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This is a technical question regarding Microsoft Project 2003.

I am trying to schedule resources who have other (management) duties not related to the project. My initial thought was to reduce their availability (Max Units) - for example, a manager might be set to 85% availability. If I'm using work-driven tasks, then this as the desired effect of spreading the duration out over a longer period of time.

Things get problematic when I want to schedule, for example a meeting where that resource attends along with other resources. The meeting would be a duration-based task, say 3 hours in length. If I have 4 resources attending, I want that listed as 12 hours of work for billing purposes, so in that case all 4 resources need to be allocated at 100% for that task.

This is where it gets ugly - when leveling the resources, I always get errors, because you're not supposed to be able to allocate an 85% resource for 100% on a task.

Is using resource allocation / Max Units the way to go here? The objective is to have a project-based task take longer (Duration) when assigned to someone who has other (non-project) duties in order to better predict the total length of the project.

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As Julie suggested, level your resources on a longer time scale than the tasks you're leveling. An example helps to see why this helps.

If in a given month your PM has 85 percent availability. This represents they mostly support the project, but there's an expectation that 15 percent of their time will be spent doing things not in your schedule. That could be supporting another program or even assisting with other tasks their not explicitly assigned to in Project.

Now in a given month that resource may be assigned to a number of smaller tasks: a 3-hour meeting at 100 percent, reviewing a report at 25 percent, etc.

As long as the total number of hours within the leveling timeframe is less than 85 percent of full-time the resource won't be over-allocated.

The Project error you're seeing is a legitimate one. You've told the software someone is only available 85 percent of every hour, but they are asking them to support a 3 hour meeting full time. That's impossible. But it's totally reasonable for them to be 85 percent for a week (i.e. 34 hours), and spend 3 hours it at a single meeting.

  • Thanks Adam, that's extremely clear. One follow-up question to this is why, for all the resources who have less than 100% availability, does Project recommend that I use minute-by-minute leveling when I change their availability in the Resource sheet? – Tom Auger Jun 18 '14 at 13:34
  • I’m not sure about that, but I think the default timescale for things like leveling can be dictated by the timescales used to specify task durations. For example scheduling tasks in weeks vs days vs hours. – Adam Wuerl Jun 18 '14 at 13:47
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You have a couple of options:

  1. Set the resource's max units to 85% and don't worry about the small overallocation created by the assignment at 100% to meetings. (Assuming the meetings are fairly short in duration. You'll need to review allocations regularly to make sure that you are not ignoring more serious issues.
  2. Set the resource's max units to 100% but assign them to most tasks at 85%. The problem this will cause is the potential of having the resource truly be overallocated (assigned at 100%) to those non-meeting. tasks.

You may also want to set your leveling calculations to week by week to ignore minor overallocations.

  • Thanks for the reply, Julie! So 1 is what I'm currently doing but the implications are then that I cannot set auto-leveling, because of all the alerts that pop up every time you move from input field to field, and frankly, the fact that I'm getting an alert probably means that it's kind of on the edge of how the developers intended the software to be used. 2 seems like it might work for an 85% resource, but (though I didn't mention it in my example) I even have 25% resources. In those cases it's really inevitable that after leveling they would be overallocated. It's a conundrum to be sure. – Tom Auger Jun 13 '14 at 16:36
  • Have you tried using leveling set to week by week? If you are okay with a resource being overallocated on a day (more than 2 hours in a day but still less than or equal to 10 hours per week for the 25% resource), I'd just let it go. – JulieS Jun 15 '14 at 15:57
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    Hi! Thanks for the additional suggestion of using week-by-week leveling, instead of minute-by-minute as I have been doing. I wonder whether this wouldn't completely solve my problem. Let me try it out and I'll report back. In the meantime, you might want to add that to your Answer so it doesn't get lost in the comments for future seekers. – Tom Auger Jun 16 '14 at 13:35
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You should use week-by-week leveling so that a less than 100% resource will not be judged to be over-allocated needlessly.
The big issue however is that the on-board MS Project leveling engine has documented problems (it can give crazy results) if you try to set any resource's max units (Resource Sheet) to anything but 100%.

What you really need is an automatic leveling engine that provides

1) variable availability (ie your resource is available 85% the first week, 70% the next week, etc.

2) an algorithm that calculates over-allocations then changes the Gantt chart by a) adding delay to the task predecessor and/or b) adding splits to the task

Note: the MS Project leveling engine doesn't change (add delay to) task predecessors in the Gantt chart - it (instead) changes (delays) the assignments in the Task Usage view.

That is, MS Project's leveling engine over-rides the predecessor logic -- the result being that your carefully crafted Gantt chart logic doesn't seem to make sense anymore.

The only tool that can do all of the above and keep all leveling changes Gantt-visible (not confusing) is a recently released leveling engine call MSP_LEVELING. It works on MS Project files.

MSP_LEVELING isn't free but it should do the job for you. See website: ara-project.com

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