Use Hidden Functions in Project’s Assign Resources Window

-28404Most Microsoft Project users know that the Assign Resources window is one of many ways to assign a resource to a task. But did you know that the Assign Resources window can also be used to assign multiple resources to multiple tasks, compare assignments across multiple tasks and re-align assignments across multiple tasks? Read on to learn how.

Assigning Resources to Multiple Tasks

Assume there’s a schedule in which four new resources need to be added to multiple existing tasks. These additions can complete one task at a time, which is tedious. But the quick way is to add all four resources to the existing tasks at the same time using the Assign Resources window.

To accomplish this, open a task view such as the Task Usage view used in these examples. In the Resource ribbon, click the Assign Resources icon. After the Assign Resources window opens, select multiple tasks in the view. In the figure below, tasks 1, 3 and 5 have been selected.


Then, in the Assign Resources window, select all the resources to be assigned to the selected tasks. This is done by Ctrl-clicking the resource names in the resources list. Finally, click the Assign button. All selected resources are now assigned to each of the selected tasks with one click!

In the next figure, Bob, Evan, Jack and Janice must to be added to Tasks 1, 3 and 5. After selecting the tasks and resources, the Assign button is clicked. In one operation, the selected resources are now assigned to the selected tasks at their default (Max Units) value.


But what if the resource assignments need an Assignment Units value different from the Max Units?

The Assign Resources window can still be used. But instead of selecting resources and clicking the Assign button, enter the Units value for each resource. When a value is entered, the resource is assigned to all selected tasks the same as if the Assign button was clicked. For example, to assign Bob at 50 percent, simply enter 50% into Bob’s Units field. Entering a value of 35% into Evan’s Units field assigns Evan at 35 percent. And so on.

Comparing Task Assignments

Assume a schedule contains multiple operational type tasks and these tasks need to have the same 20, 50 or more resources assigned to them. Over time, due to on-going maintenance, it’s not uncommon for the resource assignments on these tasks to get out of sync. Is Bob on all tasks? From which task is Judy missing? Is Jack allocated with the same Units value on each task? Unfortunately, manually comparing all the task and assigned resources can be time consuming and laborious.

This is where the Assign Resources window can help by automatically identifying assignment discrepancies across selected tasks.

Let’s start with something simple. In the figure below, only Task 1 has been selected. Note the “Task: Task 1” indicator at the top of the Assign Resources window. The Assign Resources window contains a resource list that’s now divided into two parts. Assigned (checked) resources appear in alphabetical order at the top of the resource list. For these resources the Units (Assignment Units) and Cost values appear. Unassigned (unchecked) resources appear after the assigned resources.


When multiple tasks are selected, the Assign Resources window will show inconsistencies among the selected tasks. In the figure below, Tasks 1 and 3 have been selected. This is indicated in the Assign Resources window by the “Multiple tasks selected (1,3)”.

As expected, the assigned resources appear at the top of the resource list. But some interesting inconsistency indicators now appear. Looking at Bob, a black check appears next to his name, meaning Bob is assigned to both tasks. However his Units value is not the same on both tasks so that value displays as “- -“. Janet and Judy now appeared within the top of the Resource list. But their checks are gray, meaning they are assigned to at least one of the selected tasks but not all of them. And because they’re not on all selected tasks, their R/D, Units, and Cost values also display as “- -“. In short, gray checks and “- -” indicators indicate inconsistencies. Now that the problems are known, let’s see how to fix them.


Aligning Resource Assignments

Continuing the example, the Assign Resources window can be used to correct or align resource assignments. This is illustrated in the figure below. By selecting Janet and Judy in the Assign Resources window and clicking the Assign button, Project will add the selected resources to only the tasks on which they are not currently assigned. In this case, Janet and Judy are already assigned to Task 3, so Project adds them to Task 1. After the assignment, the Assign Resources window now shows Janet and Judy with black checks and their Units and Cost fields now display a value. This indicates that Janet and Judy are now assigned to all selected tasks with the same Units and Cost value.

Note, even if all checked resources were selected and the Assign button clicked, the result would be the same. Only Janet and Judy would have been added to Task 1 because all of the other selected resources are already assigned to the selected tasks.


Looking at the Assign Resource window in the figure above, it is now apparent that Bob is the only remaining resource not assigned consistently across the selected tasks because his Units field is showing a “- -” value. This can be verified by looking at Bob’s Assignment Units for Task 1 (100%) and Task 3 (85%).

As the final step in re-aligning tasks, the Assign Resources window can be used to correct Bob’s inconsistent Assignment Units. In the Assign Resources window, simply enter the desired value in the Units field. In the figure below, a value of 65% was entered in Bob’s Units field. Both Task 1 and Task 3 changed accordingly.


After this final adjustment, it’s apparent that all resources on all selected tasks are aligned because the Assign Resources window displays black checks for all assigned resources and all assigned resources display a value in the Units and Cost column. Now that was simple!

One final word, before you get too excited about these new found capabilities. These functions only work when comparing tasks and resource assignments within the same schedule.

Have your own Assign Resources tricks? Share them in the comments below.

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Written by Daryl Deffler
Daryl Deffler is currently employed by a large insurance company where he provides project management, project scheduling tool, process, and standards consulting for an enterprise project management office comprised of about 200 project managers. He has over 25 years in the IT project management field with experience managing small projects to large programs. During this time he has also developed and taught classes in both project management and scheduling tools such as Microsoft Project 2013, Primavera and ABT Workbench. He has been employed in the IT industry since 1979 in additional roles, including software development, technical support and management across mainframe, midrange and PC platforms.
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1 Comment
  1. Daryl, thank you for these insights into identifying and resolving inconsistencies and errors of resource assignments across project tasks. Had I known this last week, I estimate I could have saved a good two – four hours in reviewing task assignments on release planning across several sprints. Now I know!

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