be completed because all resources are always employed consistently.

Achieve a more equitable labor distribution- Avoiding the over or under-allocation of any one resource is one of the key objectives of resource leveling.

  • Think about a recently shrunk IT staff. One team member ended up taking on all the extra tasks that had previously been divided among a bigger team during the downsizing process. While the other team members who are still working have the same workload as before the downsizing, this person is currently overworked.
  • There is a more equitable way to redistribute tasks in this scenario by using resource leveling. In addition, a detailed assessment of the infrastructure may reveal jobs that are unnecessary and can be dropped, decreasing the team's overall effort and preventing the need for overtime work.
  • It's also feasible that hiring independent contractors to lessen the strain will work out better than dispersing tasks. The practice of resource leveling may also entail rearranging deadlines and priority for various projects.

To reduce deficiencies- Resource leveling reduces labor and expense losses by avoiding substantial project delays. Using this strategy, you can control resource demand without going over the company's current financial and operational limits.

Stays proactive- Resource leveling allows you a chance to be proactive throughout the course of the project. You can avoid project delays that could be expensive for the budget and corporate resources, such labor, by preparing ahead.

It's preferable to have backup plans in place so that you can more easily navigate the various project management hurdles that may surface when problems develop. Resource leveling makes sure that production is high and that advancement happens steadily.

Include additional project management techniques- Numerous project management techniques are compatible with resource leveling. For instance, it makes Lean techniques waste removal and project simplification easier.

  • It is compatible with iterative agile collaboration, which calls for the division of tasks into smaller, manageable units that may be finished in sprints.
  • It is simpler to visually identify areas where too many resources are needed at once and areas where more work can be done to maximize resource use when using Kanban boards or Gantt charts for project visibility.
  • If you utilize project management software, you might discover that it includes resources tracking and management tools.

Therefore, regardless of the project management style used to implement it, using such software frequently makes resource leveling easier. ‍

When there are strict deadlines- There may be times when a client or customer wants the project to be delivered more quickly. This is another instance where a project manager can use resource leveling to their advantage and complete the project.

  • There should be safeguards in place to protect the staff's time as well as procedures in place to gently remind the client of expectations throughout the project's life cycle.
  • There are two ways to shorten a timeline when you need to in order to meet an accelerated deadline.
  • Resource leveling ensures that initiatives have the resources they require to succeed while preventing resources from being overspread.
  • This method helps the team maintain a healthy work-life balance while also assisting in project management. Here are a few benefits that resource leveling can provide for your team.

Strategic timing adjustments, not haphazard ones- The flexibility of a project's time-frame varies, just as its priority does. While some projects have flexible timelines that can be extended with no negative impact, others have strict deadlines that must be reached to satisfy clients.

Due dates frequently change since projects frequently involve a lot of unknowns throughout their planning phase. To preserve priority, however, dates should be strategically changed whenever it is practicable. High-priority deadlines can be maintained by resource leveling, whereas low-priority deadlines can be changed while maintaining uniform work hours.

Encourage a healthy workplace- A productive workplace that values the worker's time and effort can be produced by resource leveling. At the same time, this technique can also foster genuine transparency throughout a project's life cycle, building confidence among all pertinent team members.

Resource leveling can convey to employees that the company values their contributions greatly if done properly. It can boost team communication and increase the effectiveness of peer collaboration. The project manager serves as the hub of this network and serves as a role model.

The key piece for organizing all the crucial components of a project and bringing them together to regularly fulfil the company's milestones is their level of soft skills, such as organization, timeliness, and the capacity for clear and effective communication.

In order to avoid task overload- Overworking as a result of resource overallocation can be exhausting for team members. By addressing overallocation issues and modifying deadlines to make sure team members don't have too much on their plates, resource leveling eliminates this.

To make sure a project's output is of high quality- By keeping the same caliber for project deliverables, leveling enables you to manage resources and customer expectations. Resource leveling is often a good strategy for dealing with budget problems, resource overallocation, and project delays.

Purpose of Resource Leveling

In order to achieve production within a specified time-frame, resource leveling is a response to a production schedule that has been badly constructed. And you'll accomplish this by determining your:

Dependencies- Dependencies are the connections between your jobs and indicate which one should be completed first and which should come later.

