Your project is humming along nicely. Tasks align like gears in a well-oiled machine, staff meet deadlines with finesse, and the team works perfectly in sync. Sounds too good to be true, right?
This perfect storm of productivity is precisely what resource leveling — an integral technique within the project management toolkit — aims to achieve. But what exactly does this term entail, and why should it be firmly planted on your radar? Let’s dive in.
What’s resource leveling?
Resource leveling in project management is the process of adjusting and optimizing the allocation of resources across different tasks. Its purpose is to balance the workload and avoid overloading or underutilizing key resources — such as people, equipment, or materials — throughout the project's duration.
The process aims to ensure that resources are assigned to tasks in a way that minimizes conflicts, delays, and bottlenecks for more efficient project execution.
Project managers take into account critical factors such as task dependencies, deadlines, and project constraints before making any adjustments. Imagine, for example, multiple tasks require the same specialized equipment or a specific skilled team member. Resource leveling adjusts the scheduling of these tasks to avoid conflicts and overburdening that equipment or team member. This might involve shifting start dates, adjusting task durations, or even reassigning work to keep the project moving forward sustainably.
By achieving a balanced distribution of resources, project managers can reduce the risk of burnout among team members, prevent unnecessary idle time, and optimize project timelines for better outputs.
Importance of resource leveling
One of the primary benefits of resource leveling is balancing the distribution of workloads. By ensuring you allocate resources evenly across tasks, you reduce the risk of exploiting or neglecting particular team members. This reduces burnout, improves team morale, and fosters a healthier work environment.
This project management tool also empowers you to schedule tasks to minimize resource conflicts and bottlenecks. And fewer delays means your project is far more likely to stay on track and hit deadlines.
Similarly, efficient resource allocation results in better cost control. By avoiding overtime, unnecessary stalls, and last-minute resource adjustments, you can keep the project within budget and maximize return on investment.
Resource leveling is best when:
- Resource constraints exist: When certain resources are limited or expensive, resource leveling ensures you use them efficiently.
- Task dependencies are complex: In projects with intricate task dependencies, resource leveling helps you optimize the sequencing of tasks.
- Project deadlines are inflexible: With strict project deadlines, resource leveling prevents resource conflicts that could derail progress.
4 resource leveling strategies
Resource leveling is actually an umbrella term that encompasses several powerful strategies. Let’s explore a few in more detail:
Critical path method (CPM)
The CPM is a widely used strategy that focuses on identifying the critical path in a project — the sequence of the tasks that collectively determine the project's duration. Resource leveling in the CPM involves adjusting task schedules to prevent over-allocating a resource while maintaining the critical path. This ensures your team completes tasks in the shortest possible timeframe without risking capacity-based project delays.
Critical chain method (CCM)
The CCM is an extension of the CPM that also considers resource availability and uncertainties. In this approach, you add buffers to tasks to account for uncertainties and variability. These buffers protect the critical path and allow resources to be more effectively managed, preventing last-minute rushes and improving overall project performance. Of course, CCM is only effective when you have enough of an oft-overlooked resource — time — to schedule buffers. This approach is a poor fit for projects with extremely tight deadlines.
Project crashing is a resource leveling strategy that involves expediting tasks to reduce project duration. This usually means allocating additional resources to critical tasks to speed up completion and deprioritizing the less important stuff. This strategy is useful when project deadlines are stringent and there's a need to accelerate work, even if it comes at an increased cost.
This approach requires you to overlap tasks that you would usually perform sequentially. By allowing certain tasks to start before the team completes their predecessors. However, fast-tracking isn’t well-suited for projects with intricate dependencies and may even increase the risk that your team needs to revisit and rework parts of the project due to incomplete information from preceding tasks.
Resource leveling example
Let's consider a software development project where a team is working on a new mobile application. The project involves multiple to-dos, including product design, coding, testing, and deployment. The project manager notices that some team members are overloaded with work, while others have lighter workloads. This imbalance could quickly devolve into delays and poor productivity.
To apply resource leveling, the project manager takes the following steps:
- Identify resource overallocation: The project manager reviews the task assignments and identifies which team members have way too much on their plates. The coding phase has a tight schedule, and one developer is assigned to multiple tasks simultaneously.
- Adjust task assignments: The project manager reassigns some coding tasks from the overloaded developer to team members with lighter workloads. Even though this person is the strongest at coding, their teammates are still very capable. This helps distribute the workload more evenly and prevents bottlenecks and burnout.
- Review the critical path: Next, the project manager checks the critical path of the project to ensure their adjustments don’t impact the overall timeline or neglect essential tasks.
- Communicate changes: Leadership communicates the adjustments to the team, explaining the rationale behind the changes and how they will benefit the project's progress and overall success.
- Monitor progress: As the project progresses, the project manager closely monitors the impact of their adjustments to ensure the workload remains balanced and that there are no unexpected delays.
The 3 best tools to support resource leveling
In project management, technology is your friend. Here are three tools that can support you as you level resources:
1. Project management software
Dedicated project management software often comes equipped with resource-leveling features. These tools allow you to assign tasks, move resources around, and visualize workloads on a timeline.
2. Gantt chart software
Gantt chart tools visually represent your project schedule and resource assignments. This overview empowers you to identify stretched resources, important dependencies, and critical paths by simply dragging and dropping tasks and adjusting timelines.
3. Roadmap software
Roadmaps offer a high-level overview of the project’s timelines, goals, and resource allocation. With a strategic view of project phases, you can balance resource availability and workload across every stage of the initiative by proactively identifying potential resource constraints and planning resource adjustments.
Manage better projects with Roadmunk by Tempo
If your business could benefit from a powerful tool to streamline your project management process — hint: it can — look no further than Roadmunk by Tempo. With Roadmunk, you can create audience-friendly roadmaps that track the critical path and empower you to manage and allocate resources efficiently.
And with Tempo Planner, you gain a comprehensive view of resource availability all in one place. Whether your team is working around the office or across the world, you can quickly see all your resources and filter to find the staff you need to support your goals. This smart feature ensures you assign tasks to the right people at the right times, minimizing bottlenecks and maximizing productivity.