Project Management

How Resource Leveling in Project Management Can Support Productivity and Keep Your Team Motivated

Estimated reading time: 16 minute(s)

How Resource Leveling in Project Management Can Support Productivity and Keep Your Team Motivated

How Resource Leveling in Project Management Can Support Productivity and Keep Your Team Motivated

One of the many challenges of project management is to keep the workload evenly distributed among the team, all while adhering to designated milestones and deadlines. However, there is a method to ensure that you’re meeting these goals: resource leveling.

Resource leveling ensures that no one on the team is feeling overwhelmed, that all the organization’s resources are being used equally, and the deliverables are still being produced on time at the expected level of quality. It’s about balance, but harmonizing the process and the complexities of the various schedules involved take a significant amount of organization, flexibility, and communication.

Resource leveling is a practice that ensures the organization’s resources align with the overall goals and objectives the company has set out to achieve. It takes a skilled Project Manager to navigate through all the moving parts, while simultaneously having a crystal clear understanding of the project’s needs and deadlines. In this article, we’ll give a definition of resource leveling and explore the many ways in which this technique can benefit your organization, how it can be used in real-time, methods in which you can start to implement resource leveling for your own project management, and examples to sharpen your understanding of how resource leveling operates in the workplace.

Let’s first start with the definition of resource leveling.

What is Resource Leveling

What is Resource Leveling?

Resource leveling is defined as a project management process used to allocate the appropriate resources equally without over (or under) scheduling available resources to ensure the project finishes on time. This technique takes into account the team’s bandwidth, schedules, and availability to create a timeline that is realistic and achievable for any given project.

Project Managers should be diligent in their approach to resource leveling, as this process could stretch to multiple simultaneous projects using the same resources. If orchestrated correctly, timelines can be flexible enough to allow for the team’s full participation without inciting overwhelm or confusion. This means that a Project Manager can extend a due date in order to comply with the number of resources the organization has at the time or tighten the schedule to reach its anticipated goal early or on time.

It’s important to understand the types of resources available when using resource leveling in project management, and questions you or a Project Manager should be asking in order to get a better idea of the resources currently available:

  1. Talent

    • Who needs to be involved?
    • How many people should be assigned to this project?
    • What level of skill is needed to deliver a successful outcome?
    • What roles need to be included to cover all aspects of the project from beginning to end?
  2. Availability

    • Are the required team members available during specific time frames?
    • What does their current workload look like?
    • How many projects are they available to do?
    • Do the relevant team members have the capacity to add another project?
    • Are any of the relevant team members going on a planned vacation or break that needs to be taken into account?
    • Who can act as backup or support if unexpected circumstances were to arise?
  3. Processes

    • Based on the project, what processes do we have in place to ensure smooth progression throughout the life cycle of the project?
    • Has the feedback from team members about previous processes been incorporated into the current one for optimization?
    • On average, how long does our process take to accomplish our goal?
    • What are the turnaround times for each project milestone?
    • Are they realistic turnaround times given the nature of the project and its various demands?
    • Is it clear to everyone on the team what the process is for communication?
    • How frequent should meetings be in order for the team to
    • provide any updates, identify problems, and offer room for discussion? Are meetings necessary to the project’s success?
    • Do we have processes in place that help our team fill in their availability so that our project manager can easily identify availability?
  4. Software

    • What systems do we have in place that streamline our processes and bring everything together?
    • What are we missing?
    • Does this software allow us to communicate with one another when there are issues? Delayed turnaround times? Updates?
    • Do these systems help or hinder our processes?
    • Does our software provide the resources our team needs to be able to do their jobs effectively?

    Budget

  5. Budget

    • What is the budget for this project?
    • With the resources available, can we complete the project within this assigned budget?
    • Are we out of scope? If so, what can we do to return to make sure that we return to a reasonable place within the budget?
    • Do we have flexibility? If so, what are those areas where we can reallocate resources financially?
  6. Materials

    • Does the team have the physical (or virtual) space and technology needed to operate efficiently?
    • What materials (if any) are absolutely necessary for project completion?
    • If we are waiting on materials, how long is the average turnaround time?
    • Did we leave ourselves enough time to account for any disruption in material delivery?
    • If during the process, we are waiting on materials for a second or third time, how will that affect the timeline?
    • Do we have room to adjust if needed?

