Exploring Resource Management and Task Assignment in Microsoft Project

In a recent webinar, we delved into the various aspects of resource management and task assignment in Microsoft Project. This article aims to provide a concise summary of the key points discussed during the session. We will explore how to effectively use different views, such as the Gantt chart, and leverage the resource tab to quickly manage, assign, and replace resources. Let’s dive into the details.

Using Views and the Ribbon:

Microsoft Project offers different views tailored to specific functions, such as tasks and resources. When working with tasks, the task ribbon provides a range of helpful tools, while the resource tab becomes essential when dealing with resource-related activities. The ribbon was organized based on functional areas to enhance usability, streamlining access to relevant features. Previously absent in Microsoft Project, the ribbon was added later, providing users with easier navigation and improved functionality.

Within the resource tab, the resource assignment dialog box is a powerful tool for managing and assigning resources. By selecting one or more tasks, users can quickly assign resources or replace them. To aid decision-making, tooltips provide information about resource availability, such as whether they are currently working, or their status in an enterprise environment or Active Directory.

Replacing Resources and Handling Actuals:

When replacing a resource, Microsoft Project ensures that actual work remains unaffected. Instead, it focuses on finding remaining work associated with the tasks and swapping out the resources accordingly. This feature is particularly useful for efficiently managing resources in complex projects.

An initial approach to assigning resources might involve a global find or simply using the resource column. Clicking the drop-down arrow gives you a selection of resources to assign. However, this method assigns the resources wholesale, which might not always be ideal. For example, when assigning a resource to a 40-hour or 40-day task where you’re only anticipating 10 hours of work, checking off resources from a list won’t suffice.

In these situations, it’s advisable to use Microsoft Project’s advanced features and views to delve deeper into resource assignment. The ‘Ribbon’ and ‘Timeline View‘ are particularly useful in this context. By collapsing the timeline view, you reveal the task entry form. This is one of the software’s most potent views, aptly termed ‘Task Entry View’.

In the Microsoft Project interface, the ‘Task Entry View’ is located within the ‘View’ tab on the ‘Ribbon’.

View Tab in Ms Project
View Tab in Ms Project
  1. Click on the ‘View’ tab in the ‘Ribbon’, which is the strip of tools located at the top of your Microsoft Project workspace.
  2. Under the ‘Split View’ group on the ‘View’ tab, check the ‘Details’ checkbox. This will split your screen, showing the Gantt chart on the top and another view at the bottom.
  3. If ‘Task Entry’ isn’t the default view that shows up at the bottom, you can choose it by clicking on the ‘Details’ dropdown list in the ‘Split View’ group and selecting ‘Task Form’. Note that ‘Task Entry’ and ‘Task Form’ are used interchangeably in different versions of Microsoft Project.

This dual-pane view lets you modify resource assignments with granular control.

Task Form View in Ms Project
Task Form View in Ms Project

For example, if you assigned a resource, Andre, to work 40 hours, but later realized you only need him for 16 hours, you can simply adjust this in the task entry view. Clicking ‘OK’ here triggers an automatic adjustment in your schedule, guided by your pre-set parameters – be they fixed work, fixed units, or fixed durations.

Setting tasks as’ fixed duration’ is advantageous if you want to avoid your Gantt chart or schedule constantly shifting. This keeps the start and finish days immovably locked, even if work hours need adjusting. Understanding how the scheduling engine works allows you to effectively manage resources and assignments.

The initial goal is to get individuals assigned to tasks. This might involve an iterative process of identifying who will do the work, meeting with them to determine effort levels, and comprehending the difference between elapsed duration and the number of work hours. Microsoft Project’s multiple views help in tailoring these assignments.

One can even adjust the level of assignment percentage. When diving into the work management or schedule itself, users might be inputting actual, remaining, or overtime work hours. Remember, overtime doesn’t trigger overallocation and might carry different associated costs. It provides the flexibility to allocate hours beyond the standard work day or week without triggering overallocation.

Microsoft Project’s views facilitate the management of these task details, offering a comprehensive platform to access, modify, and update project information effectively. It’s an invaluable tool for fine-tuning your project’s assignments and schedules.

Managing Your Resources in the Cloud

The location and method of managing your resources can greatly impact the efficiency of your project. You have a few options depending on the scale of your project and the software environment you’re working in, whether it’s a standalone desktop version or an enterprise online environment.