Resource Conflicts- Resources that are required for several concurrently launched initiatives. For instance, suppose you have a worker who does engraving and two orders show up at his desk at the same time. Establishing production limits is another important step. Examples of these constraints include:

  • Mandatory- Physical restrictions, as those imposed by experiments, lead to mandatory constraints.
  • Discretionary- Constraints based on your team member’s preferences and actions.
  • External- It's common for third parties' demands or desires to impose restrictions.

You'll need to understand your dependencies, resource conflicts, and restrictions in order to create future production schedules.

How Do Resource Leveling, Resource Smoothing, and Resource Allocation Interact?

In a three-step procedure, resource allocation, leveling, and smoothing combine to maximize resource management.

  • The influence on specific team members is not considered while allocating resources, which ensures that the work is completed.
  • No one should be working longer than necessary because resource leveling makes sure workloads don't exceed resource restrictions.
  • After that, resource smoothing enables you to equally divide workloads with sufficient daily buffers.
  • The distribution of resources at the planning stage enables you to identify the team member who is most qualified to handle each specific task.
  • When allocating resources effectively, project expenses, resource availability, necessary skills, and project outcomes are taken into account.

However, unforeseen events like delays or insufficient funding can occur while your project is under progress. Resource leveling is useful in situations like this. You might be able to control the resource restrictions they bring about with more reasonable expectations or prevent such conflicts altogether.

Resource smoothing, which comes after resource leveling, can assist you in balancing the high and low workloads assigned to each team member. In other words, it aids in maintaining the boundaries of your resources.

How Resource Leveling Can Assist Team Members Have Better Work-Life Balance?

Resource leveling can aid in creating the groundwork for your teams' ability to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Work-life balance was the most significant organizational attribute for employees globally as of 2021. Employees that feel they have a good work-life balance also work 21% harder, which is not surprising.

Additionally, buffers can be spread equally throughout all days. Daily buffers can drastically lower the amount of overtime hours and stress since they provide employees extra time to tackle any unforeseen issues or job overruns.

Teams benefit from resource leveling and smoothing because they receive distributed daily workloads and regular workdays, both of which improve work-life balance.

Resource Leveling Techniques

When it comes to resource leveling, project managers frequently employ the critical path method. The network diagram's critical path shows the project completion paths with the longest and shortest time durations.

Project managers use fast tracking and crashing instead of the popular critical path notion, nevertheless, if things go out of hand.

Fast tracking- Fast tracking is a method for carrying out critical route tasks. This buys some time. The key characteristic of this method is that while the task is currently finished, there is a higher likelihood of rework.

Crashing- You can utilize the crashing technique if fast-tracking is not appropriate for your project. This method seeks to reduce the length of a specific activity by adding new resources at a negligible cost increase. By putting this idea into practice, you can increase workers and equipment to finish a project earlier than expected.

When putting this strategy into practice, take into account the tasks that will benefit the project the most. To achieve this, decide which jobs, even if you have to change your project plans, could result in more productivity if given more resources. There are various ways to implement crashing, including:

Encouraging contractors and workers on the team:

  • Incentivizing- If team members finish jobs ahead of schedule, you can reward them with bonuses or keep working on past-due assignments to finish them as soon as you can. Your teams may be inspired to operate more productively by bonuses.
  • Adding particular resources- To hasten the project's progress, you can think about bringing in more machinery or laborers. To avoid problems brought on by integrating more resources, you could find it helpful to promote improved communication.
  • Offering extra work- This strategy might help you finish the job and inspire your staff by providing extra compensation. When employing this strategy, keep in mind that excessive use might lead to staff fatigue, which can reduce productivity.

Critical Path Method- This method, also known as the critical path method, or CPM, is used to determine the project's minimum duration. It allows for the estimation of the start (including early and late start) and end dates for the project's activities without taking resource constraints into account.

Remember that these dates represent a potential time frame in which the project's activities could have a start date and an end date, all within the specified time frame, rather than the project's actual timetable. The "float" is the period of time between the early and late starts. This is the maximum amount of time that a project activity can begin after its early start date without having an impact on its late conclusion date.

Consider the scenario where you want to create a website and you have a deadline in mind for its launch. By adjusting activity durations, lead periods, lag-times, forward and backward connections, and resource levels, you can change the early and late start dates.

There can be additional restrictions to take into account, such as public holidays, scheduled closures, and so forth. It's also crucial to remember that the critical path technique needs to be applied in a brief period of time.