This is quite a long list of essential considerations—and it’s easy to feel completely overwhelmed by how much goes into planning for a project! After all, there are a number of moving parts that inevitably need to come together. This is why having an organized Project Manager on your team is paramount to achieving the organization’s goals. Not only that, the team needs to know how important communication is for the project. In order to implement true resource leveling that makes an impact, all of these resources must be clearly understood so that effective decision-making can be made consistently.

When Do You Use Resource Leveling

When Do You Use Resource Leveling?

So now that we understand the definition of resource leveling and the various types of resources that go into a project(s), let’s discuss when you would use resource leveling in project management.

  1. In the beginning stages of project planning – Resource leveling can occur at the start of a project when a project manager is just beginning to put together a timeline. At this point, they would review the budget, identify the staff needing to be involved in the process, and other resources to get the project up and moving. Using this method, in the beginning, is a smart way of setting up expectations for the whole team, clarifying processes, and staying proactive about the project’s (and team’s) needs.
  2. During the process – This is the most commonly used stage where resource leveling is implemented. As we all know, projects never really go as planned. Many unexpected situations eventually turn up that have a ripple effect on all those involved in the process, which can either accelerate or slow down progression. However, this is where a project manager can skillfully use resource leveling to problem-solve most roadblocks. This would include scenarios such as delays (whether internal or external), under (or over) allocation of resources, changes in availability, or sudden time constraints. A project manager can review all the resources dedicated to that project and make adjustments from there.
  3. When there are tight time constraints – There could be instances where a customer/client wants to expedite the delivery of the project. While there should definitely be guardrails in place to protect the staff’s time, as well as processes in place to gently remind the customer of expectations during the project’s life cycle, this is another opportunity where a project manager can utilize resource leveling to their advantage and get the project done. When you need to compress a schedule, there are two methods to use in order to meet an accelerated deadline.

    • Fast-tracking – Instead of pending tasks being done in sequential order, this technique in project management involves performing activities in parallel and usually does not affect the budget. This includes carefully rearranging the activities in the project timeline by removing dependencies. A project manager should review the resources currently allocated to the project and decide if this method is the best way to deliver the results in a faster way. One of the primary downsides of fast-tracking is the potential for errors and rework, so it could cost more time in the end. It’s important to weigh the pros and cons against the needs of the clients and the capacity of the team.
    • Crashing – When fast-tracking doesn’t appear to be a feasible option given the restrictions on the organization’s resources, Crashing is another technique to consider using when you need to compress your schedule. Crashing adds more resources to the project, while still trying to keep the cost low. While it’s a suitable option, the project manager (or leadership) needs to determine if the increased cost of adding additional resources is truly a benefit and if it will, in fact, save time and expedite the timing of delivery.

    Fast-tracking and Crashing are two schedule-compression techniques that can get the job done faster but are entirely situational and would need to be evaluated by the project manager after an assessment of the team’s workload.

    Timeline of a project

  4. When you need to stretch out the timeline of a project – Once in a while, you’ll have a client who is flexible on the delivery date, which means that the project manager can still construct a reasonable timeline, but can be more flexible with the staff involved in the production of the project. This doesn’t mean, however, that there should be less staff involved in the process because it could risk under-allocating the project. This could result in the assigned staff members becoming overwhelmed or putting in long hours to get the job done, hampering productivity and motivation. To amend this situation, resource leveling can be used to extend the timeline so that the staff has more time to do their part without adding in an extra layer of stress. The exact opposite is true if you have overallocated your resources. If there are too many hands, this could be an opportunity to tighten the schedule.
  5. When a project starts to fall behind – Resource leveling can also be used when a project starts to fall unexpectedly behind. Depending on the resources you have dedicated to the project, you or a project manager will need to evaluate what may be impeding progress and decide what support is needed. If a project is behind because there is too few staff involved, then adding in more resources—or Crashing—could potentially be a good fix. But if the project is assigned the appropriate number of staff, then there could be additional issues at hand that need to be addressed within the team.

