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5 Resource Leveling Techniques That Work

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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 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.

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.

addjoi screenshot for resource leveling techniques

This plant-based food service could benefit from the resource leveling technique in this example.

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 a lingerie store like this one 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.

Image of Lingerie Store

The critical chain technique could be useful for this lingerie store, as an example.

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.

 

Image of online language tutors

In this example, an online language tutor like this one could make use of this resource leveling technique.

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.

  • 14 day free trial
  • From $25/month for 5 users

monday.com - Best for customization and flexibility

Users can track booked hours, status on assigned tasks, team member capacity, and more.

monday.com is a flexible platform to help teams communicate in context, get a birds-eye view of outstanding projects, available resources, and projected timelines. monday.com’s simplistic design and straight-forward 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 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 has over 40 integrates with apps like Slack, Excel, Google Drive, Gmail, Google Calendar, Jira, GitHub, Trello, Dropbox, Typeform, and others, accessible via Zapier.

monday.com costs from $17/month for two users.

Pros

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

Cons

  • Requires manual resource forecasting (no automation)
  • More expensive compared to similar products
  • 10 days free trial
  • Custom pricing per user/month

Mavenlink - Best resource management software for scaling organizations

Mavenlink's resource management features include resource forecasting and utilization tools like the one pictured above.

Mavenlink 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. On top of this, it offers a system of dashboards, live time and expense tracking features, a great documenting system. And all of these best-in-class features are delivered through straightforward and minimalistic design.

Mavenlink 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.

Drilling down into its other features, the BI suite module supplies built-in reports, custom reporting, trend analysis, data visualization, as well as data integration with other systems. The software also provides more accounting tools than many others, with project costing, project and task budget management, real-time utilization and margin tracking, invoicing, rate cards, and robust integrations into back-end financial systems. It also has some good contextual collaboration features to communicate in both provide and public discussions around tasks, projects, and many other project objects.

I could go on and on about Mavenlink’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 their offering, making available their Mavenlink BI Consultants who can build reports specifically for your business. As well, they provide some great training resources that can help mitigate the risks and costs of implementation.

Mavenlink takes a unique approach to integrations. As part of their “API-first strategy”, they’ve built a solution that doesn’t require a third party in order to integrate with any apps. They provide an integration platform (called M-Bridge) that’s designed to simplify integration between Mavenlink and other business apps like CRM, HCM, and financial software. On top of the M-Bridge platform, Mavelink provides several pre-built integrations with these tools: Expensify, G Suite, Xero, Salesforce, Netsuite, Jira, Hubspot, Slack, Concur, Dynamics 365, Qualtrics, Quickbooks, and Sage Intacct.

Mavenlink costs from $19/user/month and offers a 10-day free trial.

Pros

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

Cons

  • Custom Reports Can Be Difficult to create without training
  • Proofing solution is an add-on
  • Advanced features are available only in the Premier and Enterprise editions of the application
  • 14 days free trial
  • From $25/user/month

10,000ft by Smartsheet - Best for matching resources to specific project requirements

Effectively find and schedule the best project team, resolve staffing conflicts in real time, and forecast hiring needs.

10,000ft, 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.

The tool’s unique project and resource matching feature allow users to match team members to projects requirements according to different criteria like disciplines, skills, availability, and more. 10,000ft 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.

10,000ft easily integrates with a variety of internal workflows and software suites. Additionally, it provides a flexible API and Zapier integration that can connect with top operational tools for analytics, communications, project management, enterprise resource planning (ERP), and finance.

10,000ft’s basic plan starts at $25/user/month.

Pros

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

Cons

  • Initial resource set-up is time consuming
  • Needs better data visualization
  • Bulk project edits don’t apply to resource field
  • 30 days free trial
  • From $6/user/month

Float - Best resource management software for project scheduling

The schedule view in Float is your single source of truth, to plan and manage your resources with confidence.

Float is for teams who want a robust and powerful resource management software that’s also unfussy and easy to use. Over 3,000 of the world’s top teams use Float, including Deloitte, Ogilvy, BuzzFeed, and MetaLab. Its simple, visual design and potent feature set make it the perfect choice for teams big and small.

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.

Updating your schedule is simple, with a right-click menu full of editing shortcuts, a click-and-drag feature that lets you reassign and update tasks, and a lightning-fast interface that can handle an enterprise volume of people and projects.

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 has a range of dedicated integrations that play well with your existing apps. Sync and schedule your Jira, Asana, Teamwork, or Trello projects and import your Google or Outlook Calendar events directly onto your schedule in Float. Stay on top of schedule changes via Slack, email, or mobile push notifications.

Float is free to try for 30 days, and you get unlimited access to both resource planning and time tracking features. After that, it’s $6 per scheduled user, per month, or $10 with time tracking. Float also has volume and yearly subscription discounts available.

Pros

  • Easy-to-use resource editing tools
  • Set custom work hours
  • Can monitor budgets and forecast capacity
  • Easily add contract workers
  • Time tracking feature

Cons

  • Updating staff/personnel list takes time
  • 60 days free trial
  • From $7/user/month

Hub Planner - best resource management software with built-in enterprise resource management features

View capacity and availablility for each team member in one view.

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.

Pros

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

Cons

  • Need to click into modal for more details on events/projects bookings
  • Editing Custom Fields requires manual input or help from Hub Planner support
  • Need an API or intermediary for MS Teams
  • 30 day free trial
  • From $2.50/user/month

Resource Guru - Best resource calendar view

Resource Guru offers a team calendar with powerful filters for finding resources and assessing capacity.