  • Instead of viewing it in weeks or months, it is better to do so in days, and potentially even hours.
  • Most projects can benefit from the resource leveling strategy known as critical path management. For instance, a plant-based food business like this one may utilize this method to guarantee that the resources needed to make their primary goods are available.
  • The key path activities' "float," or scheduling flexibility, can be ascertained once you have identified them:
  • Total float is the maximum amount of time tasks can be put off from their earliest start date without having an impact on the project's end date. This can be calculated by late finish date minus early finish date, or late start date minus late finish date (early start date)
  • The amount of days that tasks can be postponed without affecting the start date of future activities is referred to as free float. This can be calculated by next task's early start date minus early finish date of current task
  • The critical route tasks have a float of zero, which means that if one job is delayed, the entire project will be postponed.

As an illustration, suppose the IT team has identified two critical and two non-critical activities as they work to replace the present security system:

  • Critical-  End the company's use of the present security software within two days. Within four days, install and test the new software on all corporate devices.
  • Non-critical- Within a day, finalize the purchase terms with the software vendor. Within two days, produce a how-to manual for the new program.

Critical Chain Technique- This resource leveling technique includes dummy activity that aids in balancing the overall path, adding duration buffers to the entire project.

Tasks and resources will inevitably get out of sync at some point throughout a project's lifecycle, which will then lead to conflicts. This may occur at the beginning of a project or later on when the scope, available resources, or work plan are altered.

By employing the critical chain technique, you may lessen uncertainty and avoid issues that might cause projects to stop, including when a team member decides to quit or is rendered unavailable.

Pure Resources Leveling Technique- The pure resources leveling technique is one of the simplest methods for resource optimization that can be used to balance resource availability and ensure that it is in line with resource demand from the very start of a project.

When resources are in high demand, such as when they are only available at specific hours or when they are double booked, this strategy commonly used to help protect you from allocating too many or too little resources.

By using this resource leveling strategy, you may prevent over-allocation of resources and maintain steady project resource utilization.

Resource Smoothing Technique- Resource leveling has set boundaries on the project's resource utilization, despite the similarities between it and resource smoothing.

For instance, resource smoothing can "smooth" the process for 24 hours each week for the project's five weeks if a specific resource is required for 35 hours during the first two weeks and 16 hours during the following three.

  • When there are few resources available, this strategy is particularly useful.
  • This strategy can be applied to move activities around (within their free float and total float) in order to eliminate resource contention and optimise the process for the best outcomes if the project sponsor or stakeholder has complaints or concerns about the cost of the resources involved.
  • An excellent illustration of this resource leveling strategy in action would be an online video producer who accepts a sizable project from a customer who sells memory foam mattresses.
  • Up until the client asks the project be completed earlier than anticipated, the team is on schedule.
  • To finish the production before the deadline, the video creator would need to employ freelancers or convince the team to work on weekends.

Tools for Resource Leveling

With greater experience, resource leveling will become simpler. Here are some advice and resources you can use to your benefit while you practice this method.

Gantt diagrams- The critical path can be identified and planned using a Gantt chart, which is a bar chart that represents a project timeline. You can quickly obtain a high-level overview of the project's duration, start and end dates, and task dependencies. You can move the chart around and change the dates as the project develops.

Project management software- Some project management programs have resource leveling algorithms that can assist in resolving problems resulting from overallocation of resources. The increased visibility into team members' calendars provided by project management software will help to avoid scheduling conflicts and multiple bookings.

Network diagrams- Another kind of visual depiction of a project's timetable is a network diagram. The chronology of tasks is shown as a chart with rows of boxes and arrows. It can be utilized to both schedule tasks and monitor project progress. You may determine the noncritical and critical paths by connecting the series of boxes, each of which represents a task with its duration.

  • A good illustration is a Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) chart. This network design connects jobs while considering the bare minimal amount of time your team will require to complete the project.
  • It's a thorough flowchart that shows which jobs are interdependent and which ones your team can finish at the same time.
  • A network diagram is used to visually depict dependencies. A network diagram is automatically created by the software.
  • Work is the quantity of labor required to fulfil a given task, which is typically stated in hours, days, or weeks. Success is equal to estimation. Duration is the overall amount of time (often expressed in days or weeks) needed to do a task on schedule.

