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Lesson 3 - Allocate Resources and Set Timelines

This entry is part 4 of 8 in the series Step-by-Step Project Planning with MS-Project

Previous Article in this Series
Lesson 2 - Plan Tasks

Once the tasks have been thoroughly planned, the next step is to assign resources to each task. Do keep in mind that the client is also a resource and tasks that need the client’s involvement must also be listed in the plan and assigned to her.

Once the resources are allocated, durations and timelines have to be set for each task.

  1. Assign resources by typing (or selecting from a drop-down list) in the “Resource Names” column as shown in Figure 6 in the previous lesson (figure reproduced below). Alternatively, any cell in a row can be double-clicked to open another window where all the details of the task and resources can be filled.
  2. Task Planning

    Figure 6: Task Planning
  3. Setup resource calendars. By default, all resources will have the project calendar as the base calendar. But if the resources work on different schedules, the resource calendars can be set by clicking on “Change Working Time” under “Tools” menu. The resource name is shown in the “For Calendar” drop-down list. On selecting a resource, another drop-down list appears below this as shown in Figure 10.
  4. Setting up Resource Calendar

    Figure 10: Setting up Resource Calendar
  5. Also update each resource’s calendar depending on leave applied or weekend work done, etc. For example, in the above example, the project manager’s calendar has been updated to show the leave she applied for on the 28th of March, 2008. We will see why it is important and how this impacts project plan and cost below.
  6. Set a duration for each of the tasks in the “Duration” column. Depending on the settings for “Schedule” tab under “Tools” -> “Options” menu, the duration units can be in hours, days, etc. The default units are “days” for duration and “hours” for work. Unless you really have to, you can leave all the default settings as is.
  7. By default, the resources are assumed to work 100% of the time on the assigned tasks for the duration of the task. There may be instances when this is not true. In such cases, calculate the effort that will really be spent by the resource(s) on the task during that duration, and input that in the resources column. This can be done either by typing the effort percentage in square brackets next to the resource name or by double-clicking the row to open a window for inputting detailed task information as shown in Figure 11.
  8. Updating Planned Effort by Resources

    Figure 11: Updating Planned Effort by Resources

    Example: The calculation of the effort stated above is fairly straightforward. Let us take the example of the task “Functional spec review” in the above figure. The duration of the task spans 2 days. The task starts on March 28, 2008 and finishes on March 31, 2008. Note that March 29 and 30 are weekend days and are not considered in the calculation.

    Let us say that the client reviews the functional spec internally on March 28 and then with the project manager on March 31. Also, on both the days, the client allocates 4.5 hours for the purpose. As our settings are for a 9 hour work day (of course, the client can have a different calendar than the project manager, but we have assumed the same for this example), this amounts to 50% of the time.

    So, of the 18 work hours available in the 2 day duration, the client spends 9 hours, and the project manager 4.5 hours (only on the 31st of March). The project manager too spends 50% of the time in the 2 day duration as she applied for leave on the 28th of March, as shown in Figure 10 above.

    celeroo-smiley Note: When you update the effort as described above, MS Project will recalculate the duration assuming that the effort required for the task is the same as before. In the above example, the initial calculation took into account the fact that the client and project manager would be working the whole day for 2 days on this task. With that calculation, if the resources spend only 50% of the time, MS Project recalculates the duration to be twice, i.e., 4 days, in order to have the same effort. You must then re-enter the duration as 2 days in the duration column.
  9. Set start and finish dates for each task. Depending on the predecessors set for various tasks, MS Project will automatically move these dates. MS Project also checks the relationship between the duration, the start date and the finish date. If one of these is changed, MS Project automatically makes a change to the parameter (among these 3) that was set the last. Do check dates for each task and ensure that they are in tune with your expectations.

In spite of the best efforts, you may end up over-allocating your resources. Resource leveling, thus, is the next step.

Next Article in this Series
Lesson 4 - Level Resources


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