Resource Leveling 101: Master this PM Technique


There are only so many resources in the world—and for a particular project. Every project task takes a resource that must adhere to the project schedule, budget, etc. And as that project unfolds, you may encounter challenges and unexpected events that force you to rethink your resource allocation. Resource leveling can help you effectively redistribute your resources without affecting your project timeline.

What is Resource Leveling?

In any given project, you’ll work with several resources that need to be in use simultaneously. The goal of resource leveling is to structure tasks in a project optimally so that none of your activities are blocked by a lack of resources. Resources in this system include staff, materials and the tools needed to complete the project.

In resource leveling, each resource is assigned a resource start (RS) and a resource finish (RF) date to determine when it can be used for an activity. RS dates and RF dates are modified given the resources available and are mapped against the demand needed for the project.

How to Do It

To perform resource leveling, start by creating a baseline start and end date, with flex deadlines in between. Schedule the higher priority activities first, followed by the lower priority activities. Priorities here are determined by the total float value of each activity. The float value of a task is typically determined by how much a task can be delayed without blocking other tasks from progressing. Once the float value is factored in, the schedule can be mapped out algorithmically so that project risks can be mitigated and there can be a little room for error.

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If done successfully, you’ll end up with a new timeline of RS and RF dates to pair with your CPM: in many cases, resource leveling is often paired with the critical path method (CPM).  The critical path method demands that tasks are mapped out within a project ahead of time in accordance with their dependencies, and are given flex periods of time to complete.

As a project progresses, many project managers encounter the triple constraint, where, in any given project, there are three main constraints: cost, scope and time. Because of these constraints, resources leveling can be a useful tool for project managers.

When is Resource Leveling Required?

Resource leveling is used when there is resource scarcity. This includes when a resource is not available for a certain date range, when it has to be shared with other teams or when the demand exceeds the supply.

As previously mentioned, resource leveling works best within the CPM model, while also considering the triple constraints so as to help clean up a backlog of projects.

Real-World Examples that Demand Resource Leveling

Resource leveling is most important when you have to navigate a potential future project snag, mitigate risk and ensure that the bottom line is being met efficiently. More specifically, it’s ideal for those who deal with a lot of backlogs, like IT teams or Customer Support. For example, this can be particularly useful for Internet Service Providers try to schedule when maintenance workers can arrive at their customers’ homes.

Resource leveling can keep your fellow staffers appraised on what’s coming next, what is most important to knock out sooner, rather than later, and keep your stakeholders satisfied with the time it took to complete the task. At the end of the day, this method can mean the difference between a project zooming well past its deadline, and a cleared backlog.

In What Project Phase is Resource Leveling Important?

It typically comes into play midway through the project, on any one part of the path. However, it’s important to consider at the outset regardless, just as you’re mapping out your projects’ critical path.

As we mentioned before, when done successfully, it will give you a new timeline to present to key stakeholders. But something to note—once your resource starts on the task, it will continue uninterrupted until that resource has finished the task. This means that RS and RF dates are assigned within the same level, so it shouldn’t interrupt your timeline too much if done correctly.

What Are the Best Practices and Techniques?

As is usually the case with project management best practices, it’s all in how you prepare. Here’s a checklist to get you started.

  1. Develop your schedule around the time it takes a resource to complete a task.
  2. Then, once the CPM has been created, consider the number of resources needed for each task.
  3. Determine how to assign a priority to each task and load each into the schedule, divvied up by significance.
  4. Have your CPM algorithmically calculate your new project start and end dates.
  5. Keep track of activities already scheduled, and mark how much time they require. That way, you can plan ahead for future activities that are of similar caliber.

The easiest way to implement the checklist above is by using a robust, full-featured project management software like ProjectManager where you can track your resources and assign projects based on availability. Because when there are a lot of spinning plates, it can be easy to lose track of which ones are the most important to keep up with. And that’s exactly what resource leveling is all about.

What Are the Pitfalls to Look Out For?

At its core, resource leveling is a crisis management method. Dealing with compounding conflicts? Resource leveling untangles them. However, it usually does that at the expense of one of the triple constraints we mentioned—cost, scope, or time. So even at the outset, the risk of error is high, and minor mishaps are baked into the process.

Expect projects to get solved in a timely manner, but at the expense of cost or scope. Get tasks accomplished under budget, but at the expense of time or scope. Achieve the whole scope of the project, but at the expense of cost or time.

What Are the Consequences of Poor Resource Leveling?

Resource leveling is ultimately the stopgap to an emerging problem. So if that fails? The results could mean a delayed project, missing out on resources as they get shuffled to other departments, and costing your company money.

In real-world terms?

The problems could have a domino effect. Suppliers could be delayed, factories could be unavailable, shipments could be missed, production could be offset and forced into a time crunch, and leadership could be impacted by the disruption to their bottom line. In short, it could negatively affect your logistics management.

Because this process juggles resources between projects, it has the potential to make things much more complicated than they would have been at the project outset. That’s why it’s important to have a mechanism in place to track your project’s timeline and milestones, so you never miss a beat.

How ProjectManager Can Help with Resource Leveling

As previously mentioned, with a cloud-based platform like ProjectManager, you can access project management tools to schedule resources, balance workloads and reassign tasks. Know which activities are dedicated to whom, when they’re due and how much they cost. Get the visibility you need to accurately track your resources for informed decision-making by signing up for our award-winning project management software.

ProjectManager's workload chart
Resource management tools in ProjectManager

Resource leveling will help you solve project roadblocks as they happen. With cloud-based project management software like ProjectManager, get the tools you need to track your resources effectively from the outset. Enjoy our free 30-day trial, where you can access our interactive Gantt chart and get visibility into the workload of your entire team.

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