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Managing Schedules
5 Resource Leveling Techniques That Work

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 he or she 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.

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 and 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

monday.com

Best for simple workload and capacity planning

monday.com is a flexible work platform to help teams communicate in context and get a birds-eye view of outstanding projects, available resources, and projected timelines.

Why I picked monday.com: Its smart design and straightforward interface mean teams can get started planning timelines, assigning project ownership, and managing any project in minutes.

monday.com offers various views to represent data so that each team member can work according to his preferences. With workload view, you can easily see who’s able to take on more work and who’s not. Gain insight into your team’s work capacity and make adjustments to timelines or ownership accordingly—no matter where you are. The monday.com app gives you the flexibility and power to run your team on the go. You can organize your daily work, projects, and teams all in one place.

monday.com Standout Features & Integrations

Features include automations, file management, dashboards, shared documents for real-time collaboration, Gantt charts, and 5+ views so you can see your project information the way you want to.

Integrations include apps like Slack, Google Calendar, Jira, GitHub, Excel, Google Drive, Gmail, Trello, Dropbox, Typeform, and thousands more accessible via Zapier.

monday.com Plans & Pricing

Pricing starts at $10 /user/month and comes with a free 14-day trial. They offer a free plan for up to 2 users.

14-day free trial

From $10/user/month

Pros

  • New features being rolled out regularly
  • Easily create boards dedicated to operational resource tracking
  • Color coded status great for resource overviews

Cons

  • Comparatively complex pricing rubric
  • May be too robust for small teams
  • Gantt charts locked to mid-level plan
2

Parallax Resource Planning

Best for professional services companies looking to aggregate functionality through integrations

Parallax is a robust resource planning and forecasting solution that is designed to help increase utilization and is natively built for integrations. It is best suited for digital services firms and software development teams looking to take full advantage of modern predictive resourcing and active forecasting to discover measured growth, higher revenue rates, and stronger margins.

Why I picked Parallax: One of its strongest features is the predictive resource management software, which is purpose-built for project and resource managers, providing you with the tools you need to efficiently evaluate and optimize supply and demand. With better resource optimization, you should be able to keep teams happy and satisfied, your projects and resources on track, and everyone in the team and the organization perfectly aligned on common goals.

Additionally, Parallax’s resource planning software facilitates resource optimization for digital services companies. The tool gives you the ability to balance workloads, analyze utilization, and match the best available resources to the most suitable projects. This approach helps optimize team performance and improve overall productivity.

Parallax Standout Features & Integrations

Features include planned capacity, utilization, balanced workloads, skills tags with an advanced database search of employees, customizable billing models, real-time project P&L reporting, and project accounting.

Integrations include Hubspot, Slack, Tempo, Salesforce, Jira, Harvest, Microsoft Teams, Asana, and Oracle NetSuite. The integrations approach of the platform ensures you can aggregate the best features of each tool in your current tech stack under one roof.

Parallax Resource Planning has quote-based pricing that is available only upon request. There is no free trial available, although you can book a demo.

Pricing upon request

Pros

  • Responsive customer service support team
  • No additional cost for integrations
  • Excellent predictive reporting capabilities

Cons

  • Non-Agile teams may struggle with it
  • No tracking for billable vs. non-billable hours
3

Kantata (formerly Mavenlink + Kimble)

Best all-in-one resource planning, timesheets, and project financials for services teams and agencies

Kantata is a well-rounded tool that bridges the core planning, execution, project accounting, and analysis systems in a single operating environment. It has modules for project management, accounting, resource management, business intelligence, and team collaboration for services teams and agencies

Why I picked Kantata: It offers a system of dashboards, live time and expense tracking features, and a great documenting system. Kantata ticks off all the boxes when it comes to RM features. The resource management module offers real-time utilization and margins at the project and even the task level. Some key features include resource forecasting, capacity management, skills management, scenario planning, and role-based planning.