Consider the different task types when estimating:

  • Fixed units (software default)- This option enables the schedule to determine the completion date as soon as possible based on resource availability.
  • Fixed duration- Used when maintaining duration is a top priority. Assign resources as necessary to meet the finish date in order to accomplish the work.
  • Fixed work- Due to its effort-driven nature and potential for unpredictable outcomes, several project management systems that sit on top of the software do not support this kind.

Previous projects as a reference- Keep a record of previous project schedules and plans so you can refer to them while working on a comparable project to create a more precise project plan. You'll have a better sense of how much leeway to provide each task and an estimated concept of which resources are needed if you look at previous successful or unsuccessful initiatives.

This will allow you to measure resource availability before the project begins. Here are some suggestions for providing more accurate estimations:

  • To reduce personal biases, estimate as a team. Consider potential project risks. Estimate in ranges rather than precise values to account for a larger range of possibilities.
  • To produce more reliable estimations, use the same estimating method each time.
  • To determine the project scope clearly up front and make accurate estimates of resource demands to increase the likelihood that resource leveling efforts will be successful.

What Are the Examples of Resource Leveling?

Let's use a few actual examples to better understand resource leveling.

Bringing in Extra Resources- English is not the native tongue in the new markets where your company is operating. Members of your customer service team who are fluent in the regional tongue of your new markets are a need. As a result, your company intends to expand its workforce in order to strengthen its customer service division.

Schedule as many jobs as you can concurrently- Parallel task completion can also facilitate more effective resource usage. Applying the critical path method (CPM), a project management technique that establishes which tasks may be completed concurrently and which cannot, is a good idea.

This technique gives you a lower constraint on the project timetable by identifying the longest chain of job dependencies. Then, in order to balance the workload, avoid bottlenecks, and make the best use of your resources, you can delegate additional jobs to be finished concurrently.

Delaying Project's Completion- The project manager is forced to take an unforeseen week-long leave of absence due to unanticipated delays including illness and hospitalization. Because the project is delicate and needs your full focus, you decide to extend the timetables by a week.

Resource Smoothing- When projects have a deadline, resource smoothing is used. A banking project is a good example. Typically, businesses must submit bank applications by a certain date or risk losing money. Delaying the project's completion is not the best course of action in this case.

Project managers instead use resource smoothing to balance the resource allocations in order to complete the project on schedule. They can also reserve an additional resource to do the work more quickly and prevent overbooking one individual.

Obtaining additional resources- In order to deal with a virus that infiltrated corporate systems, the IT team has been responding to a sizable number of IT requests. The team decides to spend money on new antivirus software so they can fix the machines because the company's present antivirus program isn't strong enough to handle the infection.

Delaying Project Commencement- It will take an additional three days for the new project hires to begin working with you. You tell the client about this and change the start date by a week. You also ask your employees to put in an extra hour of work each day in an effort to make up for the missed time. It aids in avoiding postponing the project's completion date.

Resource Leveling Techniques Comparisons

Resource Leveling Vs Resource Smoothing

Both resource leveling and resource smoothing produce efficient methods for making use of resources and meeting deadlines. Despite their similarities, they do differ fundamentally from one another. Let's first examine the fundamental characteristics of resource leveling:

  • Resource leveling is utilized when scheduling production so that the few resources available are used as effectively as possible.
  • Employed when resources are improperly or excessively allocated.
  • The main restriction is a lack of resources.
  • The start and completion dates of the project are movable.
  • The Critical Path may be modified as necessary.
  • If necessary, project life cycle dependencies can be modified, delayed, or expedited.
Resource Leveling Vs Resource Smoothing
Resource Leveling Vs Resource Smoothing

Let's look at the key characteristics of resource smoothing right now:

When time restrictions are the primary barrier to production, resource smoothing is applied. The goal is to complete a project on schedule while preventing fluctuations in resource demand.

  • The key constraint is time.
  • The project finish date is fixed and cannot be adjusted.
  • The Critical Path's steps stay the same.
  • When resources are distributed unevenly, this technique is often used.
  • It is also used when resource leveling is achieved.

Resource leveling, in plain English, puts your resources first. Then, you can use resource smoothing to understand how the deadline will affect your project's time-frame. You may develop a fair project timeline that takes into account resources and delivery timing by combining these two techniques.

When choosing between resource leveling and resource smoothing, you can select where to hedge your bets by comparing their characteristics and identifying the differences.

