Page Section Comments
Introduction A brief introduction to this article
Resource Types Human, physical, financial resources and time
Resource Calendars Resource calendars are essential for managing projects
Company Resource Pools A resource pool facilitates project planning
Resource Allocation Resources may be allocated to different projects that run at the same time
Resource Levelling When resources are overloaded they must be levelled to remove the overload
Resources and Task Types Microsoft Project (MSP) allows multiple projects to be managed
Summary A brief overview of the ideas and concepts discussed in this article


In this article we shall consider the management of the resources required to carry projects and how they are assigned to tasks in Microsoft Project.

Project resources include people, physical resources such as equipment and materials, money and time.

Project resources must be "levelled" when they have been over allocated in the both the project planning and implementation phases.

Resources that are common to all projects are time and money.

The project schedule and the project budget are of paramount importance and they must be managed effectively.

Resource Types

Figure 1 Typical Resources

Typical Resources

Human resources are always needed on projects.

People with the right skill sets and experience are essential project resources.

Personal characteristics are also important, such as determination, systematic working, etc.

In MSP peoples time is costed on an hourly basis.





Most projects require physical resources such as fuel and materials.

Material costs can be a significant element of project cost.

For long projects material costs, such as fuel costs, can be significant.

In MSP material costs are assigned on a per use basis.



Projects require physical resources to carry them out, such as computers.

Some projects require expensive physical resources, such as tunnel boring equipment, which may be hired.

In MSP equipment costs are assigned on a per use basis.





Money is a fundamental resource, money always matters.

Money is used to buy resources and the project budget is always of major importance.

For small and medium sizes companies, money is often tight, and the project budget must be tightly controlled.

MSP creates the project budget automatically and allows cost overruns to be identified easily.




Time is the other fundamental project resource and most project managers know that it seems to fly by.

Time really is money when it comes to project management.

If a project overruns significantly the budget will probably also be exceeded significantly.




MSP allows time and cost to be planned and monitored during project implementation.


Resource Calendars

It is possible to assign a calendar to each resource used on a project, for example an individual's holidays could be taken into account when planning the project.

A similar situation applies to equipment and even external suppliers.

Figure 2 shows a MSP calendar that is about to have a resources calendar assigned to a software developer, SWD1.

Figure 2 An Outline Resource Calendar in MSP

An Outline Resource Calendar


Note the calendar name is SWD1, a human resource.

The calendar is based on the company calendar.










National holidays, like Good Friday and Easter Monday have already been added to the company calendar.

Personal holidays, for example, would be assigned to different people using their personal calendars.

The main holiday of SWD1 is an exception to the company calendar.

Physical resources can be assigned calendars- a shared item of equipment could have a calendar associated with it.


Resources, particularly human resources, are seldom available to work full time on a project. For example, the manager of a department in an organisation may be available to work on a project for part of the time but she would need to spend most of her time managing the department.

Similarly, people working in her department would have a main role but they may also be expected to assist in other activities on a regular basis.

When assigning resources to project tasks we shall assume some of them are only available for a fraction of the working time.

For example our busy manager may only be available for 10% of the working time on a particular project.

Company Resource Pools

The resource pool is used in an organisation when resources are shared by several projects.

For example a small company that develops web sites for several clients would be undertaking a number of projects at the same time.

Figure 3 An Illustration of a Simple Company Resource Pool

An Illustration of a Simple Company Resource Pool

The company human resources are used on all projects.

They can be employed on all projects.

We can think of the the company resources available for project work as a resource pool.

MSP allows resource pools to be created and assigned to different projects.

The human resources employed by the company include an IT specialist, a Web Designer, A Web Developer and a Content Author.

Of course there would be more types of people employed, such as people in finance and general administration, management etc.

The resources are shared between projects.

Resource Allocation

Resources are allocated to project tasks and the mechanics of this is normally carried out by the project manager.

The project manager must consult with managers of departments and members of the project team to ascertain which people have the skills and experience to carry-out the tasks.

Resources that are shared between a number of projects are entered into a company resource pool.

Resources that are specific to a particular project are entered directly into the project resource sheet: they are project specific resources.

For example our web development company may be carrying out a project that requires them to set up a website on the customer's server.

This resource should not be entered into our company's resource pool: it should be entered directly into the project resource sheet.

You may question entering a customer as a resource in the project plan: in the example quoted the customer must collaborate with us to set up the site and the customer will want to check the quality of the site we have provided. This will take time and this will affect the project schedule.

The rule is simple: if a task affects the project schedule and/or the project cost, include it in the project plan as a resource.

Resource Levelling

When human resources are allocated to project tasks they are often overloaded, that is they are given too much work to do in too little time. This is especially the case when these resources are shared amongst several projects

The project manager should try to prevent resource overloading and the process of doing this is called resource levelling. Resource levelling will probably modify the project schedule and cost. That is the project will take longer to complete and possibly cost more.

Microsoft project assists the project manager in carrying out resources levelling, but levelling should be used with care, it may produce unexpected and unacceptable results.

Resources and Task Types

We shall now consider how MSP calculates the work associated with a task and how resources assigned to the task affect such calculations.

MSP defines three task types: fixed units, fixed duration and fixed work.

If you don't define the task type, MSP assumes the default type, which is usually fixed units, but this can be customised.

Another factor about tasks is that they can be specified as effort-driven or non effort-driven. MSP defaults to effort-driven tasks unless you specify otherwise.

MSP uses the following equations to define tasks-


Task Duration * Units = Task Work, or alternatively Task Duration = Task Work/units.


With effort driven scheduling on, if you do not assign units to a task, that is if you do not assign resources to a task, MSP cannot calculate the work associated with a task.

As soon as you assign units to a task, MSP calculates the work associated with it using the scheduling formula. From then on, MSP assumes this is the amount of work associated with the task.

For example if you set the task duration to 10 days without assigning units MSP does not calculate the work associated with the task.

If you then assign 2 units, say, to the task, MSP calculates the task work as 2 *10 = 20 work days.

If at a later stage in the project you assign 2 extra units of resources to the task, the task work remains constant, but the task duration reduces to:

20days of work/4 units =5 days.

MSP uses the scheduling formula, in conjunction with task types and task resources to perform numerous project "housekeeping" tasks.

Note: the actual work depends on the working time, MSP takes the working time into account and calculates work in hours.


In this article we have considered-

The ideas and concepts introduced in this article are fundamental to project management.