For those using the standalone desktop version or handling multiple projects concurrently, the necessity of an overview of work across various project schedules into one resource assignment becomes apparent. This is where you start contemplating resource management on a broader scope.

Before the advent of an enterprise environment or a global resource pool, all this was handled in the desktop version. So, let’s consider where and how to source your resources in this context.

Microsoft Project Online offers a solution. Included with your license, it allows you to input or create your resource information directly within the online platform. You can access this via the ‘Resource’ tab on the ‘Ribbon’. From there, you can draw resources from an enterprise environment.

This enterprise environment is enabled by your Office 365 administrator via Microsoft Project Online. While the primary intention of this environment is to save and publish your schedules, it also provides a place to add all your resources. You can fill out their information just as you would in a resource sheet. Now, when your projects require resources, they can pull them directly from this online repository.

This feature provides flexibility in resource storage, allowing you to choose between cloud storage or local storage. Therefore, you have the options to suit the specific needs of your project or organizational structure.

Managing Resources Locally

The option of storing resources directly in the project file is another method of resource management. It has certain benefits such as allowing every team member to have their unique resources, which they can adjust and modify as needed, thereby customizing them according to the project’s needs. However, it is crucial to remember that resources stored this way are confined to that specific file.

To illustrate this process, consider a project schedule titled “needing resources”. This schedule is a copy of another file you’ve previously worked on and presently, it doesn’t have any resources assigned. The resource sheet view would, therefore, display no resources.

For cases where you need to add resources without interacting with an enterprise environment, creating a local file proves handy. This file can be stored on a shared folder or OneDrive, or any other location that can be easily accessed. The technique has been frequently used, sometimes with a local file share, and other times, by creating what we call a local resource pool. To do this :

  1. Access the Resource Sheet: Navigate to the “View” tab on the ribbon, and select “Resource Sheet”. This displays the resource management view.
  2. Enable Local Resource Pool: In the resource management view, find the “Resource Pool” button in the “Resources” group on the “Resource” tab. Click on the arrow next to the button to open a dropdown menu.
  3. Share Resources: In the dropdown menu, select “Share Resources”, and then choose “Share Resources…” from the submenu. This action prompts the “Share Resources” dialog box to appear.
  4. Select Resource Pool Option: In the “Share Resources” dialog box, select the option “Use resources”, then choose the file which will serve as your resource pool, and click “OK”. Microsoft Project will then start using the chosen file as a resource pool where you can manage your resource information.
  5. Specify Local Resource Pool Location: A dialog box will appear, prompting you to choose a location to save your resource pool file. A shared folder or a location on your local computer are good options, but saving the file on cloud storage services like OneDrive can make it easily accessible to the team. Specify your preferred location and give your resource pool file a name, then click “Save.”
  6. Add Resources to the Local Resource Pool: Once the local resource pool is set up, you can start adding resources. Go back to the resource management view, click on the cell below the last existing resource, and enter the resource names and other relevant information.
  7. Assign Local Resources to Tasks: After adding resources to the local resource pool, they can be assigned to tasks in your project file. Go to the task view, select the task to which you want to assign a resource, and in the “Resource Names” column, click on the cell to start typing the name of the resource from your local resource pool. As you type, Microsoft Project will suggest matching resources, allowing you to select the appropriate one.

In conclusion, effective resource management and task assignment are key to the successful execution of any project, and Microsoft Project provides robust and comprehensive tools to achieve this. The variety of views and features offered by the software allows for an efficient and fine-tuned approach to project management, accommodating both local and cloud-based resource storage and allocation.

Next Webinar

Effective Project Management: Utilizing Baselines and Microsoft Project Views for Comprehensive Progress Tracking

Tim Runcie, PMP, MCP, MCTS, P-TSP, MVP is one of 6 Microsoft Project MVP’s in North America and has held that title for 17 years in a row.  A seasoned veteran of complex programs, and portfolio management systems, Tim works with companies like Microsoft on next generations of Project, Program, and portfolio technologies.  Tim is an accomplished speaker, consultant, and educator, supporting the project management community for over 25 years. As the President and founder of Advisicon, Tim has written over 38 books on PM methodologies and technologies. Advisicon has recently added a non-profit division focused on helping faith-based and 501-C3 organizations with implementing and training on available business solutions and providing business coaching or process automation with the mission of “Serving those who Serve.” Free resources are available at www.YouTube.com/Advisicon or on Tim’s LMS, www.Advisicon.thinkific.com
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