Common Issues in PM: Over-booked and Mismanaged Resources

Most projects lean heavily on using human resources to perform the tasks that are set out in the schedule. But very few organizations are purely project-driven. That means that people (the other, friendlier name for “human resources”) work on line activities as well as projects in their daily lives.

How do you find the balance between those line activities and projects X, Y and Z? When you fail, resources get overbooked because one project manager thinks he or she has the resource for the full 100 percent of the worker’s time while another manager has the same idea, even as 15 percent of the worker’s time is needed for line activities as well. Having a resource for the full 100 percent of any task or project is rare in any organization.

Just as hazardous for a successful organization is under-allocation: where another resource doesn’t get used nearly enough because the person is not the “known expert” or “preferred resource.”

The goal is to find a balanced use of all the resources in the organization. It will surely pay off in happier, more productive people. And it might even be the case that you find hidden capacity in your organization, making it possible for you to start (and ultimately finish) more projects.

Learn more from Erik’s latest article series “Common Issues in Project Management”:
“#1: Over-booked and Mismanaged Resources”
“#2: Managing Project Documentation”
“#3: Micromanaging the Team”
“#4: Don’t set progress in the schedule”

The complexity of resource utilization is so big, there’s a need for a team effort to get to the solution. With resource management, visualization is key. That calls for creating reports for line managers (and executives) to help them visualize the work and the capacity. These reports should show Baselined, Planned, Actual and remaining work as well as the capacity of the resources. A bonus could be data on the workers’ departments, roles/skills and the projects they work on.

If reports are the outcome, the input should be closely guarded. (Remember the mantra, “Garbage in is Garbage out.”)

Let’s look at the elements of the reports and find out who should take ownership of the data and how.

Baseline and Planned Work

Baseline information (as described before) is the agreed-upon effort between the client and the project manager. The client owns the baselined work effort because, ultimately, he or she needs to pay for that work. But the client delegates ownership to the project manager for tracking.

Planned work starts off the same as the baseline, but will quickly change because of unforeseen factors such as underestimated amount of work. The project manager owns the planned work. Most times I see a project management office or department scheduler making a grab for the work; however, the PMO or scheduler should never own the project schedule.

Actual Work and Remaining Work

Actual work is the work done by team members — internal or external resources. The remaining work is calculated by the formula:

Planned work – actual work

Team members should take ownership of the actual work, because they are the only ones that know what happened.

Reporting this actual work can be done in many ways:

  • Updating the PM during status meetings so that the scheduler or PM can update the schedule;
  • Updating the My Tasks section in Project Server/Project Online; or
  • Updating timesheets in Project Server/Project Online.


The default capacity of any resource entered in Project client, Project Server or Project Online is 100 percent of the calendar hours per week. During the default week, this amounts to 40 hours. But this can be changed based on the actual hours that are in the worker’s contract (for example, depending on whether they’re part-timers or full timers).

Capacity is a value linked to the resource rather than the project or portfolio. Ownership of this value is contractual, and should be owned by the team/line manager or HR department. Most of the time these people have no license or access to the project client, which means the task of determining capacity should be delegated to a PMO or scheduler.

Capacity can be changed by changing the max units or by using the calendar. I’ve written about this on my own blog here.


Additional information, such as skills a resource might have, can be owned by any of the above roles (except for the team members themselves). We could say that the PMO has ownership of this information because it should be responsible for monitoring the project and portfolio status.

One thing to note about the extras is that you should be careful not to go overboard. If there are 24 attributes that you want to track on any resource, then it might be a good idea to set aside a full-time equivalent worker to keep all that data up to date.

A Final Note

An organization that can use its resources to the fullest, without over- or under-allocating them is sure to profit from the effort this process takes. More projects can be done, overall expertise will rise (because the juniors are more fully utilized) and there will be less sick time because people are not overstressed.

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Written by Erik van Hurck
Erik van Hurck is a Senior PPM consultant for Projectum, a western European Microsoft Partner with offices in Denmark and The Netherlands. On top of that Erik is a Microsoft MVP. As such, Erik assists enterprise customers to adopt the new Power Platform cloud solutions for Project and Portfolio Management. Erik has a personal blog ( and is also a writer for the Microsoft Project User Group (
  1. That was a good article, Erik. Thanks for putting this together!

  2. No Problemo Raphael, thanks for reading!

  3. Thanks Rita, nice of you to read and comment on the article 🙂

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