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Resource's Bottleneck:

Resource constraints can have a serious impact on your project schedule. Optima
lly, POME recommends project schedules should be designed to maximize concurrent
tasks and minimize serial tasks. That is the goal. Of course, with goals come
challenges and limitations. In the case of project scheduling, the key challen
ge is to maintain schedule optmisation in the face of resource dependencies and
constraints.

Resource leveling is an approach to project scheduling whereby task start and en


d dates are determined by the availability of internal and external resources.
There are two sides to this process. The technical side of resource leveling is
the formulaic manipulation of the project schedule to avoid resource over alloc
ation. Over allocation occurs when one or more resources are assigned to more w
ork than they can complete in their available work hours. Resource leveling wil
l resolve over allocations by moving task start and end dates, or extending task
durations in order to suit resource availability.
Except for the simplest projects, resource leveling is far too complicated for m
anual processing, and is best aided by computer software. Leveling formulas mus
t be able to examine the entire schedule from multiple perspectives, considering
task relationships and dependencies, dynamically setting start and end dates ac
cording to identified resource levels.
But no software can handle the strategic elements of resource leveling.
A project manager needs to insure that resources required for and/or shared by n
umerous activities are adequate. Problems in this area can be indicated in part
by the existence of queues of resource demands during operations. A queue can be
a waiting line for service.
In general, there is a trade-off between waiting times and utilization of resour
ces. Utilization is the proportion of time a particular resource is in productiv
e use. Higher amounts of resource utilization will be beneficial as long as it d
oes not impose undue costs on the entire operation. For example, a welding inspe
ctor might have one hundred percent utilization, but workers throughout the jobs
ite might be wasting inordinate time waiting for inspections. Providing addition
al inspectors may be cost effective, even if they are not utilized at all times.
Strategic resource leveling begins before the first task is even 'put to paper'.
In the technical sense, resource leveling is a tool, working the numbers to p
hysically create a realistic, workable schedule. But, there has to be a strateg
ic basis for these scheduling decisions.
In all likelihood, the basis for resource leveling will be set during the projec
t initiation phase, when key project variables are defined, and project manageme
nt strategies are established. At this point, you will have to answer the follo
wing questions:
what type of resource required to complete th project
Will you have unlimited access to these required resources (in terms of numbers,
hours and skill sets)?
If your access is not unlimited, how will you manage the project schedule consid
ering these resource limitations and constraints?
Unless you are very, very lucky, project resources are rarely unlimited. In mos
t cases, project managers have to compete for resources, and eventually compromi
se on one or more project elements in response to resource constraints. The que
stion is how? And, as usual, you will be in a stronger position if you lay the
proper strategic foundation during the project initiation phase. Left unmanaged
, resource constraints can threaten project success. You have to plan appropria
tely to ensure that constraints are properly defined, communicated and mitigated
. Above all, you have to have stakeholder buy-in to any mitigating solutions.
This planning process can be summed up in four steps:
Create a realistic estimate of your project resource needs. Project resource n
eeds are defined by several factors. How many resources will you need to comple
te this project by the requested due date? How many work hours will be required
? What types of skills are required? How will these resources be acquired? Wh
at will they cost and can you afford them?
Identify your project resource gap (the variance between required resources vs.
available resources) according to resource numbers, skills and work hours.
Consider the possibilities for managing the resource gap. Depending upon indivi
dual circumstances, you can take one or more approaches to resource gap manageme
nt, including adding more resources, changing the project or elongating the sche
dule.
Negotiate for your best position. In order to negotiate, you must have a firm
grasp on internal project and organizational dynamics. How important is this pr
oject to your organization? How does your project rank in value compared to oth
er projects? What are your scheduling flexibilities and how will you convince s
takeholders that any resource related scheduling adjustments will not diminish o
verall project value?

Negotiation is the key element of this process. In most cases, resource levelin
g will extend the duration of your project. If you have to extend the project s
chedule, you must have the support of your project sponsors and customers. As y
ou approach your negotiations for resources, you need to communicate the consequ
ences of resource constraints. If the project completion date is fixed in stone
, you will need to negotiate for additional resources, or make your case to modi
fy the project in some way to enable completion with available resources.
Assuming resource leveling is required, you will also need to identify your sch
eduling flexibilities . This is the point at which the strategic and technical
elements of resource leveling come together. Resource leveling is a complex pr
ocess, even with the aid of software tools. Most software packages provide for
varied settings for resource leveling, to allow customized leveling parameters b
ased on individual project needs. Before you level resources, you need to have
a full understanding of how your software works, and how individualized settings
will influence leveling results. And you must select and apply those settings
in light of project goals, scheduling needs and related resource constraints.
You have to make it work.
Concluded Note:
In summary, in order to properly manage project resource gaps, you must get an e
arly start, long before project work begins. This will give you a tremendous a
dvantage, as you be able to fully consider, vet and communicate all viable alter
natives. And, when the time comes to prepare your schedule, and to make the tou
gh decisions, you will be armed with the information you need, ready to use the
tools you have.
GAUTAM KOPPALA,
pome author