After breaking the project down into tasks and their relationships, you will want to identify available resources and allocate them to the project tasks. Surprisingly, there are several programs that do not allow for realistic resource identification and allocation, even though the ability to assign resources to a project is essential to effective project management.
Programs that allow for the assignment of resources usually make it a two-step process: (1) you first specify all project resources and their associated costs; (2) you then allocate them to the various tasks.
Assigning resources — A key thing to look for in a program is the degree of discrimination allowed in identifying the assigning resources. The software programs vary widely with regard to resource management, and it is well worth a close look to see if the program can meet your specific needs.
The number and type of resources you can assign to a task is the first consideration. Some programs let you identify and assign only one or a few resources per task.
More powerful programs let you assign codes to each resource so you can further break down each type of resource; for example, El = level 1 engineers; E2 = level 2 engineers; etc. The program can then produce reports that are sorted based upon any given resource type or subtype. For example, you could print out a histogram, or resource allocation chart, for all level 1 engineers.
Assign partial resources — The ability to assign partial resources to an activity is another valuable feature of some programs. You may be able to assign a percentage of a resource to a task, which is a common need in projects. If the program does not allow partial assignment of resources to a task, you will have to artificially break down the task so it matches the resources allocated to it. But if you have to do this, the program is forcing you to meet its requirements instead of meeting your requirements.
Many programs let you distinguish between conventional resources, such as labor and equipment, and expendable resources, such as cash. When a program lets you make this distinction, you can usually allocate the cash as an expendable resource and then produce cash-flow reports.
Resource leveling — Resource leveling is the process of smoothing out the use of resources over time so you can meet whatever constraints you have on resource availability. Some of the better programs let you specify limits to resources, and the program will then automatically calculate the best use of the resources over time within the given limits.
Many times a project or certain activities in a project are resource-driven; that is, the availability and use of resources are of overriding importance. Using a program that does resource leveling can save a lot of time and effort when you are trying to juggle schedules to optimize the use of resources.
Assigning costs — When you define a resource, in most programs you specify its cost per unit of time. Then, when the resource is assigned to project tasks, the total costs are calculated and kept track of by the program. Usually a program will let you assign only one rate for any given resource. To have multiple rates for a resource you would need to identify it as a different resource for each rate.
Another valuable feature of some programs is the ability to assign a cost to an activity and specify that the cost accrue at the beginning or end of the activity. Many programs do not give you this choice when assigning costs, and automatically prorate the cost over the duration of the activity. But this is often not the way costs actually accrue.
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What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.