5th Edition PMBOK® Guide—Chapter 6: Resource Optimization Techniques


The duration of a project activity will depend on the availability of resources you can apply to that activity. That is why the process 6.4 Estimate Activity Resources comes before process 6.5 Estimate Activity Durations.

Once you get a schedule model together, you may have to adjust it depending on the supply and demand for resources not only within the project, but between projects in a company. That’s why you may need one of the following resource optimization techniques: resource leveling and resource smoothing.

1. Resource leveling

This is used when critical resources are shared between projects or are overallocated either a) to one or more activities that are concurrent within a project or b) to one or more concurrent projects within an organization.

Thus the demand for resources outstrips the supply, and resource leveling is done to make sure that the supply meets the demand. In practical terms, it often happens like this. If Resource A is assigned to an activity on project #1 for eight hours a day, and resource A is shared between two different projects, project #1 and project #2, then resource leveling would then assign resource A to project #1 for 4 hours a day, and to project #2 for 4 hours a day. Notice that, in terms of project #1, this would double the amount of days it would take to do a particular activity using Resource A.

In fact, it is worthwhile noting that because it necessarily increases activity durations, resource leveling can even have an affect on the critical path of a project.

2. Resource smoothing

This is when the requirements for resources on a project are kept within certain predefined resource limits, for example, if Resource A is only working part-time on a project, the number of hours that Resource A is assigned to the project may be limited. The difference between resource smoothing and resource leveling is that resource smoothing is only used on activities that have float, so they cannot affect the critical path of a project like resource leveling can.

I hope this post clears up the difference between resource leveling and resource smoothing because the terms sound similar, and in fact, are both used for the same general purpose, to adjust the demand for resources on a project with a given supply. The difference between them comes to the fact that resource smoothing is used only for activities that are not on the critical path, whereas resource leveling has no such restriction, and can indeed affect the critical path of a project.

The next post covers the subject of modeling techniques used to model the effect of various risks on the duration of a project.

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One Response

  1. nice post…

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