I currently maintain a resource plan of 45 resources in MS project so I have become quite practiced at doing this exercise, below is the fastest way I have found to tackle it.
First tip is, I would never leave it up to MS Project to resolve resource conflicts for you, it will not optimise the use of people’s time as it can't swap resources on tasks and so will push your date out too far – to the horror of your business sponsor. It’s usually better to attempt to level resources yourself.
Perform these steps to "set-up"
- If you are levelling resources you will need to flick back and forth between the resource usage and Gantt chart view several times, easiest way to do this is to select View > View Bar. This gives you the view icons down the left pane (see pic), and moving between views is one button click.
- Resolving resource conflicts is best dealt with one resource at a time, to make this easier you can filter by resource, using the Resource Names column filter. To get filters to appear on all columns (which is useful anyway) select Project >Filtered For : All Tasks > Autofilter.
- Arrange your Gantt view so you have Task, Resource Name, Start, Finish columns next to your view icons in the middle and about half the screen dedicated to Task Bars on the right. (see pic)
Now you are ready to start resource levelling:
- First click on ‘Resource Useage’ view and identify which resource is in conflict. Conflicted resources appear in Bold red when a resource is allocated more than one day of work per defined day, you can scroll across on the calendar to see on which days/weeks they are conflicted, but more important at this stage is to identify who it is that is conflicted.
- Click on Gantt Chart view and filter on your overallocated resource only, let’s say the resource is called Jimmy. You will see all of the tasks Jimmy is allocated to. If your subtasks are rolled up expand them, you might need to select filter on Jimmy again. What you are trying to achieve is a view of Jimmy’s (and no one else’s) activities and so focus on resolving his conflict only.
- When you have your conflicted resources tasks shown in the middle pane and their task bars shown in the right pane, use CTRL> and the mouse wheel (if you are lucky enough to have one) or the zoom in/out buttons, to adjust the bars so all of Jimmy’s tasks can be seen in the right pane. This should give you a quick visual clue about which tasks are overlapping and causing the conflict. I find this is easier than staring at start and finish dates for ages and working through the numbers.
- You can now adjust Jimmy’s tasks by making his tasks dependant on each other, or assigning them to other resources. Your choices depend on whether your project is resource constrained or date constrained.
- Now flick back to the Resource Useage view and confirm Jimmy’s allocation is happy, i.e. the red should be gone. If Jimmy is still red identify which date and which task is problematic by drilling down on the useage view and flick back to Gantt view to see if you can work out why, i.e which dependency hasn't been added.
- When you have completed Jimmy’s levelling move on to your next overallocated (red) resource.
Rattle through all of your conflicted resources in this fashion until you have removed all the red from your resource usage view.
It’s a good discipline to keep all resources black in the resource usage view so you can see at a glance during updates if a resource becomes overallocated and you can decide what action to take.
See my next installment to find out how to 'grow your own resources' on a kitchen ledge, for those times when you just don't seem to have enough to satisfy your project plan :-)