Resource Leveling: Benefits, Techniques, and Examples

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Rafael Timbó
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Rafael Timbó
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Chief Technology Officer
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Resource Leveling: Benefits, Techniques, and Examples

Table of Contents

Explore how resource leveling can help tech leads address resource constraints and stay agile while managing projects.
Published on
February 2, 2024
Updated on
February 15, 2024

Proper resource allocation is essential for project success. Project managers who cannot properly distribute resources such as work time, skill sets, equipment, and materials put their teams at a severe disadvantage. Resource leveling is one resource optimization technique that helps tech teams achieve maximum productivity.

Resource leveling allows project managers to adjust project timelines and resources. Project managers, including Certified Project Management Professionals (PMPs), use this technique to prevent employee burnout, optimize resource availability, and create feasible project plans that flexibly maintain high quality. 

This article will help project managers better understand resource leveling and how to utilize it to improve tech projects. It also provides techniques, examples, and tools that assist in proper implementation. 

What Is Resource Leveling?

Resource leveling in project management is a technique that addresses possible resource constraints affecting a project’s timeline. This type of project and resource planning balances time, tools, and materials so project managers can allocate them most effectively. Project managers who effectively employ this technique create more manageable workloads for team members and improve overall project efficacy. Effective utilization of resource leveling is critical in complex technical projects with limited resources or time constraints to ensure the effective distribution of specialized tech skills.

To perform resource leveling, project managers detect where development teams may use resources more effectively and make necessary adjustments. The approach helps project managers overseeing tech teams better coordinate engineers, equipment, and tools for successful execution. Project managers also use it to ensure that a project’s schedule doesn’t overwork team members or overburden developers with specialized skill sets.

When to Use Resource Leveling

Project managers must plan appropriately to avoid the negative impacts of resource constraints and budget limitations and use their employees' specialized skills wisely. Managers leverage project resource leveling when they identify that limited resources are causing team members to be overworked or necessary resources to be inaccessible. This technique is especially useful when project timelines are strict, and problems with resource distribution may lead to bottlenecks.

Tech projects often face sudden shifts in priorities, changes in project requirements, and alterations in timelines. Project managers who employ resource leveling techniques utilize flexibility to optimize team performance, reassess necessary resource distribution, and avoid unwanted side effects. 

Why Is It Important?

Utilizing resource leveling before the project starts preemptively solves many potential resource conflicts that a team of software developers may encounter. In addition, resource leveling improves work conditions in a variety of ways. Properly balanced schedules improve employee teamwork, focus, and work-life balance, increasing job satisfaction and better employee retention.

Project managers who implement resource leveling also facilitate realistic scheduling. Team members will find deadlines more feasible by considering all of the resources and details and making educated decisions to establish a relevant timeline. Efficient resource leveling also reduces project costs while offering flexibility to shift priorities if issues arise in other projects.

Failing to utilize resource leveling to its full potential hampers projects and causes significant adverse impacts. An over- or under-allocation of resources may lead to low-quality work and project delays. Overworking employees often decimates team morale and productivity, leading to high employee turnover. Inflexible approaches also make it more difficult to reallocate resources, skills, and time when a crisis occurs. 

Examples of Resource Leveling

Implementing resource leveling before initiating a new project is important to allocating resources appropriately, cutting costs, and promoting adaptability. Team members can also maintain a healthy work-life balance that ensures maximum output. There are several methods project managers employ to implement resource leveling effectively.

Deadline adjustment

If a tech team is working with a limited amount of developers or equipment, a deadline adjustment is an appropriate form of resource leveling. Asking employees to work overtime or finish tasks in less time often leads to burnout and overly cumbersome code reviews. If stakeholders cannot provide additional resources or developers to complete the project as initially planned on an end date, it is best to adjust the deadline to retain employees and ensure high-quality results.

Task prioritization

Correctly determining task dependencies in the planning phase significantly streamlines a project’s workflow and date of completion. Project managers must decide which tasks developers should prioritize based on urgency and importance. Assigning a balanced workload across the team will allow for completing critical tasks on time while facilitating the development of dependent, less critical tasks.

Cross-skill Training

Tech teams that invest in cross-skill development for team members see increased versatility and expansion of available resources. Training developers to perform other duties, such as a front-end developer learning database management, will make that developer more versatile and able to fill more roles. Tech teams that embrace cross-skill training will reduce potential costs, as hiring additional workers to perform specific skill sets becomes unnecessary. 