When attempting to compress your schedule, resource leveling is typically done before resource smoothing. We'll examine resource leveling in greater detail starting with the two essential components of this planning strategy.

Resource Leveling Vs Resource Allocation

During the project planning stage, you might allocate resources as a planning strategy. You can specify particular resources to carry out various project operations. This activity aids in the identification of project resource requirements and candidates for related positions. Planning will be based on resource availability, skill levels, and previous success on projects of a similar nature.

Resource leveling happens considerably later in a project, when most items are already in place. Resource leveling can also be thought of as a last-minute emergency measure to achieve strict project deadlines.

How to Combine Resource Smoothing and Leveling?

We successfully organized our resources and finished on time. We wouldn't have known what to do to fulfil the deadline despite resource constraints if resource smoothing hadn't been used. You require a step-by-step procedure to integrate resource smoothing and leveling.

  • Determine the project's resource requirements. Look at the team members who are available for the project as well as the required working hours.
  • Allocate resources to particular tasks. Give each team member a clear assignment while considering the resources that are available, and project the completion date.
  • Put resource leveling into action. Consider the distribution of resources while dividing the labour as evenly as you can (both in terms of duration and the number of tasks). Then search for resource limitations (overlap of tasks, employee availability, resource availability, overallocation, resource conflicts, need for additional resources, etc.).
  • The next step is resource smoothing. As soon as you are aware of your resource limits, concentrate only on the most crucial activities in order to achieve the deadline. Evenly distribute resources across the project's time-frame to prevent resource demand peaks and valleys.

The key to a good project management strategy is to follow this procedure so that you may finish the tasks on schedule without over or under-allocating your team or resources. This entirely optimizes your duties and timetable while providing your employees with the ideal environment and structure.

How to Implement Resource Leveling in Project Management?

You must take into account two crucial factors before starting the resource leveling process: the resources needed and the resources accessible. You will typically need to plan your strategy with constrained personnel, labor hours, and skill sets. The following steps are part of the resource leveling planning process:

  • Determine the projected completion date. Think about the best and worst case possibilities and try to find a middle ground.
  • List the essential activities that must be accomplished for the project to be successful. The float value is typically used to decide which jobs should be prioritized as critical
  • Based on the shortest time duration paths you found, make a work schedule using the critical path approach.
  • Calculate how much of each resource the project will need for each task.
  • Identify the resource gaps, or the areas where the available resources fall short of what is required.
  • Consider managing the resource gap.

In this last stage of resource leveling, negotiation is crucial. If the deadline is set, you will need to find other solutions to finish the job on time because leveling frequently causes delays in project completion. In that instance, you can try to control the resource gap by negotiating for more resources, altering the project's scope, or using a combination of strategies. These phases are explained below in depth.

All phases of a project can incorporate resource leveling. With this management approach, you can plan your calendar for when resources will be available or think about how to limit specific resources in light of any limitations.

Provide accurate resource estimations up front.

Your resource leveling efforts will be more successful if you define your project's scope in detail up front. Review comparable previous projects, consult with peer organizations if you are unfamiliar with the assignment, evaluate the level of effort with your employees, inventory your materials, and create reasonable estimations of the project resource requirements.

In this phase, you might wish to consider asking the following questions using the earlier example of producing a non-profit annual report:

  • How many workers did we have on this project last year? Did you think there were too many, too few, or the right amount?
  • Would using contractors for some of this project be beneficial? How long would it take to locate them and board them?
  • What comments did the staff have on the report last year? Did they claim that the production schedule was excessively compressed?
  • Was there anything they mentioned wanting to include for subsequent years?
  • This year, how many hard copies do we plan to print?
  • What tangible supplies will we require for production and what do we already have?
  • How will worker vacations be distributed over the upcoming two months?

The amount of time the project will take to complete, the personnel skills you'll need and when you'll need them, and the kinds and amounts of physical supplies you'll need to do these jobs should all be included in your estimates.

Determine the demands of the project.

Including the necessary staffing levels and critical responsibilities, any financial constraints, the tools needed to offer the project its best chance of success, and the amount of time needed to complete it while maintaining high standards.

To approximate the desired time-frame as closely as possible, each of these elements must be assessed, with milestones and deadlines placed thoughtfully to guarantee expected delivery. You'll have a realistic glimpse of the project's life cycle after you have a firm grasp on the elements required to begin production. This might also assist you or the project manager in preparing for any unforeseen resource requirements that may arise.

