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Resource Allocation: Do You Overwork Your Resources?

written by: Ronda Bowen • edited by: Jean Scheid • updated: 9/23/2012

Your project's health often depends upon resource allocation. Overworked employees and spending overtime on a project can be a nightmare. Avoid project pitfalls by dealing with resource overallocation before it affects your project's health.

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    What Is Resource Overallocation?

    Are you overworking your project team? Resource overallocation happens when assignments of more tasks than your resources can handle or reasonably complete within a standard eight hour workweek are assigned. When a company has many projects, resource overallocation is a risk, especially if your resources are small and involved in multiple tasks.

    When this happens, because your project health and resource allocation affect how teams work, both in-house and outsourced, your projects may stall, come to a complete stop or fail.

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    Why Resource Allocation Is Important

    Overallocation is most likely to occur when there are multiple projects in a company or when software is used to allocate tasks to resources. Overallocation occurs is when project managers have been encouraged to meet unreasonable expectations. Project managers then push their resource allocation beyond obtainable limits in order to meet constrained schedules and budgets. Overallocation puts unreasonable pressure on resources and can be costly not only in overtime monies but in resource burnout.

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    Techniques for Avoiding Resource Overload

    The most obvious way resource overload can be avoided is by setting up a project schedule that is realistic. Avoid pushing employees through an unreasonable or aggressive project schedule as a first defense. Schedule the project in a realistic way as part of effective project plan.

    Here are five other ways to avoid resource allocation overload in your projects:

    1. Resource Leveling – In this method, the project manager can either level resources by hand (complicated, but perhaps more sound) or use a software program such as Microsoft Project to level resources for you.This method requires the project manager to be truly on top of his or her game, and to recognize areas for concern before they become problematic.
    2. Prioritize Projects - By prioritizing projects, when a resource allocation overload is apparent or a task conflict exists, it can be resolved without piling pressure on the individual or team (or requiring the individual or team to put in a couple twelve-hour days).In this way, when you find your resources have been overloaded, decisions as to which tasks they should focus on are easier to make.
    3. Linking Tasks – Linking tasks is more of a logistical solution.If the resource has been assigned to research the markets for project A and project B, these tasks could be linked.In this manner, when it appears that a resource has been over-allocated, really the tasks are similar enough to count for two projects.By linking these tasks from the different projects, the problem can be resolved.
    4. Leaving Breathing Room - When scheduling the project, it is vital to leave breathing room between tasks.However, it is important to not under-allocate resources as this could lead to a loss of budget monies meaning resource allocations problems will affect your project's health.A fine balance must be achieved between breathing room and not moving forward quickly enough.
    5. Avoid the “Putting out fires” approach to project management - If your team is consistently putting out fires, it makes it difficult to focus on the project.Moreover, by putting out fires, the team becomes knee-deep in ash, while project tasks pile up.This is where project management techniques such as Scrum come in handy.

    How you plan your resource allocation is key in keeping your project on track and on budget with the outcomes you expect. If you have problems with resource allocation or your teams are complaining of burnout or being overworked, consider reviewing your resource management skills to keep your projects healthy.

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