In many organizations, assigning resources to projects requires the approval of a resource manager. This is particularly necessary when the resources are part of primarily operational divisions (e.g., IT, accounting and HR), and they are only assigned to projects from time-to-time.
For instance, an IT resource who provides day-to-day technical support, but is sometimes assigned to certain tasks in projects. In earlier versions of Microsoft Project Server, there was no direct way to manage this situation, so work-arounds had to be applied.
With new releases of Project 2016 and Project Online, however, resource managers will gain more control over the allocation of organizational resources.
In the past, one work-around that has traditionally been employed to handle allocation of division-dedicated recourses was to use the % Units of the resources. For example, an IT resource who might be assigned to project tasks only 20% of the time would have their max units set to 20%. This way, the system would limit their availability to work on project tasks to 20% of their total working hours. The benefit of this approach is that it would enable more accurate planning around resource capacity, because a resource’s availability in the system would be more reflective of real-life circumstances.
In this scenario, John Doe has been assigned a Task at 20% units; therefore the 40 hour task actually takes 25 days in duration, starting from 9/9/2016 and finishing on 10/21/2016 (this is automatically calculated based both on the units of 20% and a standard working week calendar).
To demonstrate further, consider, an IT resource who is a Database Administrator and is only available eight hours per week to work on projects because they have to spend the remaining 32 hours of the week performing the primary operational activities around database administration.
If their resource profile is properly configured in the system and they are assigned to a task on a project that requires 40 hours of their time, then that particular task will take at least 5 weeks to complete (since they will only work on it for eight hours per week). Configuring the resource availability this way will provide the project manager a more realistic and accurate project schedule to plan against.
Athough this solution provides some control over resource management by limiting resource availability for projects, it does not provide the full flexibility that is needed at times.
Perhaps, this IT resource has their max units set to 20%, but may actually be available 50% some weeks, 10% other weeks and 20% the rest of the time. Early releases of Project Server provides the ability to set different max units for different dates, but this has to be planned in advance, and requires manual intervention to modify.
Another method some organizations use to work-around the challenge of allocating corporately dedicated resources is creating an on-going project in the system that is used as a place holder for planning purposes to represent operational activity or non-project activity that resources can be assigned to.
I have seen one company create a project called IT Operations and within that they would have a few tasks that represent their IT operational activity (i.e. networking support or applications support). This provides project managers visibility into resource usage in other areas so they can plan accordingly.
The problem with both of these strategies is that they do not allow for a systematic oversight process for resource managers to dynamically approve or reject resources. For example, many of the clients that I have worked with have resource managers that need to approve certain resources, such as a vendor’s usage on projects. Previous versions of Project Server did not provide the means to request or even require the resource manager’s approval to assign resources to projects.
In Project 2016 and Project Online, Microsoft introduces a new capability called Resource Engagements that fills some of the gaps experienced with earlier versions.
Resource Engagements provides a means for resource managers and project managers to negotiate and ensure that resources get utilized effectively throughout the organization. With this new feature, resource managers will be empowered to control how the resources within their domain are utilized, something they had very little control over in previous versions of Project Server.
Activating Resource Engagements
If you use Project Online and had your instance created before May 2016, navigate to either the Resource Center or the PWA Settings page. You will notice a yellow ribbon at the top that tells you to visit the Additional Server Settings page to activate new Resource Engagements and Capacity Planning capability.
You can then click on the “Additional Server Settings” link to be directed to that page. From the “Additional Server Settings” page, you need to check the Activate box located next to “New Resource Management Features Available”, and then click on Save.
Once Resource Engagements has been activated, the following will happen:
- The current resource plans will start to get migrated to engagements.
- The Resource Plan button will disappear and you will no longer be able to access the old resource plans.
- Resources can be configured so that approval will be required in order to assign them to projects. This can be done by editing the specific resource from the resource center in PWA.
- A new tab called Engagements appears in Project Professional, which allows you to Add or Submit New Engagements.
Assuming the Resource Engagements functionality is active, and the resources that require approval have been configured, project managers can submit a resource engagement request for those resources that require approval. The resource manager then receives the approval request, which they can analyze against the resources other usages, and decide to approve or reject. Once approved, the project manager can use the source in their project as proposed.
With the activation of Resource Engagements, project managers and resource managers will be able to reach an agreement, in real time, to ensure that resources are appropriately and effectively allocated throughout the organization. In my next article for Paragon's Business Solutions Blog, I will discuss the steps for activating Resource Engagements in more detail, and demonstrate how to fully leverage this tool to improve resource engagements in your organization.