Establish due dates and float values.

The project's schedule strongly influences how much resource leveling you can do. For instance, if staff members have two days instead of two weeks to complete a project, their duties may appear drastically different. Setting a schedule for resource activity is crucial.

The project's start date and the deadline should be included in this timetable. You'll schedule checkpoints for subtasks inside that time range, such as when you'll write the report's initial draught or send it to the design team.

Identify gaps in resources.

It's time to do a little project risk management after you've made your estimates and established your timetable. Identify any initial gaps in your resources using what you've learnt. Perhaps you've noticed that important employees will be away of the office for half the project's duration.

Perhaps that annoying paper shortage is getting ready to sabotage your printing project once more. To rectify any early imbalances, now is the moment to modify your timetable or resource requirements.

For instance, a project might need four key responsibilities, but you can only plan two or three because of timetable conflicts.

This could put you in danger of under-allocating a project, but now that you've noticed this resource gap, you can come up with solutions to avoid it. Perhaps you add another team member with related expertise, or you think about using a contractor for this particular job.

Ensuring that nobody on the team feels overburdened by the lack of resources available requires keeping a look out for any gaps.

Use a priority list and understand when and how to pivot.

Teams can reorient themselves more easily when there are restrictions on staff time or other resources by knowing which project activities are prioritized. If you must pick between two scheduled projects, you will already be aware of which one is more important and will provide it the necessary resources first.

Integrating resource leveling into your project management is to prioritize each step of the project. This is particularly true if you are juggling several tasks at once and sharing resources.

  • One of your leads might, for instance, be working on two projects with overlapping deadlines.
  • It is best practice to prioritize which project takes precedence in this scenario and make a decision based on this information in order to prevent overtaxing your lead and maybe stretching your resources too thin.
  • You can extend Project B's deadline if Project A includes a high-profile client but Project B has a more flexible turnaround time depending on communication, allowing Project A to be finished on schedule while still leaving your lead some breathing room to finish Project B without sacrificing quality.

Assign a project management professional (PMP) who specializes in resource leveling or resource smoothing.

It takes resources to keep track of resources and manage when they need to be changed to maintain the proper balance. It's not necessary to provide a team member who is already overworked the responsibility of resource leveling. Consider adding a resource leveling PMP or resource-smoothing PMP to your team as a result.

The key to success is having a project manager that understands how to manage and coordinate several moving parts of a project. They are the central point of contact the person who has to assess the situation and make decisions based on team capacity and resources.

Without this position in place, you risk having too many hands in the pot and increasing miscommunication and confusion amongst the team members. It’s important to have one individual at the core of this matrix in order to keep processes straight and moving forward with positive and focused momentum. Project managers are integral to constructing a timeline that best works for the entire team.

Monitor the reallocation of resources.

Staff members' assignments may change during resource leveling, and printing schedules may advance by a few days. The reallocation of your resources should be monitored. This not only gives you important information to aid in planning future projects, but it also helps you remember where they started in case you need to move them back.

Knowing where you've changed things in the past can help you predict future changes. It's crucial to maintain track of the resources you're assigning while employing resource leveling in project management. When managing several projects at once, losing sight of this can result in significant difficulties.

  • Let's take the scenario when you have a gap in one of your writing-related assignments. As there have been some difficulties, your primary writer has to be transferred to a new project in order to provide heavier support.
  • The project manager's responsibility is to assess the timetable, revise the plan to account for the writer's reassigned work, and then examine how the writer will be incorporated back into their original project while still ensuring a reasonable turnaround time.
  • It's critical to inform everyone on the team of any reallocations of resources so that everyone is aware of the most recent developments. You may monitor your internal operations and see any emerging patterns by knowing what resources were redistributed.
  • Your workforce shouldn't feel overworked, and you should set realistic deadlines. Resource leveling can be a vital technique in your project management, whether it's compressing a time-frame owing to customer expectations, having a surplus of resources to expedite progress, or stretching the timeline to account for constrained resources and availability.

How to Select a Resource Leveling Strategy?

The real world is too unpredictable for theoretical projects to be neatly bound to proceed exactly as expected. However, resource leveling can be used to avoid unforeseen delays and scope creep.