I could go on and on about Kantata's features because there really are too many to list—it’s a comprehensive RM suite, that, despite requiring time to truly master, has been recognized as being easy to use and learn. What’s more, the company leverages its professional services expertise as part of its offering, making available its Kantata BI Consultants. They can build reports specifically for your business and provide training to your resources to help mitigate the risks and costs of implementation.

Kantata Standout Features & Integrations

Features include built-in reports, custom reporting and trend analysis, resource management features like real-time utilization, resource forecasting and capacity management, and accounting tools like project costing, budget management, and invoicing.

Integrations include pre-built integrations with tools like Expensify, G Suite, Netsuite, Jira, Hubspot, Xero, Salesforce, Slack, Concur, Qualtrics, Dynamics 365, and Quickbooks. They also provide an integration platform called M-Bridge to help you build your own integrations.

Kantata Plans & Pricing

Kantata offers plans to meet your needs. Choose from resource management to complete PSA with advanced BI. To receive accurate pricing information, contact Kantata directly.

Demo available

Pricing upon request

Pros

  • Resourcing fully integrated with master planning
  • Good reporting functionality for resource data
  • Distinguish between soft and firm allocation
  • Easy capacity management

Cons

  • Advanced features are available only in the Premier and Enterprise editions of the application
  • Proofing solution is an add-on
  • Custom reports can be difficult to create without training
4

Float

Best for digital agencies and production teams

Float is a resource management, planning, and scheduling software that helps teams manage shared work schedules.

Why I picked Float: Scheduling in Float is easy and intuitive. Create new projects quickly, and assign them to your team within seconds. The schedule view gives you an accurate, high-level overview of your team’s availability and capacity, and you can drill down deeper using Float’s search and filter functionality. Set custom work hours, import and assign public holidays, schedule time off, assign custom tags like location and skills to your people and projects, and set a scheduled status to let everyone know when you’re working from home or remotely, or what you’re up to on a particular day.

Real-time reporting lets you track your resource utilization, monitor project budgets, and forecast your team’s capacity. Add time tracking to access pre-filled timesheets and compare your team’s scheduled hours with the actual time spent on tasks.

Float Standout Features and Integrations

Features include right-click menus for splitting tasks, an activity timeline to track changes, pre-filled timesheets based on your schedule, capacity management, multi-project planning, forecasting, and reports.

Integrations include Jira, Asana, Teamwork, Trello, Google calendar, Outlook Calendar, Slack, and thousands more through Zapier.

Float Plans and Pricing

There are two plans available and pricing starts at $7.50 /user/month.

30-day free trial

From $7.50/user/month

Pros

  • Mobile app for iOS and Android
  • 99.5% uptime
  • 24-hour support with 30 min response time

Cons

  • Time tracking requires you to get a higher plan
  • Updating staff/personnel list takes time
5

Smartsheet

Best for advanced and custom workflow automations

Resource Management by Smartsheet, a high-level project and resource management software, helps teams make confident decisions about project planning, team capacity, budget forecasting, team utilization, and hiring needs in real-time.

Why I picked Resource Management by Smartsheet: The tool's unique project and resource matching feature allows users to match team members to project requirements according to different criteria like disciplines, skills, availability, and more. Resource Management by Smartsheet also offers built-in timesheets, mobile time tracking, and expense tracking. Users can create project reports by filtering project data, get insight into historical data, and see forecasts on team utilization, actual vs. planned time reports, budget tracking, expense reports, and projects in the pipeline.

RM by Smartsheet Standout Features & Integrations

Features include project and resource matching, dynamic reporting, time tracking, a resource management panel, and a resource timeline for projects.

Integrations include apps like Slack, Brandfolder, Workplace, Microsoft Teams, and Facebook Ads. It additionally has a flexible API you can use to build custom integrations with the tools you use and automation through Zapier where you can connect to 1000+ apps.

RM by Smartsheet Plans & Pricing

Pricing starts at $9/user/month and offers a 14-day free trial. Resource management is a premium add-on that you need to purchase on top of your Smartsheet plan. Pricing is available upon request.

