International Project Management Day




Resource Leveling using Microsoft Project


Quick Summary
Guidelines for the complex and critical task of leveling the resources working on a project. Includes an overview of the general approaches, and detailed instructions for using the leveling features of MS Project.


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What this is

This guideline discusses Resource Leveling in general, and how to use the Microsoft Project scheduling tool to level the resources working on a project. The term "leveling" refers to smoothing out the assignment of individual resources or groups of resources over time and ensure that peak workloads do not exceed available resources capacity within any given period. Resource leveling is typically done with the aid of a scheduling tool such as MS Project. However, some leveling actions can be taken without a tool, or after the scheduling software has done as much as it can automatically; tips on those actions are included in this guideline as well.


Why it's useful

The ability to get the project done in the desired timeframe is obviously tied to the true availability of the resources to work for the expected amount of time on each assigned task at the scheduled times. First pass scheduling work very often produces impossible schedules. For example, as initially planned the schedule may have one person on several parallel tasks and require that resource to be working 400 percent of their available time in certain periods. Resource leveling is a complex and iterative process to find and remove such overloads.

Several things motivated the creation of this guideline:

  • Resource leveling is a subject that many new project managers (or untitled PMs on smaller projects) may have little familiarity with.
  • The larger the project and the more tasks and people involved, the more complex the leveling task is likely to get and the more important it is to enlist the help of tools.
  • The resource leveling features of software such as Microsoft Project are often considered more advanced features, and fewer people in any given company are likely to have experience with them. Plus, there are a few common pitfalls to leveling using a scheduling tool that are worth mentioning, to save the project manager time and angst.
  • Sometimes leveling can't resolve the resource issues in the schedule anyway; it's important to know how to ascertain that before a lot of time is spent leveling!

This guideline therefore overviews the general approaches available for those who are not familiar with leveling, and illustrates in detail how to use the features of MS Project to accomplish leveling.


How to use it

  1. The starting point of resource leveling is a first-pass base schedule derived from a complete work breakdown of tasks. Duration estimates, resource assignments, and task dependencies have been incorporated into the schedule.
  2. Using tools such as the resource histogram view in your scheduling software, identify the areas of resource overload.
  3. Apply the steps in this guideline to remove the overloads.
This guideline includes:
  • Section 1: Leveling the Resources in a Project Schedule - General Approaches
  • Section 2: Specific steps for leveling using Microsoft Project's resource leveling tools. (If you use a different software tool, refer to your scheduling software's documentation for the particulars on how it implements resource leveling.)

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