Planning and scheduling depend on when project managers can use resources on a project and how many resources are available. Resources include workers, administrators, materials, and equipment. At each step of the project planning, starting with the initial scoping, the plan for resource allocation has to become clearer and clearer. By the time the project manager starts to work on the project schedule, he or she must have a clear understanding of the work capacity of the team members and the time and tools that people will have available to accomplish project tasks.
Throughout the planning process so far, it become known what must be accomplished and when activities need to be accomplished to complete a project. Now, the project manager must focus on how the activities will be completed. Based on the activity list and schedule, certain resources—whether human or material—will need to be available at specific times. This is referred to as resource loading.
Employee resources within an organization are requested though the functional managers to whom they report or from outside the organization with the help of the human resources and logistics departments. Procurement may also be involved to assist with bringing in temporary or contracted staff augmentation resources.
Material resources may either be gathered from within the organization (if they exist), created in-house by a development team, or procured from outside vendors through requests for proposals and a contract negotiation process. Conflicts often arise when resources are simultaneously needed by multiple entities within an organization.
A process of give and take, called resource leveling, is used to smooth out the resource usage. Resource requirements are shifted within the schedule to accommodate the availability and workload of the resources. This usually has the effect of stretching out the overall project duration.
Rule of 100%
Resource allocation, or distribution of team members and equipment, can be significantly easier with a Gantt or PERT/CPM tool. The rule of 100% states that no resource, whether human or technological, can be used at more than 100%—that is, more than its available capacity. Evaluating a chart according to the rule of 100% can be as simple as drawing a series of vertical lines through it. No resource should appear twice on any vertical line.
If a given resource is needed for two tasks at once, reschedule one of those tasks accordingly. The points in the chart with the most bars, nodes, or paths are the points at which the most different things are happening—the times when team members are likely to be busiest and the greatest amount of money is being spent.
Having the right amount of work capacity is part of the challenge of resource allocation, but another part is having a balanced team that can handle the specific challenges of the project. In addition to involving workers with specific content area knowledge, project managers often need a mix of people who have different levels of qualifications and experience.
If the team is staffed just with specialists, then the team could have limited flexibility in planning, and later on, in controlling the project. If a team has only one of a particular specialist, then the project manager has limited options in planning the duration and has some risk of losing a key resource at an inopportune time. A balanced team with diverse skills and varied levels of experience tends to provide more options to the project manager in making resource allocation decisions.