    Another way to keep a project moving if it falls behind is to use a method called Critical Path. The Critical Path methodology basically identifies all the “critical” tasks that need to be prioritized and completed for the project to be considered finished. This also involves a structured and sequential workflow that the team must work on based on the importance of each step, creating the critical path! Anything extraneous activities shouldn’t be included in this path—only the most necessary ones.

    So how is the Critical Path methodology used in resource leveling?

    If your team has a deadline they must adhere to, but the progress of the project hasn’t been moving at the expected rate, the Critical Path can identify what needs to be done and in the essential order. You can then allocate more resources to the project so that the team can complete their tasks on time and meet the anticipated deadline. This methodology allows for quicker delivery and can help untangle the complexities of larger projects, focusing solely on the workflow that will get the job done.

Knowing when to use resource leveling can help create effective processes, giving the team the clarity and motivation they need to continue moving forward in the process without increasing costs, losing quality, or overextending the key team members involved.

Benefits of Resource Leveling In Project Management

Benefits of Resource Leveling In Project Management

Resource leveling in project management can reap many workplace benefits if used appropriately:

  • Foster a healthy work environment – Resource leveling can create a positive work environment, one that appreciates the employee’s time and efforts. At the same time, this process can also create true transparency in the life cycle of a project, creating a sense of trust between all the relevant team members. When done correctly, resource leveling could send the message that the organization deeply values the employee’s contributions. It can increase the efficiency of collaboration among peers and improve communication in teams. At the heart of this network is the project manager, who leads by example. Their level of soft skills such as organization, timeliness, and ability to communicate clearly and effectively is the lynchpin when coordinating all the important pieces of a project and bringing it all together to consistently meet the company’s milestones.
  • Optimizes resources – Resource leveling helps optimize the resources you currently have. Each team member’s workload is given careful consideration before decisions are made about the project, ensuring that everyone can perform at their best and that workloads are even. You can get the most of your resources by providing a way to evaluate the project’s needs, identify the areas that are more flexible than others, and adhere to structured timelines.
  • Stays proactive – Resource leveling also gives you an opportunity to stay proactive throughout the life cycle of the project(s). By planning ahead, you can anticipate potential project delays that could be costly to the budget and company resources, such as labor. When issues arise, it’s better to have backup plans already installed in order to have an easier time navigating the different challenges that come up in project management. Resource leveling ensures that productivity remains strong and progress moves steadily forward.
  • Prevents overwhelm – Since the primary goal of resource leveling is to ensure that resources are not stretched too thin and that you have the appropriate number of staff assigned to a project, this technique can help prevent stress and overwhelm your staff may be feeling when it’s crunch time. This typically involves a certain level of communication between the project manager and team members regarding schedules and capacity to take on further projects, but once this line of communication has been developed, the project manager can then make wise decisions when it comes to the timeline and who should be assigned to specific tasks. Preventing overwhelm in the workplace is essential to building a workplace culture you can be proud of. You want people to feel motivated to come to work, be inspired by the company’s mission, and contribute their talents and expertise towards the assigned projects. Reducing the levels of stress can effectively reduce symptoms of burnout. Staff who are perpetually in a state of stress and anxiety at work tend to have this reflected in their work output. Also, the staff will not likely be open to flexibility or increasing communication channels. When a project manager exercises resource leveling, workloads are increasingly more equal among the team.Protects quality of outcomes
  • Protects quality of outcomes – Another primary goal of resource leveling in project management is to produce the same high-level quality in services/products that the company provides its clients. When used strategically, resource leveling can tighten up schedules, maximize the talents dedicated to the project, and deliver a product in a timely fashion (or before the deadline!). If the project has too few resources, the project manager can make the decision to add more helping hands to ensure the team meets their deadlines and alleviate some pressure. Resource leveling acts as a way of providing much-needed support.
  • Team members avoid working on projects they don’t have the training for – Resource leveling in project management is all about identifying the appropriate resources for the project. To avoid under (or over) allocating your resources, staff needs to be designated to the projects that need their skills and expertise. This means that the right people should be in the right seats in order to get the project completed. Resource leveling can help you avoid the scenario in which additional time is spent bringing untrained team members up to speed or teaching them new practices they may not be familiar with. You’ll have the talent needed to ensure that progress continues swiftly.
  • Reduces production delays – Resource leveling in project management can decrease the frequency of production delays due to any shifts in resource availability. Because resource leveling involves a strategic level of scheduling and allocation, you can make the best decisions needed to ensure you and your team are meeting expected deadlines. Of course, circumstances within your internal team (or your clients) can make scheduling somewhat of a challenge given life’s unpredictability. But implementing resource leveling can help you see what needs to move around and stretches the flexibility with the resources you do have.
  • Identifies downtime – Another important benefit of resource leveling is the identification of downtime. Having downtime in the workplace is not always a bad thing to have occasionally! These phases can allow your team well-deserved time to recharge so they feel ready to tackle bigger challenges in the future and avoid feelings of burnout. However, resource leveling can identify if downtime is happening based on an internal review of resources and utilize them in other areas to continue boosting productivity.

