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Understanding and Using Resource Graph View in MS Project

The Microsoft Project software tool comes with a number of view options, which, at a high level, can be thought of as Task Views and Resource Views. While views such as Gantt Chart, Team Planner, Resource or Task Sheet, Resource or Task Form, Resource or Task Usage are well used by project managers, many management practitioners often overlook the Resource Graph view or use it less frequently.

As I have ongoing opportunities to interact with MS Project practitioners, I’ve realized that this view is not all that well understood. As a result, its usage is limited; however, in practice, this can be a very useful view if one can learn a little about it. In this article, we will discuss various ways to launch it, formatting options, a plethora of data representations, and other usages of this view.

Let’s begin with the launching options of Resource Graph view.

Launching the Resource Graph

The Resource Graph view can be launched in many ways.

You can go to the Views tab à Resource Views group à Other Views, and, from there, choose Resource Graph view.

You can also launch this view by going to the Views tab > Split group, and enabling the Details checkbox. Then, from the available dropdown menu, select Resource Graph for the Details Pane.

A third way to launch the Resource Graph view is by going to the Assign Resources dialog box, and clicking on the Graph button.

The Assign Resources dialog box can be opened by going to Resource Tab > Assignments group and using the Assign Resources command. Do note that for the Graph button to be activated, some work resources should be available in the project!

Formatting the Resource Graph

The Resource Graph view primarily pulls data and values from task assignments. In other words, you need to have both tasks and resources assigned for such to populate the Resource Graph view.

By default, when you launch the Resource Graph, the below comes up as shown.

As you can see in the screenshot, we have just one resource (Resource 1) assigned to one task (Task 1).

With the launch of this view, the Resource Graph Tools menu has been activated, as well as the Format tab enabled. In fact, this tab, has three groupings of tools: Format, Navigate, and Data. Do note that the graph, by default, uses Peak Units for graphical data representation. There can be others, as well, which we will see shortly.

An important functionality available under the Format grouping is the Bar Styles command, which you can use to unleash the power of this view. Bar styles can be opened by going to the Format tab > Format group, and clicking on Bar Styles.

Bar styles shown clearly indicate blue colored bars for the allocation and deep red colored bars for overallocation. Bar styles are important, so that you can visualize and interpret various possible usages of the Resource Graph.

Let’s interpret the dialog box shown above:

  • It’s divided into three parts or sections – top, middle, and bottom. The top part has styles for overallocation, the middle styles for allocation, and the bottom styles for proposed booking.
  • The left side of this dialog box refers to the group data or the selected/filtered group of resources, whereas the right side defines one selected resource.
  • In the bottom section, we also have three options to show value, show availability line, and define the desired bar overlap.

Do note that the bar style is contextually sensitive, and depending on the data selected under Data Group > Graph: …, some parts may be disabled. For example:

  • If you select Graph: Cost under the Data group, the top section will show the resource cost, but the middle section will be disabled. This is because when considering the cost aspect, there is only allocation, no overallocation.

The style of the bar shown in the above figure is vertical. There can be others as well, such as Area, Step, Line, and Step Line. You may also choose not to display a bar style in any one of the aforementioned three sections for a single resource or a group of resources.

Key Points about Resource Graph

To operate within this view effectively and efficiently, you need to understand certain key points. They are explained in the video [duration: 5m 12s], which I’ve prepared in support of this article. For the best experience, you may want to go full-screen in HD mode and plug-in your earphones.

 

With these fundamentals in mind, let me explain a bit more about the graphical data representation of the Resource graph.

Resource Graph Data Representation

The Resource Graph view’s data representation is driven by measurement chosen under Graph: command within the Data group under the Format tab as shown below:

As we have seen earlier, by default, the Peak Units will be chosen, but you can switch among the data/measurements, as per your need. For example:

  • Work is the amount of work assigned. The unit will be taken from the Global settings of MS Project.
  • Cost is the cost of assignments. This unit also will be taken from the Global settings of MS Project.
  • Peak Units are the largest percentage of effort (peak) assigned to a resource within a time period. Do note that Peak Units refer to the effort assigned, not the work assigned.
  • Overallocation refers to the work overallocation of the resource.
  • Cumulative Work is the total amount of work assigned till date.
  • Remaining Availability is the effort remaining, i.e., still available for assignment. This unit will also be taken from the Global settings of MS Project.

Usages of Resource Graph

The Resource Graph can be used as a visual display and can really help you to solve a number of problems with regard to scheduling, costing, resource assignment, resource leveling, etc. I will cover five ways to use the Resource Graph view now.

Usage – 1: Checking Resource Availability

The availability of a resource can be checked before you assign a resource to a task. This is very useful as you launch the Resource Graph view from Assign Resources option (as we saw earlier) and see displayed the remaining availability of a particular resource.

