Why Resource Limited Scheduling is Important in Projects

Why Resource Limited Scheduling is Important in Projects

No matter the scope and size, every project faces limited resources and capacity. There’s no such thing as an unlimited budget and resources. This is why project managers have to evaluate what they need to complete the project within the schedule and allocate their resources in the most effective ways.

No matter where you are in your Project Management career, whether you are a Project Management Professional (PMP)®  credential holder or not, you may find it helpful to learn more about how a resource-limited schedule works. Knowing how to create a schedule is an essential skill for a project manager.

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What is Resource Limited Scheduling?

Resource-limited scheduling is an approach that considers the availability of resources when setting the start and finish dates for a project. This approach works well when project managers face the challenge of securing necessary resources because they are scarce or in high demand.

Resource-limited scheduling aims to ensure the project can be completed in the shortest time using the resources within reach. Project managers who use this approach find it results in a more realistic schedule, even though it also restricts flexibility and increases the criticality of each event in the project.

Project managers must consider the resources available to them throughout the project duration if they want to keep it on schedule. When using resource-limited scheduling, if they start a project under the assumption that they will be able to secure resources during later stages, they risk delaying or canceling the project.

Ways Project Schedule Resources are Limited

In project management, resources can be limited in several ways that directly affect the schedule. Projects rely on tangible resources like money, people, and materials, as well as intangible resources like time, knowledge, and skills. Some of these limitations overlap. For example, a worker with a specific skill set may expect more compensation, which can cut into the available funding.

  • Money: The cost of equipment and materials may increase after the project starts, or current funding may be insufficient to pay for supplies and workers needed.
  • People: The project manager may have difficulty finding people available to work on the project during the project schedule.
  • Time: An outdoor project may be limited by the time of year it is scheduled. Working outdoors during the summer or winter may not be possible in some climates.
  • Materials: Supply chain disruptions or scarcity can make it challenging to get materials to the work site and can slow down the schedule.
  • Equipment: The project manager needs to ensure workers have access to the equipment they need to complete the project on time.
  • Space: Some tasks within a project may require a specific type of workspace, such as a warehouse or outdoor field.
  • Information: For some projects, the project manager must share information related to the project, such as a style guide or standard operating procedures (SOPs). Ensuring everyone has this information and understands it can prevent schedule delays.
  • Knowledge: If the project requires specific knowledge, the workers may need training before they can begin working. This can slow the schedule.
  • Skills and Abilities: Some projects require specialized skills, which may not be available in the pool of workers. Outsourcing that part of the work can impact the budget and schedule.
  • Other Resources: Items like energy needed to run equipment or internet access can be limited in some areas.

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What is Resource Leveling?

Resource leveling is the process of redistributing resources or activities across a project timeline to ensure efficient work allocation. For example, if an active project runs out of resources, the project can fall behind or cost more than anticipated. By leveling resources or adjusting the schedule timeline to optimize the use of available resources, the project has a better chance of staying on track without crashing the schedule. Resource leveling is also an important topic to know for someone preparing to take the PMP® exam.

10 Ways To Use Resource Leveling

Resource leveling takes several different forms. For example, workers scheduled to work on one task can take an alternate role in a different portion of the project. The project manager also may decide to hire additional workers or adjust the delivery schedule to get the project back on track. Other ways to level resources include:

  1. Delaying start times or adjusting the schedule
  2. Completing the project in phases
  3. Outsourcing work to contractors or other companies who can work within the schedule
  4. Acquiring additional resources through grants or investment
  5. Using existing resources more efficiently
  6. Reallocating resources from other projects
  7. Scaling down the scope of the project
  8. Reducing the number of deliverables in the schedule
  9. Changing the delivery schedule
  10. Canceling or postponing the project

Keep these different techniques in mind when preparing to take the PMP® exam, as you may be given a scenario where one of these situations has occurred and are asked what a project manager might do next.

Resource Limited Scheduling vs. Resource Leveling

Project managers (PMP) use a resource-limited schedule and resource leveling to keep their projects on track and meet deadlines, but they use them at different project stages. Resource-limited scheduling takes place in the project’s planning phase, as it requires assessing the available resources and allocating them across the entire project timeline when establishing the project’s baseline schedule. It’s especially useful when the project has limited resources and helps the project manager ensure they have what they need to complete the work.

Resource leveling can take place at any time during the project’s executing phase. As soon as the project manager realizes the project needs additional resources, they can examine what they have within reach and make adjustments to the equipment, personnel, supplies, and more. Project managers also can use resource leveling to keep the project within budget. Again, be sure to understand this concept when you prepare to take the PMP® exam. Keeping a project on track for completion within the budget and on schedule is an essential role of the project manager. Using a resource-limited schedule and resource leveling are two tools that help Project Management Professionals (PMP) do just that.

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Erin Aldridge, PMP, PMI-ACP, & CSPO
Director of Product Development at
Erin Aldridge, PMP, PMI-ACP, & CSPO