Managing Resources with Project Management Software

A project is a unique endeavor that must be accomplished within a limited period of time. The unique endeavor is referred to as the scope of work. The limited period of time is defined in the context of a schedule. The activities within the schedule help realize the scope of work.

Even if the scope of work is contracted to a third party the activities within the schedule have to be realized with human resources. Assigning resources to perform the activities in the schedule is referred to as Resource Loading. To correctly assign resources to the activities in a schedule there are a number of items that should be taken into account. If these items are addressed they will avoid problems down the road. That’s where project management software comes in.

Resource Management with Project Management Software

To begin with it is important to differentiate between Level of Effort and Duration. In the project management software you will typically see columns that indicate a Start Date and an End Date. The interval of time between the two dates represents the Duration of the activity in the schedule. There will also be a column for Resources. Within that column the project manager of the schedule assigns the individuals who will work on the associated activity. In that same column there is an opportunity to define, for each assigned resource, the percentage of time that will be spent on that activity within the interval of time between the start and end dates. That specific percentage is the Level of Effort.

A quick example of the above is as follows. The time period between the start date and the end date for the activity of writing a status report is 5 days. The project manager has been assigned this activity in the resource column. Further, next to the project manager’s name it indicates, for that activity, 20%. In other words only 20% of the manager’s time, during the 5 days will be used to actually write the report. Effectively the activity duration remains 5 days or 40 hours and the Level of Effort 1 day or 8 hours.

Effort and Duration Monitoring with Project Management Software

With this differentiation between Level of Effort and Duration we avoid the problem of potentially having the Project Manager tied up for an entire week when, in reality, only 8 hours of time are needed. A week might be needed for other team members to provide inputs or for reviews but the actual number of hours needed to work on this specific activity is 8. This avoids potential schedule conflicts with the project manager. Since we really only need 8, not 40 hours or work, we avoid an unneeded over expenditure. In short we have avoided over allocation, over spending and resource conflicts.

It’s also a good idea to bear in mind, before loading resources to the schedule, when individual vacations and corporate holidays are planned. This will avoid scheduling one or more resource that, potentially, will not be working at all within the duration between the start and end dates.

Project management software allows you to optimize the allocation of the human resources working on the project. Importantly this optimization translates into cost savings while avoiding timing conflicts between the resources. If the activities are sufficiently broken down, so that they do not exceed 15 to 20 days in duration, the accuracy of the Level of Effort will improve as well.