As shown above, the availability of the resource is shown with vertical blue bars. If the resource is fully occupied, blue bars won’t be available for those respective days.

With this application, you will also easily see the current resource(s) working on a selected task above in the Gantt Chart view and can determine what others can be allocated.

Usage – 2: Viewing Proposed Booking

You might be wondering about the purple bars in the previous figure. As indicated in the graph, these show proposed booking.

Resources, when added to MS Project, can be either committed (this is the default) or proposed. Committed resources are ones which are definitely available, whereas proposed resources refer to those for which you unsure of availability.

Now, for the same resource (Satya Dash) in the previous figure, I can double-click on the resource and change it to proposed by going to the General tab of the opened Resource Information Dialog box.

The graph in the timescale portion of the view will change, as shown below.

As you can see, the vertical purple bars are now changed to blue, and the availability is also shown. This can be reconfirmed by changing the Remaining Availability in the bottom right part of the legend section to Work. You have to use the Graph: option under the Format tab to switch to work data in the Graph. It’s shown in the below figure.

Usage – 3: Checking Overallocated Resources

As you may have noticed in the previous figure, a red colored coding has appeared in the legend section of the Resource Graph.  This, as informed by the indicator column, is for overallocation.

However, the current resource assigned to the task of “PRD Approval” is not overallocated. Rather, there is an overallocation indicator (red person icon) in the indicator column for the task, “PRD Preparation,” – the task just above with Task ID 4.

You may be wondering how will you know why, when, and which resource(s) is/are overallocated for the concerned task?

In this case, the concerned task is “PRD Preparation.” To know more, we will change the top panel of the split view to Resource Usage view, while keeping the bottom half as it is. The split Resource Usage view with the Resource Graph view is shown below.

The resource assigned to the PRD Preparation task (John Robinson) is clearly highlighted as red, which means this resource is overallocated. This is also reflected in the Resource Graph view in the bottom pane.

I’ve changed the data part of the Resource Graph to display Peak Units, which informs the highest assigned resource units (in terms of effort) within a time period. You can switch to other options, and corresponding values with indications for overallocations will display.

For example, in the below figure, instead of Peak Units, now we’re looking at Overallocation data for the Resource Graph in the bottom pane, and it’s showing the only overallocation in hours.

Usage – 4: Adjusting Critical Resources

There is another very useful scenario for which the Resource Graph can be used. To compress the schedule of the project, it’s natural for a project manager to look at the critical path and the critical tasks. There are many ways to look this data, such as using Tracking Gantt view or formatting options in Gantt chart. The problem lies in that with these views, you really won’t know which resources are free and if they can be employed in critical activities.

In such cases, it’s useful to bring up the Resource Graph view in the bottom half of the Gantt Chart view and see first if a resource is available for the concerned tasks. One such scenario is shown below.

While the resource (Mohan M R) is occupied with the “Design and Develop Backend – 1” task, he is actually also available for “PRD Preparation” and “PRD Approval” tasks. This is shown with the Remaining Availability data view of the Resource Graph and highlighted with the blue color in the bottom pane of the split view.

Note that both of these tasks are also critical tasks. This is shown with a light red color in the Gantt Chart view at the top of the split.

You may be wondering if the concerned resource can now be utilized in these critical tasks to compress the project schedule. The answer is yes! The PM can analyze this scenario and reduce the schedule from here.

Usage – 5: Knowing the Cost Distribution Over Project Life Cycle

With the Resource Graph view, you can see the total cost distribution of a project over its life cycle. This can be shown by enabling a group of resources and using the Cost data from the Graph: command under the Format tab.

As shown, we have the cost distribution of the project over its life cycle, which is low during the initial stages, goes-up in the middle. and tapers off towards the end of the project.

You can also show the cost of a specific resource along with the total project life cycle cost as shown below.

The Resource Graph view is a powerful feature in MS Project, and I hope with this article has given you a fair understanding about the usage of this view.

References:

[1] Online Course: MS Project Live Lessons, by Satya Narayan Dash

Written by Satya Narayan Dash

Satya Narayan Dash is a management professional, coach, and author of multiple books. Under his guidance, over 2,000 professionals have successfully cracked PMP, ACP, RMP, and CAPM examinations – in fact, there are over 100 documented success stories written by these professionals. His course, PMP Live Lessons – Guaranteed Pass, has made many successful PMPs, and he’s recently launched RMP Live Lessons – Guaranteed Pass and ACP Live Lessons – Guaranteed Pass. His web presence is at https://managementyogi.com, and he can be contacted via email at managementyogi@gmail.com.

 

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