When your business is simultaneously managing multiple complex projects, it’s easy to think of the approximately eight million ways that everything could go wrong. But what about the ways in which everything could go right? Resource leveling helps you identify the best avenues to manage your resources effectively so that you finish up your project with happy clients, happy stakeholders, and happy workers.
Let’s dive in.
What is Resource Leveling?
Project managers have to figure out how to make a project work when there are a limited amount of resources. Usually, when we talk about limited resources in the context of project management, we are referring to skilled workers and employees. However, there are other limited resources as well, including, for example:
- manufacturing materials
- facilities like laboratories
- machines and technology
Resource leveling is one of many project management techniques that you can use to complete projects as well as you possibly can while considering time, resource, and budget constraints.
Resource Leveling vs. Resource Allocation
Resource allocation is simply distributing a project’s required tasks among the people you have available on your team. Resource allocation doesn’t always consider constraints like working hours or time limits.
When approaching a project, you may first use resource allocation to set up who will complete which tasks. But then, you can use resource leveling to ensure the people working on those tasks have realistic timeline expectations.
For example, after allocating your resources, you might realize that there is someone to work on each task, but one person would theoretically have to work a 14-hour day to complete the first task on deadline. That’s when you could approach the situation with resource leveling. For example, you can split up that first task into two days so that your team member can work on the task for seven hours the first day, then another seven hours the second day.
Resource Leveling vs. Resource Smoothing
Now, say that you’ve figured out who will work on each task with resource allocation, and you mapped out how long it will take for each team member to complete each task. In an ideal world, you would be done. But over here in the real world, you have one more step left.
People get sick, take time off, take longer than expected on certain tasks, or even just have other projects that pop up unexpectedly. To account for this, you can use resource smoothing to fill in buffer time around each task. Resource smoothing also includes noticing where time might be available so that you can split up other jobs. Say that someone had a seven-hour task planned on Tuesday and nothing planned on Wednesday. You could potentially split up the seven-hour Tuesday task to four hours on Tuesday and three hours on Wednesday. Then, the extra time can go toward other projects.
Dividing things up in this way avoids issues like project waste, missed deadlines, and dreaded scope creep.
Of course, how you move these tasks around will depend heavily on things like:
- how much flexibility you have with the deadline
- how expensive each resource is
- task dependencies (e.g. your video editor can’t edit a video if the cameraman hasn’t sent the raw footage yet)
When complications arise, smart project management software like Sciforma helps you set everything up in a way that makes sense for everyone.
Resource Leveling Example: How to Manage Resources Across Multiple Projects
How you level resources will usually just be one step in setting up a full project. Here is an example that puts the importance of resource leveling in project management in context.
- Camilo will work on Task A.
- Mary and Jae will work on Task B.
- Camilo will work on Task A over two days in seven-hour shifts each day.
- Once he’s done, Mary will work on starting Task B on the third day. Then Jae will finish Task B on the fourth day.
- The project manager communicates to the stakeholders that the project will be done four days from now.
- Camilo will start Task A on day one. He will complete what Mary needs in order to start on Task B already on day one. They will both work for four hours each, leaving the remaining work time for other projects if necessary.
- By day two, Jae has what she needs start with her part of Task B. They each split up the hours that their tasks require over the next four days. The project manager adds the fifth day as a buffer.
- The project manager communicates to the client that the project will take five days. If something goes wrong and delays the project, then the team can still feasibly complete the project in five days. If everything goes right, and the project is completed in four days, then the client is pleased because it appears as though the task was completed early.
Let’s say that the people from the above example work for a pharmaceutical company called Phiodel. Around the same time, Phiodel is working on two major projects.
On one hand, they are working on a drug that can treat a common chronic condition (Project X). While there still isn’t a specific deadline, this project is a priority because of demand for this treatment. On the other hand, a different Phiodel drug just received FDA approval, and Phiodel wants to quickly begin manufacturing (Project Y). Project Y is urgent because the stakeholders have given Phiodel specific deadlines to start getting the newly approved drug on shelves around the world.
While Project Y is urgent, Phiodel’s project manager also doesn’t want to neglect Project X or delay it at all. Therefore, the project manager uses resource leveling and resource smoothing to split up the tasks between multiple resources and days to finish the project. And in the process, no one person gets overworked.
Advantages of Resource Leveling in Project Management
There are many clear benefits of resource leveling. We’ve listed some of our favorites below.
A Balanced Workload
Perhaps the most important benefit of resource leveling is ensuring that everyone on the team has a fair, even workload.
One Pew Research survey found that 39% of respondents who had quit their jobs cited “working too many hours” as one of the reasons they left. Interestingly, another 30% of respondents said one of their reasons for quitting was working too few hours. The results of this survey show a discrepancy in how to best use resources.
Simply splitting up tasks between different people doesn’t consider how much or how little each team member can work. With Sciforma time management, you can see the schedules of every member of a given team to ensure that their working hours are divided as effectively as possible.
Besides, overworking might seem like a good idea in the short term, but research shows that it backfires in the long term. Both in terms of health for the employees and income for the business.
Prevents Conflicts Between Projects
Most big companies, like “Phiodel” in the above example, have the same people working on various projects at a given time. Resource leveling lets you map out who, when, and how each team member is going to contribute to those projects.
By planning everything from the beginning, you can avoid scheduling conflicts or issues between your team and other departments or managers.
Set Deadlines that Work for Everyone
Resource leveling and resource smoothing ensure that your deadlines are realistic, even if issues come up (as they tend to do). It is always best to set a deadline for stakeholders and clients that is realistic, then potentially complete the project sooner than expected, than it is to set an unrealistic deadline and apologize while you blow past it.
By the way, Sciforma’s collaborative work management features allow you to communicate directly with clients and stakeholders so that they always know what to expect and they can see the work happening on their project in real-time.
Use Previous Projects as Reference
Once you set up a system with effective resource leveling, you can reuse that schedule and method in the future. Sciforma makes it simple to save and reimplement past workflows and critical paths.
Re-Calibrating if Anything Goes Awry
If you plan in buffer times and organize all tasks optimally, you can avoid a stress-induced breakdown when delays arise. Instead, you can usually reallocate your resources simply by moving around the schedules.
Save on Costs
We know that your team and the resources they use are very expensive. Businesses can’t afford to waste time by failing to use their resources when they are available. Resource leveling helps you notice (and promptly fix) gaps or bottlenecks where your work process can improve.
Not every project must be pursued. By creating a workflow and comparing different projects against one another, you can choose which opportunities to pursue and which ones don’t make financial sense for your business.
Of course, Sciforma offers risk management so that you can get a bird’s-eye view of where and when things could go wrong and avoid those issues from the get-go.
Let Sciforma Help You Out
Sound like a lot of work? It sure is. But Sciforma can help carry that weight.
With smart scheduling, collaboration opportunities, risk analysis, and resource management and leveling tools, Sciforma can make life a whole lot easier.
Are you looking to learn more about project management? Our blog might just have the answers you’re looking for. And if you have a few big projects with many moving parts, Sciforma can help make sense of things. You can book a demo here to learn more.