- Assign resources
Resources (typically human) are assigned to tasks, deliverables and milestones that need to be executed. At the beginning of the project, when named resources are not known yet, roles are assigned that can later be replaced with names (i.e.: the role of Analyst is assigned to a task during project scheduling and is later replaced with John Doe when he is the analyst assigned to the task)
Helps in utilizing resources consistently throughout the project. Ensures resources are not over allocated. Helps the PM avoid delays caused by bad allocations. Helps the PM identify and take advantage of unused times by analyzing task dependencies. MSP can automatically level resources based on resource calendar, task types, dependencies, and constraints, however, I have yet to find a PM that has felt comfortable with the way MSP does it. I level resources manually via the Resource Usage view, but if you insist in using the automatic feature of MSP, save a copy first. If you find resource conflicts (over or under allocations) you could:
- Delay certain tasks.
- Assign a different resource.
- Change task dependencies.
- Remove tasks.
- Add tasks (instead of using the MSP’s split task functionality which is not supported by some project management systems (i.e.: Clarity).
Determine critical path
Helps the PM identify tasks that must be carefully monitored. The critical path is the longest duration path through a network diagram and it is the shortest path to complete the project. Knowing the project’s critical path should be the goal of the scheduling process. MSP calculates the critical path automatically and through the Gantt chart it shows what tasks are in it. One thing to keep in mind is that as tasks are completed ahead or behind schedule the critical path changes. Another is that there can be more than one critical path but this increases risk. If the critical path takes your project’s finish date way too far there are a couple of techniques that PMs can use to compress the schedule:
- Fast tracking – Perform critical path tasks in parallel that were originally planned sequentially. It usually increases risk and often results in rework.
- Crashing – Assign additional resources to critical path tasks while maintaining scope. Almost always results in increased costs.
As PMs, we forget a very important intangible: resource calendars affect project scheduling. Public holidays or time off in a resource’s calendar makes those days as non-workdays and therefore, MSP skips them altogether.
If you follow the basic steps explained in this article you should not have major problems with scheduling and resource leveling. Don’t you think so…? Well, I do.
Previously in this series Project Scheduling And Resource Leveling – Part 1
Jorge Dominguez, PMP®