Resource Leveling vs. Resource Smoothing

Resource leveling and resource smoothing are two distinct project management techniques. Still, project managers use them together to maximize effectiveness. Resource leveling mainly works to prevent the over-allocation of resources and allows project managers to adjust the timeline to meet the availability of resources.

Resource smoothing is a technique that takes place when project managers do not have the option to adjust a project’s timeline and must finish by the project completion date. Because resource smoothing does not allow an adjustment to the timeframe, project managers must optimize resource demand within the time constraints. Resource smoothing involves dividing tasks into smaller subtasks among team members. 

Choosing the optimal technique depends largely on the flexibility of the project's deadline. Projects with limited resources but the ability to extend the deadline will benefit from resource leveling. Resource smoothing is best for projects with fixed deadlines but flexibility with resources.

Resource Management Techniques 

For maximum efficiency and flexibility, project managers should be able to employ various resource management techniques depending on the state of the project. All resource leveling techniques involve adjusting schedules and resource allocation; however, different methods attack the problem from different angles. 

Critical Path Method (CPM)

A popular resource management technique is CPM. Project managers use CPM to plan, schedule, and monitor projects without considering the availability of resources. CPM improves a project’s workflow by mapping out a project’s tasks in the best sequence to find the shortest project duration. 

CPM requires project managers to break the project into manageable tasks before sequencing them based on their dependencies. Once the manager determines an estimated time duration for each task, they use the diagram of tasks to determine the most efficient path for completing the project in the shortest time span. This is called the critical path. With the critical path identified, the project manager determines start and finish times for each task and any outputs and deliverables needed for the project to run smoothly.

Critical chain management

Whereas CPM focuses on the time it will take to complete a project, critical chain management is a method of managing a project centered around available resources. The critical chain is the longest possible sequence of dependent tasks after considering resource constraints. When determining the critical chain, the project manager only allocates resources to a single task at a time and includes buffers so the project completion date remains unaffected despite any unexpected problems. Critical chain management is a way for project managers to optimize resource allocation and reduce bottlenecks caused by resource constraints. 

Fast-tracking

Fast-tracking is a resource management technique that project managers use when clients suddenly push deadlines forward. Fast-tracking involves compressing a project’s timeline and executing multiple tasks concurrently to speed up the workflow. For fast-tracking to work effectively, project managers must identify which activities don’t have dependencies and overlap. While this resource management technique can speed up the duration of a project, it can also lead to higher costs due to team members working overtime and securing additional resources.

Resource Leveling Tools

Resource leveling tools are software applications that project managers use to balance team workloads and resource allocation effectively. Each tool offers different advantages that benefit specific projects. However, resource leveling tools may cause delays for teams that are new to them. Integrating them with existing systems may also add complexity to workflows. 

One prominent resource leveling tool is project management software. Project management software provides solutions that allow managers to visualize project timelines, tasks, and resource assignments. This cuts down overscheduling or double-booking of team members and reduces resource misappropriation. Some project management software includes real-time insights, providing automatic adjustment suggestions or manual realignment of tasks. Popular types of management software include:

  • Agile project management tools: Agile project management tools support the Agile methodology approach, which involves segmenting projects into steps. The approach emphasizes collaboration, adaptability, and a rapid response to changes. These tools utilize backlogs, visual aids, and boards to prioritize and track progress. Agile project management tools also incorporate feedback to improve projects. Famous examples of Agile project management tools include Jira and Trello.
  • Time-tracking tools: These software applications record and analyze how long teams or team members spend on individual tasks and projects. This data helps project managers improve team productivity, manage workloads, and ensure accurate billing. Common time-tracking tools include Toggl Track and Time Doctor.
  • Resource scheduling tools: Resource scheduling tools are software applications that allocate resources to optimize a project’s efficiency. Teams utilize this tool to track resource usage, coordinate meeting rooms, and allocate equipment as needed. Resource scheduling tools often include real-time visibility of available resources to prevent overbooking conflicts. Popular examples of resource scheduling tools include Smartsheet and Float.

Find Project Managers for Your Dev Team

Resource leveling is an important technique that significantly improves the quality and efficiency of your development team’s projects. Ensuring that your employees are productive but not overworked while meeting project completion dates depends on the project manager’s ability to utilize resource leveling effectively. However, finding a qualified and effective resource leveling PMP is often challenging. 

At Revelo, we help businesses find the best project managers and developers for their tech projects. We rigorously vet our pool of highly skilled candidates for technical skills, soft skills, and English proficiency. We also handle onboarding, including payroll, benefits administration, taxes, and local compliance, and offer support throughout the developer or project manager’s time at your company. 

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