Now that we understand the numerous benefits of resource leveling in project management and how it can benefit your team, let’s get into how to use it effectively.

How To Implement Resource Leveling

How To Implement Resource Leveling in Project Management

Technically speaking, there isn’t one “right” away to go about implementing resource leveling in your organization. Mostly, it depends on the types of projects you have and the tools you have at your disposal.

There are many options in terms of tightening up schedules or extending them in a way that fits the company’s needs and keeping track of resources.

  1. Bring aboard an efficient project manager – The key to success is having a project manager that understands how to manage and coordinate several moving parts of a project. They are the central point of contact—the person who has to assess the situation and make decisions based on team capacity and resources. Without this position in place, you risk having too many hands in the pot and increasing miscommunication and confusion amongst the team members. It’s important to have one individual at the core of this matrix in order to keep processes straight and moving forward with positive and focused momentum. Project managers are integral to constructing a timeline that best works for the entire team.
  2. Assess project needs – It’s important to identify the demands of the project including the appropriate number of staff and key roles that need to be involved, any budgetary restrictions, tools required to give the project its best chance for success, and time needed to get it done while still ensuring high-quality. All of these factors need to be evaluated in order to create the best approximation of the ideal timeline possible, with milestones and deadlines planted strategically to ensure expected delivery. Once you have a solid idea of what components are needed to kick off production, you’ll have a realistic preview of what a project’s life cycle will look like. This can also help you or the project manager prepare for any unexpected resource needs that pop up during the process.
  3. Identify the gaps – Another area to assess is the potential gaps that your project may be facing. For example, a project may require four essential roles to be involved, however, due to schedule conflicts, you’re only able to schedule 2 or 3. This could put you at risk of under-allocating a project; however, now that you’ve identified this resource gap, you’ll be able to brainstorm ideas to get around this scenario. Maybe you bring in another team member with similar experience or consider hiring a contractor for this one project. Keeping an eye out for potential gaps is an important step in making sure that no one on the team feels overwhelmed by the lack of resources available.
  4. Prioritize each step of the project – Prioritizing tasks in a project is the next step in implementing resource leveling into your project management. This is especially true if you are managing multiple projects at once with resources crossing over into each other. For example, you could be in a position where one of your leads is involved in two projects with similar deadlines. In order to avoid overburdening your lead and possibly stretching your resources too thin, it’s good practice to prioritize which project takes precedence in this situation and make a decision based on this information. If project A involves a high-profile client, while Project B has a more flexible turnaround time based on communication, then you can stretch Project B’s due date out further to allow for Project A to be done on time, while still giving your lead some breathing room to complete Project B and not sacrifice quality.
  5. Monitor all allocation – When you’re using resource leveling in project management, it’s essential to keep track of what resources you are reallocating. Losing track of this can cause serious complications when managing multiple projects at once. For example, let’s say you have a gap in one of your projects involving writers. Your main writer needs to be reallocated to a different project in order to provide heavier support as there have been some challenges. It’s the project manager’s job to review the timeline, update the schedule so that the writer’s reallocated work is taken into consideration, and then review how they will be woven back into their original project, while still maintaining a reasonable turnaround time. It’s also important to communicate when certain resources are reallocated so the entire team can be kept up to speed on the latest changes in progress. Understanding what resources were reallocated can help you to monitor your internal processes and identify particular patterns arising.