30-day free trial

From $9/user/month

Pros

  • Intuitive for keeping timesheets and assigning hours
  • Skills database helps resource allocation
  • Able to forecast resource utilization
  • Combines time tracking and resourcing

Cons

  • Bulk project edits don’t apply to resource field
  • Needs better data visualization
  • Initial resource set-up is time consuming
6

Runn

Best for managing and tracking resources in real-time

Runn is a real-time resource, demand, and capacity planning tool with integrated time tracking and powerful forecasting capabilities. You can get a bird’s-eye view of all projects and people to instantly spot overbookings and identify resourcing patterns.

Why I picked Runn: Scheduling allocations is easy and intuitive in Runn. Simply drag-and-drop to create project phases and allocations. Flick between monthly, quarterly, and 6-month views to plan for the short and long term. If you don’t have the right person at the right time, you can use placeholders instead.

Additionally, you can see visualizations of capacity, workload, availability, and billable and non-billable utilization. Drill into different roles, teams and tags to compare trends and understand which groups are overbooked. Plan out tentative projects to see how your resourcing plans might change if the work gets confirmed.

Finally, Runn lets you track projects, view forecasts, utilization, project variance, and overall financial performance. Its built-in timesheets will help you understand how much time was worked compared to what was planned.

Runn Standout Features & Integrations

Features include resource scheduling, project planning, capacity management, project forecasting, timesheets, and reporting.

Integrations include apps like Harvest, WorkflowMax, and Clockify for importing project, client, and people data and syncing time entries. With Runn’s API, you can build your own integration to send data across your favorite tools.

Runn Plans & Pricing

Pricing starts at $10/user/month and has a 14-day free trial. There is also a free plan for up to 5 people.

14-day free trial

From $10/person managed/month

Pros

  • Powerful API
  • Over-budget predictions
  • Easily identify overbooked/unavailable employees
  • Intuitive utilization reporting and forecasting
  • Drag-and-drop resource scheduling

Cons

  • Limited number of integrations
  • No offline or mobile time tracking
7

Hub Planner

Best for midsize and large companies

Hub Planner is a resource management software with a full suite of scheduling, time entry, and reporting features. The core feature is the simple and usable Scheduler, which allows for project and resource planning and visualization. Users can drag and drop to plan projects and schedule resources. The tool also offers a multi-function menu, powerful filtering, and a dynamic team capacity bar. Multiple view modes allow for both high-level birds-eye views and granular views of projects.

Hub Planner has a powerful reporting engine with 70+ pre-formatted templates. If you can't find what you're looking for in a template, you can create reports from scratch.

Hub Planner also has a number of inline workflows for timesheets, requesting vacation time, and a slick resource requesting & approval option. Their Unassigned Work feature is great for scheduling and forecasting ahead of the pipeline, and users can create custom fields at the resource or project level. Users can also customize schedule notifications and reminders.

They've taken a modular approach so you have the option to add or remove extensions to the base product, allowing teams to increase functionality or turn off bits they don't need. Inline integrations with Basecamp, Slack, iCal, REst API, and Zapier are available.

Hub Planner offers a pretty extensive 60 days free trial with everything included. There is an extensive knowledge base with tutorial videos, and their customer support is excellent.

Licenses begin at $7 per month, per resource with annual discounts available.

30-day free trial

From $7/resource/month (billed annually)

Pros

  • Easy toggle between user/group
  • Powerful & precise built-in reporting
  • Search filter for available resources with skill sets & location
  • Excellent capacity planning & forecasting

Cons

  • Need an API or intermediary for MS Teams
  • Editing Custom Fields requires manual input or help from Hub Planner support
  • Need to click into modal for more details on events/projects bookings
8

Silverbucket

Best for project-based work

Silverbucket is a resource planning tool for project-based businesses, and is designed for use by architects, engineers, and IT professionals. Silverbucket is easy to use and allows users to view and compare resource plans and actual hours to get insights into the success of resource management activities.

The tool provides clear views of a company’s resource allocation activities, including conflicts, workloads, and capacity levels. Project managers can allocate team members to tasks and projects, and make allocations to unassigned roles if needed.

