Resource Leveling in Project Management

The pandemic has certainly put a strain on employees world-over. According to the Harvard Business Review, "In 2020, chronic stress and burnout became rampant, seemingly overnight." In fact, as per research, "One-third of U.S. employees started "living at work" – with the kitchen table as their new pseudo-office."

Clearly, failing to identify the signs of employee burnout and act with agility can cost you (and your project). Your employee productivity levels will falter. Your project quality will get hampered. And the overall stress levels will overshoot. This is where resource optimization techniques such as resource leveling can come in handy.

So if you're wondering about what resource leveling in project management is, we've got you covered. In this in-depth guide, we'll talk about what is resource leveling in project management context, understand a few key resource leveling examples, look at the differences between resource leveling, resource smoothing, and resource allocation, and summarize some tried-and­ tested resource leveling tactics and tools you can leverage to your advantage.

Without wasting time, let's get to it straight away and address the elephant in the room:

What is Resource Leveling?

Quite simply, resource leveling is a resource optimization technique that allows you to complete the project with the available resources, without overburdening them. Here are its primary advantages:

  • Allows for fair resource distribution across projects
  • Boosts employee work satisfaction and happiness
  • Leads to a healthy and productive work environment
  • Makes the project schedule realistic and achievable

So the real question that arises is this:

When to Use Resource Leveling?

If you are routinely noticing a pattern in the form of resource conflicts that are arising during the project's progress, resource leveling is exactly what you need. These conflicts could be delays in completion, budget overruns, or over-allocation of resources to name a few common issues.

One of the most common techniques of resource leveling is using critical path–one that signifies the longest and shortest time duration paths to complete the project. This is represented in the form of a network diagram.

Apart from this, you can also go for fast tracking and crashing if the project seems to be spinning out of control. Fast tracking is used to buy time for project completion and performs the critical path tasks. Note that considering that the project is fast-tracked to complete on time, the chances of a rework shoot up.

On the other hand, crashing means assigning additional resources to the existing lot to help get the work done faster. One of its downfalls is that it often comes associated with additional costs such as labor, equipment, etc.

Next, let's look at the key differences between resource leveling vs resource smoothing

Resource Leveling vs. Resource Smoothing vs. Resource Allocation: A Comparison

Resource Leveling Resource Smoothing Resource Allocation
"Resource limitation: It is a technique in which the start and end dates are adjusted based on resource limitation. If you want to balance the demand for resources with the available supply, this method is ideal for you. Resource activities: It is a technique that makes changes to the activities of a schedule model such that the requirements for resources on the project do not exceed certain predefined resource limits. Resource allocation: It helps to understand who can be allocated to the project and when during the planning phase, taking into consideration factors such as resource availability, skills, rate cards, etc.
Objective: The main objective is to tackle resource constraints. Objective: The main objective is uniform resource utilization–keeping in mind the time constraint. Objective: The main objective is to define the project resource requirements and assign people with certain roles related to the project. 

Now that you have a good understanding of the basic differences between the three, let's deep-dive to understand what are some of the most important resource leveling tactics.

Top-5 Resource Leveling Tactics

In this section, we will quickly run-through the top resource leveling tactics you can embrace as a thumb rule across projects to work with a greater sense of workload balance:

  1. Prolong the project start time and start with better preparedness.
  2. Brainstorm and extend the project’s planned duration (if need be) to complete the goal on time and within the required resource budget.
  3. Eliminate tasks that are least important to save on valuable resource time.
  4. Assign additional resources strategically or assign alternative resources and pivot with agility.
  5. Split tasks between resources to complete tasks quicker and more efficiently.

Next, let's address one of the most frequently asked questions relating to resource leveling in project management:

"Why Use A Resource Leveling Tool?"

You must be using a project management tool that allows you to schedule projects but does it take into account resource availability in real-time? Think about it.

This is where Xebrio comes in. Xebrio's end-to-end project management software empowers you to connect your project management needs with resource management in a cross-project capacity. You can better navigate through your projects and resources in real-time and with better context. Whether you wish to manage resource conflicts more easily or simply complete projects on time and without asset burnout, Xebrio's project management tool will be your best ally. 

Say goodbye to manual resource tracking, connect the dots between resources and project needs, and optimize your projects successfully–all the way to the finish line.

The Takeaway: Resource Leveling is Key to Project Success

To sum up, resource leveling is a technique that allows managers to engage in optimal resource allocation and helps them to resolve resource-related conflicts that often arise from over-allocation along the different stages of the project progress. It is one of the most important techniques in project management because effective resource management can drive project success.

Plus, your projects will get delivered on time and within the stipulated budget. Moreover, your team members will not be overworked, under-allocated, or over-burdened with last-minute tasks or constant changes during the project. This can boost employee work satisfaction and lead to a happier, more loyal team. Agree?