Microsoft Project Tutorial – Part 9 – Working with part time resource and resource groups
One of the dreams of most project managers starting to work with Microsoft Project is being able to handle part time resources and to be able to get an idea of how much resources are needed. But few get this to work in real life.
Well, because it’s not as easy as you might think. Before you even attempt at this task, be sure to read and understand the concepts of Work, Duration and Unit. This is described in part 1.
To just make clear: Unit is the part of a resource’s time which is spent on a task. This means that if Unit is 50% on a task, that means that the resource spends half of his working time during the duration on that task.
If you remember from part 2, we specify working time in Tools—>Options and Tools—>Change working time dialog boxes. If you’ve skipped this chapter before, read this before you continue. But what we did in that chapter is that we set the default working time for our tasks and resources. But all resources have their own working time. For example, resources are off on holidays during different time periods.
If you select View—>Resource sheet, you can see all the resources and their details:
On the list there are some values you can change:
- Name – should be unique
- Type – specifies if cost is per hour (work) or per item (material). Remember that materials which have an hourly cost is work but items which you buy per item is material. This is why a leased computer can be considered Work while a bought computer is Material.
- Material Label – is set if Type is set to Material. Can be used if you want to use other labels than name.
- Initials – in many cases you can select between viewing the whole resource name and the initials. But make sure the initials are unique for each resource.
- Group – can not be used for assigning to a resource group but can be used for filtering and grouping in print outs and views.
- Max Units – number of resources
- Std rate – cost (per hour if Type is Work) if assigned to task
- Ovt rate – if you manually specify that the overtime rate is to be used, this rate is used on a specific task
- Cost/use – every time you assign a resource to a task, one instance of this sum is added to the task.
- Accure at – is only used if you track how the costs are building up through the project. If Prorated is set, costs are added when they are used. If At start is set, all costs are added upon task starting.
- Base Calendar – which calendar the resource working time is based on
We’ll go into costs later, but if we focus on working time, we have the columns Max Units and Base Calendar. Max units can be used to set how many resources a resource name refers to. This means that if you have the resource Tester, and you have two testers, you can set this value to 200%. In other words, at one given moment, you can have the maximum of 200% total unit assigned without the resource becoming over assigned.
What? Don’t I use this to set if a resource is working part time? Well, you could do that but you won’t be happy if you do so. The reason is how Max Units work. What it does is that it compares total figure of Units at all moments and sees if it’s over or under the value in Max Units. If the sum is more than Max Units, the resource is viewed as red in the resource sheet and you are given the warning that the resource is over allocated. But isn’t that nice? Well, it would be if Microsoft Project looked at whole days or whole weeks. But it looks at minutes. Just test this:
- Add two tasks (not linked, should happen at the same time)
- Set the Duration of the tasks to 1 min
- Assign the same resource to both tasks
- View—>Resource sheet
As you can see, the resource is over allocated. One minute is enough.
So, what happens if you set the Max Units to 50%. That means that each minute, that resource can only participate 30 seconds before she is considered over allocated. You can say that she can only participate on half a meeting.
So, what you do is that you double click the resource and activate the Calendar tab. Here you can set the working time for that resource. So, if a resource is working half time, you might set afternoons off or something like that. Remember that if you change the working time to afternoons, assigning a resource 100% means 100% of that resource calendar time which is the afternoons.
If you have a lot of part time resources, I can be an idea to create specific calendars for part time resources (see part 2) and set the Base calendar of the resources instead. This also makes it easier to see on the Resource Sheet.
Even if a resource is working full time does not mean that you don’t set the individual calendar. You should still add time off so you don’t plan tasks when they are not available.
Complicated? Yes, this is one of the trickier parts of Microsoft Project, and I suggest that you take some time playing with calendars, units and Max Units.
But this chapter was also about Resource groups. The Group attribute on Resource is just an attribute, so if you do have a resource group, you change the Max Units value instead:
Also, you can double click a resource and set different values on Max Units. This is very good if you have different numbers of resources during specific time periods.