Certification Insider: Making Resource Assignments Realistic

Just as the clothes you buy never look like they do on the model in a catalog, your real-world resource assignments usually don’t fit quite right the first time around. Microsoft Project 2007’s resource assignment features can help you tailor resource assignments until they model reality. This month, you’ll learn how to assign part-time workers to tasks, assign people based on the amount of productive time they have each day, and assign people with different levels of output. These are all essential aspects of resource management and an inherent part of the objectives for passing Microsoft’s 70-632 exam, Managing Projects with Office Project 2007.

Part-time workers take longer to finish tasks, because they don’t work as many hours as full-time folks. Someone working half-days puts in four hours per day, compared to a full-time eight hours, so their assignments take twice as long.

To make sure you don’t over-assign part-timers, you adjust the resources’ maximum units and, in most cases, their calendars. If a part-timer works the same amount of time each workday, in the Max. Units field in the Resource Sheet, type the percentage that the person works (for example, 50% for a half-time worker.) Project assumes that resources are available every workday up to their Max. Units percentage. If someone works a part-time schedule that combines a few full days and more days off, leave the Max. Units field alone. The person works 100 percent on the days in the office, so 100% Max. Units still applies. To model this type of part-time schedule, change the resource’s calendar instead (read “Certification Insider: How Calendars Control Schedules”)

Assigning a part-time worker is the same as assigning a full-time person. Project automatically fills in the resource’s Max. Units value in the assignment Units field, whether the percentage is 20 percent, 50 percent, or 100 percent. Or you can type a different percentage. Either way, Project calculates the task duration based on the resource units assigned to the task and the resource’s calendar.

People are usually optimistic about how long it will take to get something done. A 40-hour work week doesn’t translate into 40 hours spent on project assignments. Paperwork, meetings, trekking across the corporate campus, excessive multitasking, and gossip-mongering can chew through as much as 25 percent of the hours in a day.

If you assign resources at 100 percent, your people will have work longer to stay on schedule or the project will fall behind. Working longer hours leads to low morale and exhaustion, which means the project eventually falls behind anyway. You can tackle productivity problems in a couple of ways.

To publicize your organization’s true productivity, assign resources at their real percentage of productive time (in the Task Form Units field, fill in the lower percentage). For example, to assign six hours of work each day, in the Task Form, set the resource’s Units field to 75%. Or you can change resources’ Max. Units (in the Resource Sheet) to 75%, so Project automatically assigns resources at that unit level. Then, when you look for resource overallocations, Project shows resources assigned at more than 75% as overallocated. When a stakeholder asks why people aren’t working full-time, you can pitch your solution to increasing productive time (assuming you have one.)

The other approach is to reset Project’s standard eight-hour workday to fewer hours. However, this approach keeps the productivity problem hidden within Project’s calculations. Resources look like they’re assigned 100%, but Project assigns them only six hours of work a day. To shorten the workday, first change the “Hours per day” and “Hours per week” calendar options (refer to “Certification Insider: Configuring Tools and Options”), as shown in the figure. That tells Project how to translate person-hours into the correct duration in days and weeks. You can also redefine the default end time for each work day. You have to redefine the standard work week in the project calendar, too, for example, to set the work hours you want Project to use.

Certification Insider: Making Resource Assignments Realistic

If you have people who polish off work like Cherry Garcia ice cream, you don’t let them go home early. On the other hand, newbies and other slower resources don’t work double-shifts. The only way to handle people’s work output is by changing the hours of work you assign to people. Then, Project recalculates either the units or duration for the task (read, “Certification Insider: Mastering Duration, Work, and Units”).

If you modify assignments based on people’s capabilities, keep track of your original estimate, in case you switch resources again. Add a note to the task to describe the adjustments you made. In a task view, right-click the task, and then, from the shortcut menu, choose Task Notes. The Task Information dialog box opens with the Notes tab visible.

Think You Know Resource Modifications? Test Yourself!

Your project is over budget because you’ve been paying overtime. To eliminate overtime costs for the rest of the project, you want to eliminate remaining resource overallocations. Which of the following views helps you see all overallocated resources and their assignments?

Answer A: The Resource Allocation View.

Answer B: The Resource Graph.

Answer C: The Resource Usage view with the Overallocated Resources filter applied.

Answer D: The Task Usage view with the Overallocated Resources filter applied.

No peeking! Scroll below the book ordering information to read the answer to this quiz.


Order the MCTS Self-Paced Training Kit (Exam 70-632): Managing Projects with Microsoft Office Project 2007.

To learn more about Microsoft certification, read, Microsoft Project Management Certification: How to Get Started.”



The Answer to Test Yourself!

Answer A is incorrect. Although the Resource Allocation view changes overallocated resource names to red, it displays all the resources in your project, not just overallocated resources.

Answer B is incorrect. Although the Resource Graph view displays red bars to indicate overallocations, the view displays all the resources in your project, not just overallocated resources.

Answer C is correct. The Resource Usage view shows a summary row for each resource in your project with the assignments for each resource below the summary. By applying the Overallocated Resource filter to the view, only overallocated resources and their assignments are visible.

Answer option D is incorrect. The Task Usage view shows assignments, but it’s a task view, so you can’t apply a resource filter to it.

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Written by Bonnie Biafore
Bonnie Biafore is the author of O'Reilly's Microsoft Project: The Missing Manual (2007, 2010, and 2013 editions) and Microsoft Press' Successful Project Management: Applying Best Practices and Real-World Techniques with Microsoft Project. She's recorded Project Essential Training (for 2010 and 2013), Project Management Fundamentals, Managing Small Projects, and other courses for lynda.com. As a consultant, she manages projects for clients and wins accolades for her ability to herd cats. She has also written a humorous novel about hitmen and stupid criminals. You can learn more at Bonnie's website or email her at bonnie.biafore@gmail.com.

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