Changes made mid-project are always expected. The challenge for project managers is how they can manage those changes within the allocated time and resource constraints. While there are many different factors you can tweak to help rearrange and optimise your project, one critical way is by controlling your resources through resource levelling techniques.
In this blog, we will discuss what resource levelling is, its benefits, its key techniques and critical tools.
What is resource levelling?
The Project Management Body of Knowledge defines resource levelling as a ‘technique in which start and finish dates are adjusted based on resource limitation with the goal of balancing demand for resources with the available supply.’
In simple terms, resource levelling is about adjusting task dates and the duration of projects to ensure resources are not over-allocated or under-allocated to critical tasks.
Resource levelling aims to fully optimize available resources while working within the classic project constraints of time, scope, cost and quality. Typically, resource levelling is a balancing act between time and resources. If a project is limited to the current resource, then the project timeline must give way. If the project is very time restrained, resources must be added to compensate for the lack of time.
What makes it particularly challenging for project managers is that resources are often shared across multiple departments and projects within an organisation. Therefore, there is bound to be some form of resource availability conflict or deficit.
What are the benefits of resource levelling?
Resource levelling helps make sure your resources are being allocated to the right tasks at the right time. But there are many ways that resource levelling can benefit our project team. They include:
By properly managing project resources, resource levelling helps reduce overall costs that come from delayed tasks or extra resource allocation.
Resource levelling makes sure you get the most out of your resources. Though resource levelling is often used in times of resource overload, it can also be used the reallocate resource when they are being underutilized. This is particularly handy when resources are shared amongst multiple projects and can be re-organised to optimise the portfolio of projects as a whole.
Prevents work overload
A critical benefit of resource levelling outside of the project management sphere alone is how it supports a better work-life balance. By adjusting task duration and schedules, resource levelling can help managers make sure their team members are not overburdened and are always ready at peak performance.
Maintains the quality of the project output
Resource levelling helps balance time and resource restraints across a project to make sure that tasks can be completed with consistency and stakeholder expectations can be managed based on realistic estimations.
Ensures the project schedule is realistic yet flexible
Resource levelling provides project managers with both a realistic understanding of their projects while also giving them the tools to remain flexible and pre-emptively mitigate ongoing challenges.
What are the key resource levelling techniques?
1. Critical Path Method
The Critical Path Method (CPM) helps project managers identify the minimum project duration by identifying and calculating the total sequence of all critical tasks within a project. This sequence, known as the critical path, then allows for all other tasks to be estimated and their dependencies added to the overall project’s timeline. This information then helps project managers prioritise the right tasks and ensure the right amount of resources are readily available.
Finally, one of the most critical calculations that come out of CPM is float. Float refers to the amount of lee-way or flexibility that a task has before it impacts the overall project timeline. This calculation also gives project managers a better understanding of how much time they have, and thus the resource they might need, to address ongoing diversion from the original project plan.
It is important to note that CPM is primarily a schedule management tool, not a resource management tool as it does not inherently consider resources in its calculations. The CPM helps inform project managers on what tasks to prioritise but does not directly tell them how much resources can or should be allocated.
Read more: The Critical Path Method Explained
2. Critical Chain Method
The Critical Chain Method is an expanded version of the CPM that actively considers resource limitations and availabilities. Where the critical path considers task duration alone, the critical chain takes both task and resource dependencies into account. In this form, resources can only be assigned to one task at any given time.
With this approach, both tasks and resources must be listed out in detail from the very beginning and continuously monitored and changed when needed. The CCM adds an additional buffer zone to the pre-existing ‘float’ available in the CPM as a way of balancing potential resource-related issues.
3. Pure Resource Levelling
As the name suggests, pure resource levelling is resource levelling at its simplest. It simply aims to optimise resources to meet the specific demands of the task with the central goal of maintaining consistency across all tasks. As a result, pure resource levelling is often paired with CCM.
4. Resource Smoothing
Resource smoothing is a more constrained technique of resource levelling which is often used in situations where resource capacity or other project constraints cannot be expanded beyond its current levels. Essentially, resource smoothing mainly shifts tasks within the pre-existing range for their free and total float.
While this can offer small opportunities for efficiency, it often does not completely eradicate resource demand conflict and resources will not be fully optimised.
Resource Levelling Tools and Features
Detailed Gantt charts
Gantt charts are a powerful tool often used with resource levelling. Having a detailed and adaptable Gantt chart allows for project managers to easily calculate the critical path and make the necessary changes to resource needs as they go. An effective software will also have real-time data and cloud-based features to ensure managers can easily make changes on the move.
Integrated project management tools
The WBS is one of the foundational building blocks for the CPM and, by extension, resource levelling. However, many project management software cannot fully integrate and share their CPM activities across different project management software and tools, particularly your resource management tool.
Making sure that your resource management data and CPM activities can translate across all your different tools and software is critical to maintaining full visibility and control over your project.
Real-time smart dashboards
A real-time dashboard allows managers to easily view the progress and potential delays occurring within their projects in a single glance and can display specific metrics that relate to project-specific KPIs such as costs, schedule, resources and more. With a single glance, project managers can identify tasks that need to be prioritised and can easily allocate the appropriate resources towards them.
Securing historic records of your plans
One of the important ways project teams get better at applying resource levelling techniques is by learning where they went wrong and what they can do better. Having a historic record of your plans and the ensuing changes along the way helps teams get a better understanding of their successes and potential shortfalls that can be considered in future project planning activities.
Starting using resource levelling with pmo365 today
Looking to straight away jump into using some of these handy resource levelling techniques? Well lucky for you, pmo365 is perfectly equipped to help you get started! Not only does it come with project management features geared specifically for CPM, resource levelling and resource management, but it also offers a whole lot more so you can take your project management activities to the next level.
If you want to have a look at how we help you make the most out of your resource levelling activities, have a look at our tool in action and book a free trial with our PPM experts today!