Resource Loading to the Project

From the first day on the job, the PM is concerned with resource loading. Resource load­ing refers to the amounts of specific resources that are scheduled for use on specific activ­ities or projects at specific times. It usually takes the form of a list or table. Figure 6-7 is an MSP-generated project plan and Gantt chart of a project aimed at producing a short documentary film. Task names, WBS numbers, durations, finish dates, and the resource requirements for each step in the process are shown. (Precedences are not listed, but they are illustrated on the Gantt chart.)

After the project plan was developed, the PM confirmed the availability of each required resource, and obtained schedules for each. MSP allows the PM to create an individual availability calendar for each resource on the project. From these calendars, resource schedules are automatically generated, and Table 6-2 shows the schedules for several of the required resources. (Any resource not shown in Table 6-2 works a 5-day week, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm with an hour off for lunch, usually 12 pm-1 pm, without excep­tions during the period of the project.) Among other things, the PM noted the following:

  • The scriptwriter is available to work 6 days per week, and 9 hours per day.
  • The editing room has limited availability, 9:30 am to 3:00 pm each day.
  • The client, whose input is required for several activities, will be on vacation between April 13 and April 20.

When the calendars for each resource were entered into MSP’s database for the pro­ject, the project schedule was recalculated. The revised plan is shown in Figure 6-8. Note that the project completion date has been extended from May 31 to June 11. The client’s vacation and the availability of the editing room are major contributors to the extension.

From the project plan, the new schedule, and the list of resources required, a resource­loading table was derived by MSP; see Table 6-3. As we noted earlier, a project’s resource loading is a list of the amounts of various specific resources that are scheduled for use on specific activities at specific times during the life of the project. A brief study of the data in Table 6-3 reveals that in the first week of the project [Wednesday through Saturday (March 1-4)] the scriptwriter is overallocated. During the first 6 days of the project this person is scheduled to work 94 hours. That seems a bit much, not allowing time for eat­ing, sleeping, and all of life’s other activities. The scriptwriter’s first full week is overal­located by 40 hours. The producer’s first week is also overallocated at 40 hours. Something must be done, and it will be discussed in the next section.

An examination of this table reveals an interesting anomaly in MSP and most other project management software. Unless specified otherwise, MSP assumes that any resource assigned to an activity will work on that activity 100 percent of the time available on the resource calendar. For example, Figure 6-7, WBS 3.2, “Propose shoots” lists the client as a resource (in addition to the producer and scriptwriter). The activity is scheduled to take 5 days. The PM is aware that in all likelihood the client will only be needed to attend one or two meetings (an hour or two each) to approve or amend the shoots pro­posed by the producer and scriptwriter. Nonetheless, the resource-loading table (Table 6-3) indicates that the client will spend 40 hours (5 days at 8 hours/day) on the activity.

Were this a large project with a large number and variety of resources, it might be necessary to correct this “error.” MSP and other software packages have several ways to do this. The PM could allocate a specific percentage of a resource’s time for work on the project, or could restrict the availability of the resource on the calendar, for example. In this case, however, because the client has no cost per hour, and because everyone involved in the project, including the client, understands the nature of the client’s work, the mat­ter can be ignored.

Quite apart from problems in scheduling the activities, there are other resource­loading issues that may face the PM. For instance, there are cost and management issues that must be considered. It is easy to overutilize resources, particularly human resources; note the hours required of the scriptwriter and producer during the first days of the pro­ject. For hourly workers, overtime work is usually quite expensive. In the case of the scriptwriter, overtime hours are not sufficient, and another writer may be needed for the first 1 or 2 weeks. On the other hand, it is common to find middle managers consistently working 45-60 hours per week—if they have a desire for upward mobility. In the software industry or in architecture, to pick two typical examples, individuals often work 60-80 hours per week or more in order to complete specific projects on time. Because we usually overload our best people, they are the ones most apt to quit and go elsewhere—and they rarely tell us why in their exit interviews. For most senior executives, the workloads are often very heavy—consistently 65-70 or more hours per week. These are the people who are overstressed at the very times they must make momentous decisions.

Such resource-loading documents as Table 6-3 are among management’s most fre­quent requests of the PM, precisely so they can monitor such situations. As we will see in the section on resource leveling, managers sometimes make incorrect assumptions about the capacity of work groups, and the PM must take on an educational role.

The Charismatic VP

The Vice-President and Manager of a division of a large chemical company became aware that a number of projects he had assigned to his subordinates were not being completed on time. Some were finished late, and others were simply unfinished. The VP was tireless, spend­ing 60-80 hours per week at work. He was very well liked, and his people tried hard to please him. If he asked a subordinate if a task could be handled, invariably the answer was “Yes.”

The VP began to suspect that he was overcommitting his subordinates. He suggested this to his people, but most of them insisted that they could handle the work. Not entirely convinced, the VP installed a project-oriented management system and initiated resource-loading reports for all personnel doing project work. The reports showed clearly that the division had an urgent need for additional staff engineers.

As is typical of such cases, the individuals most overworked were the most experi­enced and most skilled people. Those engineers with spare time were the least skilled and, for the most part, recent hires. The untrained remained untrained. The Vice­President, however, altered work assignments and ordered that additional engineers be hired. Overscheduling was limited to 125 percent (50 hours per week), and at that level for a limited time only. A policy of partnering new engineers with experienced cohorts was instituted. Within 6 months, division projects were progressing reasonably on time.

Resource loading is usually displayed as a list of the amounts of specific resources assigned for use on specific project activities at specific times, or as a graph showing the level of a resource’s capacity required against the project calendar. To be useful for scheduling, the resource must have a calendar showing the resource’s availability. The calendar should include hours—and days—worked each week, any holidays on which the resource will not be available, and any other information affecting the availability of the resource. Resource cost per unit of usage should be included on the calendar, plus any additional cost for overtime or overuse. Overscheduling a resource may cause serious problems for the PM.

Source: Meredith Jack R., Mantel Jr. Samuel J., Shafer Scott M., Sutton Margaret M. (2017), Project Management in Practice, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 3th Edition.

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