The correct resource leveling technique can assist you in extending deadlines, obtaining new resources, maximizing those already on hand, and reducing the scope of your project.

The two most crucial factors in each project—project deadlines and available resources—have been laid out in the grid below to illustrate four possible situations. The columns offer us several situations for resourcing, while the rows reflect various deadline options (extended vs. same).

Deadline- Resources Grid
Deadline- Resources Grid

Case 1: Increase the number of resources and the deadline

You have a better chance of completing high-quality projects if you have more time and resources. However, you need to explain to your stakeholders why the original project assumptions were incorrect. Review your resource allocation strategies to more efficiently use the extra resources.

Case 2: Increase resources in order to make the deadline

Without asking for a deadline extension, you could get more resources for important initiatives. Implement a "crashing" technique by adding extra team members to handle the increased workload. However, when senior team members train new team members, their work outcomes may suffer because of the time lost from working on deliverables to training.

You should only assign new members to activities that need the smallest amount of extra work because of this.

Case 3: Extend the deadline while using the same resources

As soon as you can, ask your stakeholders to authorize the deadline extension. Extensions of deadlines don't need new team members to be trained or managed. Project A demonstrated how a work extension reduced workloads.

Case 4: Utilize the same resources and adhere to the same time-frame

Even without additional resources or deadline extensions, you can reduce work overloads by narrowing the scope of your projects. The secret is to ruthlessly eliminate all low-value jobs and restrict the project's scope to just those that are absolutely necessary.

Additionally, you might need to expedite a project by carrying out as many tasks as you can concurrently, necessitating the simultaneous efforts of several team members. When used in conjunction with the most important and time-consuming project activities, the four tactics mentioned above can assist you in resolving resource conflicts.

Resource Leveling Best Practices

Predict the availability of resources- Predicting your employees' availability without the proper resource allocation tools is nearly impossible.

  • You won't get away with using Excel spreadsheets in this situation. even if you are the boss of a tiny IT firm.
  • You need to have better insight into how your resources are being used across projects if you want to maximize their effectiveness and have complete control over how they are used.
  • Keeping data in spreadsheets won't help you in this situation. Resource management software will. The greatest way to assess the performance of your company at a higher level is through this method.

Compare the initial project estimates to actual budgetary allocations- Create tentative project assignments to begin with. To improve them and make the data more accurate, you can compare them to your original estimates.

  • Simply modify these allocations to "active" (the so-called hard booking, which is 100% confirmed) once the project is booked and you are confident in them.
  • For both new hires and existing staff, have backup plans.
  • Your project manager can begin allocating people to specific project tasks as soon as you know which personnel will be assigned to your project.
  • Always have a backup strategy in place in case a resource is suddenly unavailable (for example, due to illness or when a brand-new hire gets a better last-minute offer and jumps ship).

Always hire individuals a little sooner for important positions to ensure that they are available when the project begins. If you assign an existing employee, be sure to have a backup resource ready to go when the project begins that could do the work for a week or more.

Make long-term allocations- Long-term resource allocation is a wise move (not applicable to short projects). Instead of assigning people to jobs, assign them based on their dedication to the project over a specific amount of time.

Role of Project Manager in Resource Leveling

Resource leveling may extend to numerous concurrent projects using the same resources, thus project managers need be careful in how they go about it. Timelines can be flexible enough to allow for the team's full participation without leading to confusion if they are planned properly.

This means that a project manager can shorten the deadline in order to work with the organization's current resource allocation or tighten the timetable in order to meet the anticipated deadline. When employing resource leveling in project management, it's critical to comprehend the many types of resources that are available.

Here are some questions you or a project manager should be asking to better understand the resources that are now available:

Talent

  • Who needs to be involved?
  • What degree of expertise is required to produce a successful result?
  • How many individuals ought to be entrusted with this task?
  • What responsibilities are necessary to cover every facet of the project from start to finish

Availability

  • Are the necessary team members available during the designated times?
  • Is there a planned vacation or break for any of the pertinent team members that needs to be considered?
  • How is their present workload structured?
  • How many jobs are they willing to take on?
  • Are the necessary team members able to take on a new project?
  • Who can provide assistance or backup in the event that unanticipated situations arise?

