Chapter 7 – Scheduling Resources and Budgets

7.10. Estimating Resources

Primary resources are people, equipment,  and often, places, money, or anything else that you need in order to do all of the activities that you planned for. Every activity in your activity list needs to have resources assigned to it. Before you can assign resources to your project, you need to know their availability. Resource availability includes information about what resources you can use on your project, when they’re available to you, and the conditions of their availability.

Remember that some resources, like consultants or training rooms, have to be scheduled in advance, and they might only be available at certain times. You’ll need to know this before you can finish planning your project. If you are starting to plan in January, a June wedding is harder to plan than one in December, because the wedding halls are all booked up in advance. That is clearly a resource constraint. You’ll also need the activity list that you created earlier, and you’ll need to know how your organization typically handles resources. Once you’ve got a handle on these things, you’re set for resource estimation.

The goal of activity resource estimating is to assign resources to each activity in the activity list. There are five tools and techniques for estimating activity resources.

  • Expert judgment means bringing in experts who have done this sort of work before and getting their opinions on what resources are needed.
  • Alternative analysis means considering several different options for how you assign resources. This includes varying the number of resources as well as the kind of resources you use. Many times, there’s more than one way to accomplish an activity and alternative analysis helps decide among the possibilities.
  • Published estimating data is something that project managers in a lot of industries use to help them figure out how many resources they need. They rely on articles, books, journals, and periodicals that collect, analyze, and publish data from other people’s projects.
  • Project management software such as Microsoft Project will often have features designed to help project managers estimate resource needs and constraints and find the best combination of assignments for the project.
  • Bottom-up estimating means breaking down complex activities into pieces and working out the resource assignments for each piece. It is a process of estimating individual activity resource need or cost and then adding these up together to come up with a total estimate. Bottom-up estimating is a very accurate means of estimating, provided the estimates at the schedule activity level are accurate. However, it takes a considerable amount of time to perform bottom-up estimating because every activity must be assessed and estimated accurately to be included in the bottom-up calculation. The smaller and more detailed the activity, the greater the accuracy and cost of this technique.

Resource Management

Resource management is the efficient and effective deployment of an organization’s resources when they are needed. Such resources may include financial resources, inventory, human skills, production resources, or information technology (IT). In the realm of project management, processes, techniques, and philosophies for the best approach for allocating resources have been developed.

These include discussions on functional versus cross-functional resource allocation as well as processes espoused by organizations like the Project Management Institute (PMI) through the methodology of project management outlined in their publication A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK). Resource management is a key element to activity resource estimating and project human resource management. As is the case with the larger discipline of project management, there are resource management software tools available that automate and assist the process of resource allocation to projects.

HR in Focus Human Resources Assistance with Scheduling

The most important resource to a project is its people—the project team. Human Resources Departments help projects as they require specific expertise at specific moments in the schedule, depending on the milestones being delivered or the given phase of the project. An organization can host several strategic projects concurrently over the course of a budget year, which means that its employees can be working on more than one project at a time.

Alternatively, an employee may be seconded away from his or her role within an organization to become part of a project team because of a particular expertise. Moreover, projects often require talent and resources that can only be acquired via contract work and third-party vendors. Procuring and coordinating these human resources, in tandem with managing the time aspect of the project, is critical to overall success and an important role for Human Resources Specialists.

In order to successfully meet the needs of a project, it is important to have a high-performing project team made up of individuals who are both technically skilled and motivated to contribute to the project’s outcome. One of the many responsibilities of Human Resources is to provide support to the project manager and to enhance the ability of each project team member to contribute to the project, while also fostering individual growth and accomplishment. At the same time, each individual must be encouraged to share ideas and work with others toward a common goal.  Goal planning, brainstorming techniques, and project planning are all skills that can be taught by Human Resources Specialists through workshops.

Human Resources Specialists can provide training or skill development in performance evaluation for the Project Manager. Through performance evaluation, the manager will get the information needed to ensure that the team has adequate knowledge, to establish a positive team environment and a healthy communication climate, to work properly, and to ensure accountability.

As well, the Human Resources department can provide training in performance appraisal systems and performance motivators and controls.  The HR Specialist could also be involved directly in the performance appraisals with the Project Manager.  They provide a different perspective based on behaviour and characteristics of team members, while the Project Manager’s perspective is based on the performance and outcomes of the project. Managing the project team includes an appraisal of employee performance and project performance. The performance reports provide the basis for managerial decisions on how to manage the project team.

Employee performance includes the employee’s work results, such as:

  • Quality and quantity of outputs
  • Work behaviour (such as punctuality)
  • Job-related attributes (such as cooperation and initiative)

After conducting employee performance reviews, project managers and HR Specialists  should:

  • Provide feedback to employees about how well they have performed on established goals
  • Provide feedback to employees about areas in which they are weak or could do better
  • Take corrective action to address problems with employees performing at or below minimum expectations
  • Reward superior performers to encourage their continued excellence

Techniques for Managing Resources

One resource management technique is resource levelling. It aims at smoothing the stock of resources on hand, reducing both excess inventories and shortages. The required data are the demands for various resources, forecast by time period into the future as far as is reasonable; the resources’ configurations required in those demands; and the supply of the resources, again forecast by time period into the future as far as is reasonable. The goal is to achieve 100% utilization. However, that is very unlikely when weighted by important metrics and subject to constraints; for example, meeting a minimum quality level but otherwise minimizing cost.

Resource Levelling

Resource levelling is used to examine the unbalanced use of resources (usually people or equipment) over time and for resolving over-allocations or conflicts.

When performing project planning activities, the manager will attempt to schedule certain tasks simultaneously. When more resources such as machines or people are needed than are available, or perhaps a specific person is needed in two tasks, the tasks will have to be rescheduled sequentially to manage the constraint. Resource levelling during project planning is the process of resolving these conflicts. It can also be used to balance the workload of primary resources over the course of the project, usually at the expense of one of the traditional triple constraints (time, cost, scope).

When using specially designed project software, levelling typically means resolving conflicts or over-allocations in the project plan by allowing the software to calculate delays and update tasks automatically. Project management software levelling requires delaying tasks until resources are available. In more complex environments, resources could be allocated across multiple concurrent projects, thus requiring the process of resource levelling to be performed at company level.

In either definition, levelling could result in a later project finish date if the tasks affected are in the critical path.