Skills tracking features such as tracking competencies and abilities are also included, as are reporting tools such as performance dashboards, insights on past resourcing plans, and forecasting for future resource management plans.

Silverbucket gives different parties, such as project managers, team leaders, and company management, information about resourcing and how it affects the success of projects, as well as monitor sales forecasts, cash flow, and utilization rates.

Silverbucket offers a variety of APIs for integrations, which also allow automation of data flows.

Pricing starts from €10/planned person/month.

30 day free trial

€10/planned person/month

Pros

  • Soft booking can be used to create tentative allocations
  • Easily compare resource plans to actual hours

Cons

  • No ability to create “what if” resource planning scenarios
  • No mobile application available
9

Saviom

Best for enterprise resource and workforce management

Saviom is a leader in powerful and configurable resource management software.

Why I picked Saviom: Its ERM solution enables agile resource scheduling with a Gantt chart-style view using simple drag-and-drop functionality. Besides, the enterprise-wide visibility of the tool helps you identify and allocate the right resource to the right job. Additionally, using modeling and simulation techniques, the tool helps select an optimized resource plan and enhance ROI.

Using the forecasting and capacity planning module, businesses can forward plan pipeline projects and bridge the capacity vs. demand gap proactively. Moreover, you can optimize your workforce by maximizing the profitable utilization of every resource.

Firms can improve their organizational health index using real-time Business Intelligence. They can build customized portals, dashboards, analytics, and reports using the tool's highly configurable and expandable capability.

Saviom Standout Features & Integrations

Features include a multidimensional resource scheduler and planner, advanced forecasting and capacity planning, and real-time business intelligence.

Integrations include Outlook, Google, Salesforce, Jira, and custom integrations you can build using its data exchange framework.

Saviom Plans & Pricing

With a tiered pricing model as customizable as the tool, Saviom’s power and lite licenses operate under role-based access, ensuring you retain full control over data.

60-day free trial

Pricing upon request

Pros

  • Seamless integration with other enterprise applications
  • Highly flexible real-time reports, analytics & dashboards
  • Real-time resource optimization, modeling & simulation
  • Highly configurable & customizable RM solution
  • Multidimensional resource forecasting & capacity planning

Cons

  • Pricing is available only on request
  • More suitable for medium to large enterprises
  • There is a learning curve as the tool comes with extensive features
10

Resource Guru

Best low-cost option for beginners

Resource Guru is a dedicated resource management software that aims to make resource management user-friendly.

Why I picked Resource Guru: The software makes sense of the gong show that is resource conflict resolution. Resource management and team collaboration are built in to make resource booking more straightforward, with clash management, leave management, and a waiting list to prevent over-booking. It helps project managers make bookings simultaneously with no chance of stepping on each other’s toes. Clashes are automatically prevented.

Helpfully, each staff member gets their own resource dashboard so they can log in and know exactly what they should be working on. And to monitor business performance, powerful reports help identify which projects and clients are being over-serviced and help to monitor team utilization and help with future capacity planning.

Resource Guru Standout Features & Integrations

Features include resource scheduling, resource management, leave management, project scheduling, capacity planning, and forecasting reports.

Integrations include calendar apps like Outlook calendar, Calendly, and Google calendar. Thousands of additional apps are accessible through Zapier.

Resource Guru Plans & Pricing

Pricing starts at $3 /user/month.

30-day free trial

From $3/person/month

Pros

  • Daily resource summary emails
  • Attractive and flexible UI
  • Very affordable per-user rate
  • Availability bar for capacity planning

Cons

  • No copy-paste of resource tasks
  • Unable to sort resources by experience level

Conclusion

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.

Subscribe to The Digital Project Manager newsletter for more on resource management processes and techniques.

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 Burkhard Berger

Burkhard Berger is the founder of awesomex™. Follow him on his journey from 0 to 100,000 visitors per month on www.awesomex.com. He gives intensive insights into his growth hacking strategies, digital scaling tactics as well as his successes and failures.

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