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Conquering Operational Resources and Time in Microsoft Project Server 2007

Microsoft Project Server 2007 allows for new scenarios on resource management, specifically regarding assigning resources to operational work. The secret to doing this is using a specific type of project plan called an Activity Plan. (An additional scenario exists for rolling project plans, but I’ll cover that in a separate article.)

So, let’s talk about operational work. In many organizations, a significant proportion of any budget is taken up performing non-project work, such as maintaining existing systems. I saw one quote recently that said that 75% of IT budgets are spent on maintaining existing systems, which suggests that IT organizations spend too much time just maintaining the status quo. In order to model this operational time, we need to set up an activity plan that we can assign a nominal 75% of our resource capacity to. This leaves 25% to be used for project work. Holidays, sickness, training and other non-productive work are excluded at this stage. (We can argue whether training is productive or not at a later date!) That means that in this organization, our time is split 75% to 25% between operational and project work.

To set this up, create a new Activity from within the Proposals and Activities view within Project Web Access and begin to fill in the summary information.

Figure 1

Figure 2

The minimum information we should type in is:

  • Name
  • Description
  • Start Date

By default the Start Date is today’s date. In our example we have changed the date to match the start of our calendar year, March 5, 2007. The plan owner defaults to the currently logged-in user. Any Enterprise Custom Fields will need to be selected as required.

We now have the choice of specifying tasks in the Work Details view; however this is optional; it depends on the level of detail required for your reporting.

So click on Save to save the plan, ignoring the Work Details screen, then either Close the plan or Save and Publish the plan. If we Close the plan without publishing it, it remains in the draft database. Draft plans have a different icon in the Proposals and Activities view. We’ll publish the plan later.

Figure 3

All we have now is a project header (System maintenance) with no tasks (because we ignored the Work Details screen) and no resource assignments. In order to create a resource demand or usage against the project, we have to create a resource plan. Highlight the row containing the System maintenance activity plan and click on Resource Plan. Follow the rather obvious instructions in red, by clicking on Build Team, and select the desired operational resources to work on the activity plan. Now we have resources allocated to the activity plan, but we don’t yet have any “assignments” or “demand.”

Figure 4

We’ll place the demand on the system by assigning a work load by period (days, weeks, months or years) and by type (hours, days or FTE).

Figure 5

We want to plan our work for the next calendar year (March 5, 2007 to March 4, 2008), and we want to reserve 75% of our two resources’ time for operational work. (If we were planning at this stage to simply place a demand for a skill set, we could use generic resources or place a demand on a team, using the Team Assignment Pool feature). The simplest way to do this is to click on Settings | View Options, to expose further options to allow us to reserve this time. In the Date range selection, we choose our calendar year (using the From: and To: dates) and set Column Interval to Years.

Select Calculate resource utilization from: Resource Plan; now this resource plan will affect the resource availability in the enterprise resource pool. Selecting Full-time equivalent for Work Units: allows us to enter .75 against both resources to represent our 75% operational work. Click on Apply to change the view so we can enter the required utilisation.

Figure 6

Type in .75 in the resource rows and columns. Note that there are two columns, split over the calendar year.

Figure 7

Click on Save and then Close.

Because we didn’t publish the activity plan previously, our resource plan can’t be published; therefore, it’s a draft plan. We can review and modify our plans before publishing them for the rest of the organisation to see.

Figure 8

Once we’ve finalized both our activity plan and associated resource plan, we can publish them. Open the System maintenance plan and click Save and Publish followed by Close. Open the resource plan and click Save and Publish followed by Close.

Figure 9

Checking the Resource Availability shows that from March 5, 2007 75% of the resources’ time (six out of eight hours) is allocated to system maintenance. Figure 10 also shows the previous week for comparison purposes.

Figure 10

So we have now successfully reserved 75% of our specified resources’ time for operational work.

What we do next really depends on our specific business processes. It may be that we need to monitor the split of work. One way to do this would be to collect data monthly from the timesheet function and compare the time booked against the system maintenance project vs. other projects. We’d have to use the Build Team function to assign the resources to the project. We can do this by using the Synchronize to Resource Plan function.

Figure 11

Within Build Team, click on Synchronize to Resource Plan and then Save | Save and Publish to publish the operational plan with the assigned resources from the resource plan.

Figure 12

Within the timesheet, we can now see the operational plan and book our time accordingly.

Figure 13

Resource plans can be useful tools within an organization. But they require careful thought and planning before you commit wholeheartedly to them and move away from the ubiquitous Resource Spreadsheet!

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