Project Management

Using and Managing Contingency: Part 3--Resource and Scope Contingency

Harvey A. Levine

Contingency planning is essential for establishing attainable and manageable schedule and cost targets. However, contingency can be applied to resources and work scope, as well. Because resource and scope contingency are rarely addressed in project management circles, we’ll touch on them briefly here.

Resource Contingency

It has been my experience that attention to resource contingency is rare. For some reason, project managers – even those who allow for contingency in their schedules and budgets – do not see the need for similar practices when it comes to planning and managing resource loads. In fact, we often see the opposite: resources assigned to work using an overload model. That is, workers are assumed to be available at a level that is a bit greater than full time.

I can understand the rationale for such a seemingly irrational approach. First of all, many automatic resource leveling processes look for periods of time when the assigned resources can be applied to a task without interruption, and so tend to leave gaps showing periods of unassigned resources when there is actually work waiting for those resources.

Too, people are often seen as more flexible than time or budgets. The theory is that we can always squeeze a little extra out of a resource if the pressure is on.

But perhaps the real reason that resource contingency is …


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"More than any time in history mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness, the other to total extinction. Let us pray that we have the wisdom to choose correctly."

- Woody Allen

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