Materials

  • Does the team have access to the technology and physical (or virtual) space required to work effectively?
  • What supplies, if any, are absolutely needed to finish the project?
  • What is the typical turnaround time if materials are awaited?
  • Did we give ourselves enough time to allow for possible delays in the arrival of the materials?
  • How will the timing be affected if we have to wait for supplies a second or third time during the process?
  • Do we have room to move if necessary?

Processes

  • What procedures are in place to ensure smooth progress throughout the project's life cycle, based on the project?
  • Is the team's communication process understood by all members?
  • Has the current procedure been optimized using the team members' feedback on earlier iterations?
  • How long does it take to complete each project milestone?
  • How long does it typically take for our process to achieve our goal?
  • Considering the project's requirements and nature, are the turnaround times reasonable?
  • How frequently should the team meet in order to share updates, pinpoint issues, and allow for discussion? Are meetings essential to the success of the project?
  • Are there procedures in place to assist our team members in filling out their availability so that our project manager can quickly detect availability?

Software

  • What software-based tools do we employ to coordinate everything and streamline our processes?
  • Do these systems facilitate or impede our operations?
  • What are we overlooking?
  • Can we interact with one another using this programme when there are problems
  • Does our software give our team the tools they need to perform their duties well?

Budget

  • What is the estimated cost of the project?
  • Can we finish the project within the allocated budget with the resources we have?
  • Are we outside our purview? If so, what can we do to ensure that we return to a reasonable place that is still within our budget?
  • Do we have any leeway? If so, what are the areas where we may financially reallocate resources?

This is a list of crucial factors to take into account, and considering how much planning goes into a project, it's easy to feel entirely overwhelmed. After all, there are numerous components that must unavoidably work together. Because of this, having a well-organized project manager on your team is essential to attaining the objectives of the company.

The team must also understand the value of communication to the project. All of these resources must be understood in detail in order to continuously make wise decisions and implement actual resource leveling that has an impact.

What Results From Inadequate Resource Leveling?

If not done properly, resource leveling might be a double-edged sword. There may be a drawback even though it has several advantages. But it relies on how you do it and how well you can adapt to changes. Let's examine a few of resource leveling's drawbacks.

Delays in deadline- Client dissatisfaction may result from submission delays. In the end, it can cost you the client and have an effect on your earnings.

Increased Costs- You might not have anticipated an increase in operational costs due to extended timescales and the addition of new resources. Your profit margins will be impacted, which might not be ideal.

Availability Issues- If new timetables do not improve the quality of your employees' work, productivity may suffer.

Task Management- If crucial activities are not completed in a timely manner, the project may stagnate or fall apart.

Crisis management- Crisis management is fundamentally a process that involves allocating resources. Compounding conflicts are sometimes resolved with the sacrifice of one of the three constraints- cost, scope, or time. Even in the beginning, there is a high danger of error, and little mistakes are inevitable.

By using these technologies, projects can be finished on schedule without sacrificing their scope or budget. It is possible to perform tasks on time and on budget, but with a smaller scope. In other words, you can complete the entire scope of your project with resource leveling technologies by sacrificing time and money.

Creating a project execution plan that fits the allocated time and can be accomplished with the available resources is the planner's primary task. Scheduling the activities such that they won't be slowed down by a lack of resources is a difficult juggling act because there are numerous activities competing for resources at different times.

Resource Smoothing Risks

When it comes to resource smoothing, you ought to make an effort to maximize resources while minimizing the schedule.

  • The critical route and finish date of the project must remain unchanged because you won't be able to extend the timetable.
  • Project delays should be avoided because they could obstruct the main path. Time is crucial when it comes to resource smoothing.
  • You must appropriately allocate resources and follow a predetermined timeline.
  • Reduced slack consequently limits the flexibility of scheduling during execution. The critical route definition may also change, and there are often more crucial operations.

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Key Takeaways

  • In order for the project to move forward consistently and without any steps being compromised by a shortage of resources, resource leveling ensures that resource demand does not exceed what is available during the duration of the project.
  • You may keep team members and stakeholders happy while avoiding issues related to backlog and overallocation by allocating limited resources and modifying the project plan as necessary.
  • For resource leveling, project management software can be a big help. These tools provide a quick overview of resource allocation, workload distribution, and free time.
  • In order to maximize resource use while creating a project timeline, you should use both resource leveling and resource smoothing. Resource leveling is usually followed by resource smoothing, however they can also be done simultaneously.
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