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Every project is made up of different parts. Whether it’s people, tools, machines, or equipment, every part is essential to the success of the project.

Even more essential is project management whereby the goals and objectives of that project are accomplished through management and control of the different resources in order to achieve customer expectations and ultimately make money for your business.

With any project that is undertaken, there are various constraints, such as:

  • Quality
  • Time
  • Cost
  • Scope

These elements influence projects in a way that may result in the need for more (or fewer) resources working to get the task done based on the project’s constraints.

A project manager has to use resources in an optimal way so they can achieve all project objectives without exceeding the value of any of the constraints that have already been defined.

And this brings us to resource leveling.

In this article

What Is Resource Leveling and Why Is It Important?

Resource leveling is a technique whereby the start and finish dates of a project are adjusted according to constraints on resources in order to balance resource demand with the available supply.

This goes for any type of project, whether it’s at a project level or sub-project level, or even a more complex environment at a program level.

This means you can use the resource leveling tactics outlined below whether you’re building an office complex or hosting a webinar training program. The size of your project isn’t a factor, but you do need to be able to have a clear project schedule that you can follow and tweak quickly and accurately, whenever necessary.

Keep in mind that projects aren’t foolproof, and there are many instances where projects have failed because of a variety of reasons.

For instance, some projects fail because of issues such as:

  • Escalations of costs
  • Delays incurred during the project
  • The quality not being met
  • The scope of the project changing significantly

Any of these reasons are enough to stop a project in its tracks, regardless of which phase it’s in (project planning, execution, etc.) But, with resource leveling, all of these issues can be avoided.

Below are 5 techniques for the proper management of resources.

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1. The Critical Path Technique

Also called the critical path method, or CPM, this technique is used for calculating the project’s minimum duration.

It’s a way to estimate the start dates (both early start and late start) and finish dates for the project’s activities without consideration of the resource limitations.

Keep in mind that these dates aren’t necessarily the project’s actual schedule, but rather a period during which the project’s activities could have a start date and end date – all within the scheduled time period.

The amount of time between the early and late start is called the “float.” This is the length of time a particular project activity can start after its early date without impacting its late finish date. CPM, in essence, has zero floats.

The “total float” is the flexibility of any project schedule which allows for delays or extensions in the early start without having an effect on the finish date of the project.

For instance, say you want to build a website, and you have a specific launch date in mind. This resource-leveling technique will allow you to adjust the early and late start dates by altering activity durations, lead times, lagtimes, and forward and backward linkages.

There may also be other constraints to consider, such as public holidays, planned closedowns, and so on. It’s also important to note that the critical path technique must be used in a short duration timescale. It doesn’t help to look at it in weeks or months, but rather you need to view it in days and possibly even hours.

Critical path management is a resource-leveling technique that most projects can benefit from. For instance, a plant-based food service like this one could use this technique to ensure that their resource requirements are met for the manufacture of their main products.

2. The Critical Chain Technique

This resource-leveling method adds duration buffers to the entire project by including dummy activity that helps to balance out the overall path.

It’s inevitable that at some point during a project’s lifecycle, tasks and resources will become mismatched, which will then create conflicts. This can be at the start of a project, or during project execution when either the scope, resources, or work plan are changed.

Using the critical chain technique will help you reduce uncertainty and prevent problems that can stall the projects, such as when a team member decides to leave or becomes unavailable.

For example, if an online retailer had a massive project that required photographers and models to work for two weeks leading up to the launch of their new website, and the lead model suddenly fell ill, this type of resource leveling technique might come into play to help ensure that the brand still managed to get the project completed before the launch.

3. The Pure Resources Leveling Technique

The pure resources leveling technique is among the simplest resource optimization techniques that can be used to balance the resource availability to ensure alignment with the demand for resources from the very beginning of a project.

This technique helps to prevent you from allocating too much or too few resources. It is often used when resources are in demand, such as when they’re only available at particular times or when resources are double booked.

With this resource-leveling technique, you will be able to avoid over-allocation of resources and keep the usage of project resources at a constant level.

An example of this concept in action is a company that offers a digital marketing course, as well as other products from the different elements that make up digital marketing, including an eCommerce email product.

With a variety of products to create, a pure resource-leveling technique like this one would be invaluable in helping to ensure that each project gets allocated the right amount of resources to ensure success.

4. Resource Smoothing Technique

Although resource leveling and resource smoothing are similar, resource leveling has specified limits to the project resource usage.

