Allocating Scarce Resources to IT Projects
When allocating resources, MSP uses the available activity slack for rescheduling the WBS items. Due to this, the duration of the project or the schedule of the project does not change because of the capacity of WBS to accommodate the items. However, this situation comes very often and the software package needs input about the priority for use while doing the allocation of scarce resources to the tasks.
This is done to decide the sequence of the task, i.e. which will go immediately or which may wait for some time. For assigning these priorities, a solution to the problem must be identified first using a PERT/CPM schedule.
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The activities are examined for the period and resources needed in it. If the resource demand exceeds the supply then the software automatically considers the tasks one by one and provides the resources as per the priority rules defined. On receiving the resources, the tasks precede their execution as per the plan.
The task which does not receive the resources waits for the resources from the currently running tasks to be free to get its turn and therefore delays. It will affect the project duration and may be seen on the Gantt chart.
About Constrained Resources
When more tasks wait for the resources to be freed up to complete the execution, they delay the project, and the project manager requests more resources to complete the project on time. The manager may complain about the scarcity of resources; however, it rarely applies to the resources. These types of resources which force the tasks in the waiting mode may be said as ‘Waits’.
Let us take an example. There is an individual, Walter A., an employee of an IT organization. He is the specialist for all software development projects of the organization.
He is having good IT skills and experience in the same. Whenever a new software development project is undertaken by the organization, he is asked for his opinions and ideas. He is the only one in the organization having such capabilities.
Projects needing Walt’s input have to wait until he gets free. So he may be treated as a truly scarce resource. The main problem here is the solution for deciding which project will get the scarce resource first and in what sequence.
Some Priority Rules for Allocating Scarce Resources in IT Projects
There are many rules available for the assignment of scarce resources to the tasks in a project, however, project management software packages have a limitation for the automatic application and need the manual application of the rules. The most commonly used rules are as follows:
- As Soon as Possible: This is treated as the default and standard rule in the scheduling of resources. Here, tasks are scheduled to begin with their EST and in that order, only resources are provided to them.
- As Late as Possible: Here, tasks are allocated resources based on LSTs wherever possible without affecting much of the project schedule.
Some other measures are:
- Shortest Task Duration First: Shorter tasks as given priority as compared with the longer tasks.
- Minimum Slack First: The tasks receive the resources for their completion in the inverse order of their slacks.
- Most Critical Followers: Tasks with higher critical successors on the critical path are given priority.
- Most Successors: Tasks with higher critical successors of the complete project are given priority.
- Most Resources First: The task with more resource requirements is given more priority.
The start dates of tasks as per the schedule allow the application of early or late start rules and task slack information provides the minimum slack rule. The task duration is the necessity for the shortest task duration rule.
Allocating Scarce Resources to Several Projects
Allocation of scarce resources is a tough job, but if it is the case when several projects are running concurrently, the problem extends, and the size and complexity of the problem increase. These projects may be independent of each other or may be a part of the large project as sub-projects.
Let us consider an example of a single project. The project comprises the first-level tasks combined to form a technological connection between predecessors and successors. The first-level tasks comprise the second-level tasks under them and are arranged in the same manner. The procedure continues with the third level, fourth level, and so on.
If there are several projects, then they may be linked together with the pseudo activities which have the duration but do not require the resources. The projects can be separated on time by establishing preferences between the projects using the pseudo tasks. This represents the AOA (Activity-on-Arrow) network.
Each node in the figure represents a project and the arrows are pseudo activities which are connecting different projects. Here, scarce resources are allocated to each of the tasks in a single project. the same method may be applied to several projects at a time.
Pseudo-activities are capable enough to separate projects depending on their planned schedule or in a random way. if the projects have been arranged as a single project, then resource loading and leveling charts may be used for them. However, the timelines for all projects must be agreed on likewise which allows for examining the resource allocation status.
Criteria of Priority Rules for Allocating Scarce Resources in IT Project
Generally, a project manager has to face variations in the outcomes due to the availability of different priority rules. The project manager assigns a task a higher priority if it is of utmost importance to the project or has maximum complexities in it. Due to this, contract workers are sometimes hired in an organization and released once the task or the project is over.
For assigning resources to such tasks, a resource allocation procedure is needed by the project. Another situation for setting a high priority to the task may be because of the nature of a task if its completion promotes a large amount of payment for the project.
The other criterion would be uncertainty in scheduling tasks. There can be two types of tasks in a project such as a task for which the period may be estimated and an uncertain task. This modifies priority rules for both tasks. Therefore, the priority is decided based on the float value and the uncertainty factor of the task.
The task having the greatest uncertainty will have higher priority as compared with the other tasks whose time duration can be calculated. This is done because certain time tasks may be postponed or executed later as their actual time is already known which will not affect the project schedule. Also if a task does not need the same resource throughout the execution, the requirement for the resource for that particular task is altered when it reaches that point.
Resources that have already been used for a task in the project cannot be unscheduled and used in some other process. A task can only be unscheduled if it does not have any economic loss to the project and the organization.
Various measurable criteria which help in the selection of priority rules are:
- Schedule Slippage: A set of projects delayed by applying the leveling rule to the tasks.
- Resource Utilization: The degree of resources that is overworked or underworked.
- In-process Inventory: The number of pending assignments in the project or organization.
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