The goal is to keep your team from feeling overburdened and construct achievable timelines. Whether it’s compressing a schedule due to client demands or having an abundance of resources to accelerate progression or extending the timeline to accommodate for limited resources and availability, resource leveling can be a key strategy in your project management.

Resource Leveling Versus Resource Smoothing

Resource Leveling Versus Resource Smoothing

Resource leveling and resource smoothing are closely related, both creating effective ways to efficiently utilize resources and meet deadlines. While they are similar, they do have fundamental differences between them. First, let’s take a look at the basic features of resource leveling:

Resource leveling

  • Project start and end dates are flexible and can be adjusted
  • The Critical Path can be changed based on need
  • The primary constraint is resource availability
  • Used when there is an under or over-allocation of resources
  • Dependencies in the project life cycle can be changed/delayed/accelerated if necessary

Now, let’s take a look at the primary characteristics of Resource Smoothing:

Resource Smoothing

  • The project end date is not flexible and cannot be changed
  • Steps along the Critical Path do not change
  • The primary constraint is time
  • Used typically with an uneven allocation of resources
  • Utilized after resource leveling is complete

Put simply, resource leveling prioritizes your resources first. Then, you can use resource smoothing to see how your project timeline will change given the time constraints. Using these two practices in combination will help you create a project timeline that’s fair and encompasses both resources and the timing of delivery.

In Conclusion

Resource leveling in project management can serve you in two fundamental ways. You can resolve any issues from over or under allocating your resources during the process and make sure that you’re not stretching your staff too thin. Essentially, you’re using your resources wisely, carefully monitoring over-allocation.

This is important in cultivating a transparent and motivated workplace, where your staff feels valued. This can boost productivity and reliably keep moving productivity along. While there are numerous ways to weave resource leveling into your current project management practices, it depends on what works best for your current team, the projects you have going on, and the availability of your resources. Once you have identified these essential factors, you can make informed decisions about the right methodologies to deploy so that your team achieves success together.

More helpful content...

How to train virtual assistant

Outsourcing

The Ultimate Guide On How To Train A Virtual Assistant Successfully

The Ultimate Guide On How To Train A Virtual Assistant SuccessfullyWith the rise of the internet and increased competition in the corporate and entrepreneurial space, hiring and training a virtual assistant has become increasingly popular and accessible. This development has led to virtual assistant coaching and training becoming a valuable asset to any company. Growing …

Estimated reading time: 8 minute(s)

Creating a positive work environment

Culture

Create A Positive Work Environment in 7 Powerful Steps

Create A Positive Work Environment in 7 Powerful StepsWorkplace culture is changing. Employees are searching for more than just a steady income — they’re looking for an organization that encourages their professional growth, prioritizes a positive workplace environment, and values the employee experience. When your team is happy and motivated, you’ll feel a meaningful shift …

Estimated reading time: 7 minute(s)

How to keep track of delegated tasks

Project Management

How to Keep Track of Delegated Tasks and Manage Them the Easy Way

How to Keep Track of Delegated Tasks and Manage Them the Easy WayDelegation is important for businesses to get right. It will play an important role in the business’s day-to-day operation and is key to growth. In fact, good delegation can lead to an uptick in revenue, and who doesn’t want that. Not all delegation …

Estimated reading time: 9 minute(s)

image

Teamly is everywhere you need it to be. Desktop download or web browser or IOS/Android app. Take your pick.

Sign up for your free Teamly account today.

No credit card required. Free forever
  • imageChat with your team in real-time
  • imageCreate tasks and workflows with ease
  • imageScreen cam video recording, audio messages and more
  • imageTrack and monitor employee time worked
Teamly puts everything in one place, so you can start and finish projects quickly and efficiently.
Replaces Slack, Monday, Hubstaff, Snagit and more

images

Manage your entire team, remotely, today!

Get Your 100% Free Account

Teamly Is Almost Finished!

* Coming 2022 *

For early-bird access, and special founding user benefits, enter your email address below and you'll get access before the general public.