For instance, if a particular resource is needed for 35 hours for the first two weeks, and 16 hours for the next three weeks, resource smoothing can be used to “smooth” the process for 24 hours per week for the project’s 5-week duration.

This technique is of particular use when there are limited resources.

If there are concerns or complaints from the project sponsor or stakeholder about the cost of the resources involved, or if they require changes to be made, then this technique can be used to move activities around (within their free float and total float) in order to eradicate resource contention and optimize the process for best results.

A good example of how this technique can be used is this website that offers language tutors to students around the world.

If there’s an issue with the number of students in relation to the tutors available, a simple resource smoothing process would help remove the problem so that the number of hours the tutors are at work matches the number of hours booked by the students.

5. Fast Tracking and Crashing Technique

As previously mentioned, things don’t always go as planned, and sometimes projects must be rescheduled by shortening the project duration within its existing scope. Two procedures can be used in such emergencies, fast-tracking, and crashing.

Fast-tracking is where the activities that are supposed to run consecutively are rescheduled to run parallel. Although this strategy is used often, it may not always work, and it may not even be possible to rework the schedule, in some cases.

For example, if a detox center has 3 groups of clients booked for a weekend detox seminar, they may be able to conduct all the activities in one weekend by running them parallel in order to save time, as opposed to booking them one after the other.

Crashing is where extra work efforts are added in order to meet the minimum time as calculated in the critical path method.

So for instance, if the project sponsor complains about the completion date and changes are required, you can use this type of resource leveling technique to help you meet the new deadline by including weekends/overtime and/or additional resources, or outsource some of the project activities in an effort to get the work done on schedule.

A great example of this resource-leveling technique in use would be an online video maker who takes on a massive project from a client who deals in memory foam mattresses. The team is on track until the client insists the project be finished earlier than expected.

The video creator would have to hire freelancers or get the team to work weekends in order to get the project done on time.

Pro Tip:

It’s also important to keep an eye on approved changes as these may affect your project plan. You have to consider the effects any change will have on your project’s expenses, time, and other resource constraints before it’s approved.

Luckily, there are tons of different ways you can use to resolve conflicts, including manually and automatically through the use of resource management methodologies and scheduling software tools such as the ones outlined below.

Helpful Tools for Resource Leveling

Although resource leveling may seem like an overwhelming task to a beginner, there are actually tons of tools and software designed to help make this process as easy and efficient as possible.

Listed below are a few of the best resource management software and tools to help boost your performance and productivity.

  1. 1. Kantata — Best all-in-one resource planning for services teams and agencies
  2. 2. Parallax — Best for PS companies looking to aggregate functionality through integrations
  3. 3. — Best for simple workload and capacity planning
  4. 4. Smartsheet — Best for advanced and custom workflow automations
  5. 5. Float — Best for digital agencies and production teams
  6. 6. Saviom — Best for enterprise resource and workforce management
  7. 7. Resource Guru — Best for fast and flexible scheduling
  8. 8. Hub Planner — Best for midsize and large companies
  9. 9. Mosaic — Best for its recommendations based on resource skills and availability
  10. 10. Meisterplan — Best for its role-based resource allocation prior to staffing


Resource leveling is a crucial concept advocated in PMBOK by the PMI. It’s a great way to prevent bad allocation of resources, reduce project costs, and ensure a realistic and flexible schedule. This is true whether you’re a PMP or an agency owner building an eCommerce store for a client.

Depending on your needs for your business, you can choose from the 5 resource leveling techniques outlined above, as well as the project management tools, productivity apps, and network diagrams to help you manage and control your project resources so you can accomplish your goals and objectives.

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Which of the resource leveling techniques outlined above do you find most appealing? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Related Read: Project Management Resource Leveling: A Resource-Optimized Scheduling Approach

By Ben Aston

I’m Ben Aston, a digital project manager and founder of I've been in the industry for more than 20 years working in the UK at London’s top digital agencies including Dare, Wunderman, Lowe and DDB. I’ve delivered everything from film to CMS', games to advertising and eCRM to eCommerce sites. I’ve been fortunate enough to work across a wide range of great clients; automotive brands including Land Rover, Volkswagen and Honda; Utility brands including BT, British Gas and Exxon, FMCG brands such as Unilever, and consumer electronics brands including Sony. Ben's a Certified Scrum Master, PRINCE2 Practitioner and productivity nut.

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