Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Deciding if a Project Needs Resource Leveling

Another tool used for schedule development is resource leveling heuristics. The mathematical analysis process often results in the creation of a project schedule that requires more resources than are available at a given time. This is where resource leveling heuristics come into effect.

Resource leveling heuristics is a prioritization process that allocates scarce resources to critical path activities first. In other words, it is a technique that resolves resource conflicts by delaying tasks within their slack allowances.

Projects seldom have an abundance of resources. In many situations, a project will require a critical resource that must be available at certain project points. To ensure availability, the critical resource will need to be scheduled in reverse from the project ending date, this is known as reverse resource allocation scheduling.

To use the reverse resource allocation scheduling method, you must be able to complete the activity with the limited number of resources that are available. For example, the resource requirements for a renovations project indicates that three electrical engineers are needed. However, the project manager discovers that the work, which was scheduled to be done by three people, must now be done by two. The result is that the activity may take three weeks with two engineers instead of two weeks with three engineers as originally planned.

Another method of resource leveling is the resource-based method. This involves looking at the workload for each resource in a given work period and assigning a more realistic workload.

Resource leveling is the activity in which project teams encounter problems when developing their project schedules. If a company has multiple projects running simultaneously that require the same resources, problems can arise. Problems may occur when not enough attention is paid to resource allocations and their conflicts.

When conducting resource leveling heuristics, there are a number of details that must be taken into consideration. Asking the following questions will help you to determine where leveling is required or possible.

Does the activity have slack time?
If activities have little or no slack time, they are usually critical path activities. They are provided with the necessary resource requirements, when possible. If for example, activity A has zero float, activity B has a three-day float and activity C has a two-day float. Activity A is allocated resources first.

Is this activity high priority?
If resources are limited, higher-priority activities are allocated resources before lower-priority activities. Activities that are higher priority are normally on the critical path. For example, if activity D is a critical path activity and activity B a non-critical activity, activity D is allocated resources before activity B.

Can this activity be split?
If resources for an activity are only available at particular times, splitting the activity may be required. For example, the resources for activity E are only available on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Therefore, the manager must split the activity into three non-consecutive days.

Is this a flagged activity?
If an activity is flagged, it means that a component of that activity has a significant detail attached. Flagged activities have a higher priority than others. For example, a computer design project may require a special part that is only available at a certain time. The activity requiring this part would be flagged.

Can the activity requirements be altered without affecting the overall project?
If an activity can be altered to reflect the availability of resources, then that activity is finished when the resources are available. For example, an activity requires two engineers 100 percent of the time: one is only available 75 percent of the time. The activity will be finished when the other resource is available.
DataWare Software Development (DSD) is currently working on a project to develop education software. The project manager has been informed of both a reverse resource allocation scheduling conflict and a resource-based conflict. He has already determined that each of these activities has slack time and neither is on the critical path.
The resource requirements call for two graphic artists. Unfortunately, only one is available. The project manager will have to perform resource leveling by lengthening the schedule so that the work to be done by two people can be done by one.

The schedule calls for the audio to be recorded for three different projects at the same time. When the project manager applies resource leveling heuristics, these three projects will take three days for audio instead of the one day originally scheduled.

Resource leveling requires a degree of common sense. If an adjustment does not seem realistic, don't make it as it may do more harm than good.

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