Resource Guru offers some solid features including: visual calendar style interface, custom views, fields and filters, availability indicator, drag and drop resources, scale view, see utilization, reporting, overtime tracking, data import and phone support.

Resource Guru makes sense of the gong show that is resource conflict resolution: resource management and team collaboration is 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 costs from $2.50/user/month (they offer a 30-day free trial).

Pros

  • Availability bar for capacity planning
  • Clash management for unintended overlap
  • Attractive and flexible UI
  • Daily resource summary emails

Cons

  • Very affordable per-user rate
  • Unable to sort resources by experience level
  • No copy-paste of resource tasks
  • 14 day free trial
  • From $29/seat/month

Forecast.app - Best marketing resource management software

Schedule team members and resources, view real-time utilization and capacity, and create resource reports.

Forecast is a full project and resource management solution used by professional service companies all around the world to improve KPIs and scale with real-time insights at hand. Powered with artificial intelligence (AI), Forecast aids with scheduling and finds the right people to work on projects and tasks. The AI learns from the work being performed and helps optimize all parts of people, planning, and projects.

For resource management and scheduling, you can allocate people to projects or specific tasks. On task allocation projects, Auto-Schedule weeds out the need to manually assign resources to tasks. The whole resource allocation process, together with task estimations, can be fully automated. You can manage allocations directly in the heatmap feature, which is a quick visual way to see everyone’s capacity and utilization. You can use the searchable database to find the person with the right role and/or skills that are most likely to be available for any task that’s not assigned yet.

The reporting features in Forecast are great. Timesheets and tracking are built right into the product (and there’s iOS and Android apps for tracking on the go). Forecast uses actual and planned data to present customizable reports with key metrics such as real-time utilization, compare actual vs. scheduled utilization, track project progress, profitability, budgets, and get other insights on a portfolio or project level.

Integrations are above average—there’s turnkey integrations with several mainstream tools in their extensive app catalog, as well as two-way sync with Jira.

Forecast is currently used in 40+ countries worldwide, by agencies, consulting companies, and enterprises – has Lite, Pro, and Enterprise options that cost from $29/user/month (14-day free trial).

Pros

  • Quick top level view of available resources by user
  • Easily compare budget and expenses
  • Connects to your existing toolstack
  • Colorful, intuitive resource charts

Cons

  • Higher learning curve
  • Time consuming logging structure
  • Lacks approve button after filling timesheet
  • freemium version
  • 14 days free trial
  • From $10/user/month

Runn - Best resource management tool for capacity forecasting

The Project Planner view lets you see all projects at a glance and get real-time forecasts of capacity, workload, billings, and more.

Runn is a resource, demand, and capacity planning tool with integrated time tracking and powerful forecasting capabilities. The tool’s Planner interface provides you with a bird’s-eye view of all the projects and people in your organization, allowing you to quickly spot overbookings and manage resourcing and scheduling conflicts.

Runn lets you plan out work and phases using drag-and-drop functionality. The app also allows you to collaborate with your co-workers in real-time, making it especially useful for remote teams. Runn offers a number of charts and reports that update as you plan out your work— they provide an overview of capacity and workload, allow you to check resource availability on any given day, or drill into utilization rates to analyse how work is split between billable and non-billable work. All of this data can be filtered by role, team, or tags, (which you can use to identify people’s skills or location) and accessed from the Planner interface.

Runn generates easy to understand financial forecasts and surfaces relevant KPIs across the app, so you can keep tabs on your company, client, and project profitability; project performance; cost overruns; and actual vs planned variance. Runn supports both fixed-price and time and materials pricing methods, as well as custom and blended rate cards.

The app has built-in timesheets so you can better understand how time was spent compared to what was planned. Runn integrates with Harvest, WorkflowMax, and Clockify, so users can import project, client, and people data and sync time entries. Runn also offers a REST API that allows you to build out your own integration and send data to and from your favorite tools.

Runn is free to try for 14 days, no credit card required. Runn has three pricing plans: Free for Startup users (5 or fewer people), $10 per person for Pro users, and custom pricing for Enterprise users.

Pros

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

Cons

  • No offline or mobile time tracking
  • Limited number of integrations
  • 30 days free trial
  • From $8/user/month

Silverbucket - Best for capacity and utilization tracking

At a glance, users can see an overview of the resource situation for the entire organization, specific teams, and team members.

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 at 8 € (~$9.65 USD) per user per month.

Pros

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

Cons

  • No mobile application available
  • No ability to create “what if” resource planning scenarios
  • 30 days free trial
  • From $25/5 users/month

Celoxis - Best reporting and analytics features

A sample workload chart with customizable charts and graphs.

Celoxis is a web-based software for managing projects, resources, issues, risks, timesheets, workflows, and collaboration. Project dashboards and reporting options are customizable so you can see resources, tasks, and project details in a layout or format that works for your team.

Other features and capabilities of Celoxis include accurate resource loads, resource utilization management, resource capacity, and efficiency. These features are helpful for planning and decision making around resource allocation. The real-time and customizable reporting options are also helpful for decision making.

Celoxis is available as a cloud service or can be installed on-premise.

Celoxis costs $25/5 users/month.

Pros

  • In-app timer for task tracking
  • Customizable widgets for groups or individuals
  • Percentage of project tasks-per-user feature
  • Easy, interactive Gantt charts

Cons

  • Some difficulty with report building
  • Complex menu structure
  • Resource planning is not automated

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.

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

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Burkhard Berger

About Burkhard Berger

Burkhard Berger is the founder of awesomex™. You can follow him on his journey from 0 to 100,000 monthly visitors on www.awesomex.com. His articles include some of the best growth hacking strategies and digital scaling tactics that he has learned from his own successes and failures.

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