Process Improvement

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Resource Leveling in MS Project
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Auto leveling never seems to do what I expect it to do. So I end up having to switch it off and do the job myself. Has anyone else had the same experience or is it just me? I like MS Project and it is the only package that is support in my company so I don't really want to change. Is there anything I can do to allow me to do my really work?

Cheers
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Anonymous
We are going through a major implementation of MSProject in our organization, supported by the experts from Project Solutions Group. They say, never use autoleveling in MSProject -- you're asking for trouble!
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I would be inclined to agree. I've never been able to satisfactorilly explain some of the goofy things Project does when trying to level resources.

This is in contrast to Primavera Project Planner, which never had this problem. The big difference is that Primavera is about 25k to implement, while anyone can pick up a copy of Project on Ebay for a couple of hundred bucks. The big problem is that Project is like a lot of other MS products (Access comes to mind immediately) in that it makes it easy to think you're accomplishing something when all you're doing is making pretty pictures.
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For years, I have struggled with MS Project. It seems to have a mind of it's own. But I just finished reading "Dynamic Scheduling with MS Office Project 2003" by Eric Uyttewaal, PMP and published by IIL. It's the only text book I've ever devoured as if it were a novel - every page brought new revelations. The first few chapters are a big "duh", but after that it becomes the most useful resource ever. Even if you have to purchase it yourself, it's worth it.

For the first time ever, I can update a schedule and not have to manipulate any fields. And I can confidently print a "slipping tasks" report without crossing my fingers.

And, by the way, only level resources if you have a resource-loaded plan.
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MS Project has been by my side since 1983 (on&off). What made it simpler for me was to envision all of its tables as one large database. So to answer a question of "Is Bill (drafter) available for the times my projects will requirements? My project templates are already in boiler plate format with each task assigned two accounting codes. The first one is representative of the Work Package. the second the Work Element. First I would filter for only Drafting Tasks, this gives me the "Where." My team is informing me of the When, as I assign Bill onto his proper tasks, I load the Resource Graph on the top pane, and resource worksheet on the bottom pane. Since I'm using the project portfolio software, as I highlight my resource I also see how that resource is being utilized at any given time across the portfolio.
If management needed a cash flow forecast for the next 3 year for the entire portfolio. (The real question you need to see in your mind is: “when will the tasks happen and what does each one cost?” So, within a multi-project process, simply show the task usage table and in the right window [mouse - Right Click] select costs, and collapse all phases to the project level.
Hope I didn't confuse you even more . .
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A little late to post but thought I'd give it a shot anyways. A lot of people state that they have a problem with auto leveling in MS Project. However, in all the cases I have seen, it has been user error. There are many factors in setting up your project so that autolevel will work. From priortizing your deliverables (Project calls them tasks but strictly speaking from PM Literture, they should be deliverables), making sure you have accurately input your resources (accounting for productivity and availabilty - you may work an 8 hr day but we aren't actually working for 8 hours, you go to the bathroom, chat with your neighbors, etc..). A great resource for help with this is going to the MSProject - http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/assistance/HA011587371033.aspx
I have driven myself nuts with the autolevel til I found this site.

Good Luck!
Anonymous
Hi Bethany -
I went to this url- http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/assistance/HA011587371033.aspx
and didn't know where to find the information. What user errors are you refering to? What specifically about this site helped you to do leveling? Was there one article or several tips\tricks?
I'm still looking for help on this topic.
Thank you
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Michael, along with the other good suggestions posted by the folks below, you may want to consider setting up a very simple project (build a fence) with just a single-resource and say 4 tasks: Fence Side A, Fence Side B, etc. Make note of a few different scenarios that you'd like to test for instance: a) what happens when I manually level 4 concurrently occuring, independent tasks that have the same resource? What would happen if I added a constraint to one of the tasks ie task must finish no later than...? What happens if I add non-working time to my resource's calendar ie vacation time, does the scheduler pick this up...? how does the scheduler determine which tasks should occur first when I have a series of tasks on the critical path and others that are not (try this with 4 tasks, 2 on a 'critical path' and 2 that are not?...etc, etc. If you start very simply, you can start to understand some of the basic functionality of the tool and also some of the idiosyncracies. Good luck!
Anonymous
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@Sarah Kegley and others: I now publish the same content under a new title called "Forecast Scheduling with Microsoft Project". The last edition of "Dynamic Scheduling with Microsoft Project" I have been involved in was the 2003 edition; a variety of authors wrote the later editions under that same title on behalf of IIL.
Since the 2003 edition, we have added to the "Forecast Scheduling" editions:
a) updated the checklist of best scheduling practices and numbered each practice
b) added a "Forecast Scheduling" add-on for Microsoft Project with which you can automate all 86 checks from the checklist (of which 52 run fully automatic; you are guided by the software in performing the remaining 34 checks)
c) reduced the size of the book to 750 pages by replacing all replicated paragraphs with cross-reference links
d) incorporated the new ribbon features introduced in the 2010 release of MS Project
e) updated to the latest editions of the standards published by PMI
And many more, smaller things. You can check out the book at: www.projectprocorp.com
Eric Uyttewaal
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@Michael Jordon: I have met hundreds of project managers (if not thousands) who were saying what most seem to acknowledge in this thread: "do not use leveling", however, I would like to present a different opinion. As a MS Project trainer, I always followed up with people who stated "do not use leveling" in my courses. In 99% of the cases, I found that people had not checked the completeness and correctness of their network logic. Once, we had that sorted out and applied automatic leveling of workloads, we found that MS Project would produce a version of the schedule that would make sense. After that you now need to find the Resource-Critical Path instead of the good old Critical Path in order to optimize your schedule. My book elaborates on this extensively.
My two cents...

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