Is MS Project Too Sensitive with Resource Overallocations?

tim.runcie

As a Microsoft Project MVP, I feel like I have seen most of the issues, complaints and also the bad behaviors of project schedulers, project managers and senior management when it comes to addressing project deliveries, schedules and resource management. I will say that as soon as I think I’ve seen it all my passion for teaching and educating constantly humbles me as I learn new and interesting issues, approaches and downright crazy things organizations do to manage their workload (demand) and deliver with their resources (capacity).

So in today’s day and age, when the economy is up and down, critical resources are scarce, budgets are tight and technology is rapidly improving; would I poke MS Project for being too sensitive in addressing resource overallocations. Let’s face it, most organizations usually leave a trail of bodies from the beginning to the end of projects like a marathon race sucks the energy and life of it’s runners on a large hill on the last mile. Of course many organizations continue to pile more work on right after each project, so there is little to any down time.

You would think I would be touting the importance of early alerts and being sensitive to resource overallocation, especially if you have a tool that will give you that visibility. Well, rest assured: while I definitely understand the nature of projects and project organizations and absolutely love the power of Microsoft Project’s ability to help you spot, identify and address resource overallocation; there are some key shortcuts many people don’t know about how to ease the launch of the flaming red figure in our Project schedules, helping PMs and project schedulers alike to not panic or begin to ignore this important visual alert.

Meet ROGG
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So let’s talk about ROGG, or what some people call the “**Burning Man**” and many other colorful adjectives. What is ROGG (**Red Overallocated Guy or Gal**) the burning figure that indicates that a resource is overallocated on task in Project.

ROGG stands for "Red Overallocated Guy or Girl." Some people call it the "Burning Man."

**ROGG** stands for “Red Overallocated Guy or Girl.” Some people call it the “Burning Man.”

This indicator (new in 2010 and 2013 for those who are still in the dark ages with some of your scheduling software versions), is a great tool for quickly identifying if a task is overallocated on this task or a cross between other tasks. If you are connected to Project Server or Project Online, ROGG tells you if your resource is overallocated due to work on other projects. Yeah, I know, pretty cool to have Microsoft Project tell you when there may be a resource issue up front, versus finding out a week later at a status meeting why work wasn’t done from the resource themself.

Task Inspector is great at drilling into why a resource is overallocated.

**Task Inspector** is great at drilling into why a resource is overallocated.

It is also tied to the **Task Inspector**. Another great tool that helps you identify why a resource is overallocated and what are the task drivers that are establishing the dates of that task. It even helps you address the overallocation solution with suggestions and views.

The Task Inspector Pane allows you to get insight into what is affecting the task and possible ways to correct it.

The **Task Inspector Pane** allows you to get insight into what is affecting the task and possible ways to correct it.

Yes, lots of goodies here. However, let me share some key tips for you that will help to desensitize this alert tool. You see, Project is looking at overallocations at a very granular level. In fact if you didn’t know, Project tracks work down to the minute.

“Wow,” you say. “Really down to the minute?”

Yes, _Project can schedule work down to the minute_. How exciting for the micro-manger…

However for most of us, we don’t need that level of detail, nor do we need to be worried about minute by minute overallocations. In fact, day by day overallocations may not be quite an issue.

The Big Picture
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Most Senior or Executive management, **don’t even worry about overallocation as they know that work will tend to self level**.

So let’s talk about big picture here for a second. My company has been involved in standing up PMOs and helping to build project organizations and a PM culture with the use of methodologies and technologies since the early 1990’s… Yes, I am getting older than I used to be, but I won’t share how old I am… sorry… blog for another day! However, work managed daily may be important, but overall when you are using a planning and scheduling tool to forecast work in the future, you may not need that level of granularity.

Here is a tip that many schedulers may not be aware of. _Most Senior or Executive management, don’t even worry about overallocation as they know that work will tend to self level_. They typically monitor for underallocation and are only interested in the gigantic peaks of overallocation vs. the small blips or moderate but constant overallocation. Now, if on the other hand you tend to want to fix the big issues and then drill down to chronic or mid level overallocations.

The point here is that Project may be alerting about overallocation at a level that isn’t helpful if you are doing high level planning or are looking into the future.

In fact many times I hear that the overallocation alert (ROGG), is a hindrance to presenting schedules to senior management because it may not address issues that are at the level they are looking at, and we know that anything RED tends to attract management’s attention.

Desensitization Methods
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So how do you help Project do it’s job, but also help to desensitize it’s early warning or alerts to you as the PM or Project Scheduler? Let’s take a look.

### 1. Turn It Off ###

First of all, you can just turn the alert off. Trust me, this is helpful when you need management to focus on real issues or if they have already addressed the fact that everyone on a task will be putting in overtime, longer hours or working across a weekend.

Uncheck this toggle to turn off ROGG warnings.

Uncheck this toggle to turn off ROGG warnings.

At the bottom of the Task Inspector, you can just use this toggle.

It really will help to focus on the message, not all the smaller details and is an easy solution for helping to keep your stakeholder focused on the bigger issue you want to address.

### 2. Review Project’s Leveling Settings ###
Second, and an even better approach, is to review what are the leveling settings in Project. Now before my fellow MVPs and expert Microsoft Project Schedulers and community of practice begin to heat up the tar and get the feathers and a rail… I’m not advocating or jumping into using the Leveling tool that Project has, I’m saying in this dialogue box is the ability to address how sensitive Microsoft Project is looking at displaying the overallocation issues and the ROGG symbol.

Access the Leveling Options.

Access the Leveling Options.

Let’s take a quick look.

If you click on the **Resource Tab** and select **Leveling Options**, you can see quickly how to manage the sensitivity of Projects Overallocation visualizations.

Once inside, I recommend that you try changing the standard and default settings of **look for overallocations on a Day by Day basis** to something more like **Week by Week**.

Change the Leveling to Week by Week

Change the Leveling to **Week by Week**

There is a lot more here that can get you into trouble, so I recommend making sure that you take some time to learn more about this leveling feature and decide if it is right for you, BUT the look for overallocations setting can really dramatically cut down on what Project alerts you to that are overallocated.

Essentially now this is looking for work that exceeds a resources capacity (by week), not by day. For example, if you were overallocated by 1 hour on a Thursday, but worked 1 hour less on Friday, it would flag you as overallocated on a Day by Day basis. On a Week by Week basis Project wouldn’t consider it.

So in a nutshell, Project may be too sensitive in it’s default settings for your needs. If so, you now have a few options that will help you address this and possibly save lots of time in not having to try and fix or address small issues when the glaring 90 hour weeks are showing up as the 3 hours of overallocation.

If you would like to learn more or have other Resource Capability and Strategy questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

Happy Project Scheduling and Resource Management to you!

*[MVP]: Most Valuable Professional
*[MS]: Microsoft
*[PMOs]: Project Management Organizations / Project Management Offices

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Showing 7 comments
  • Avatar
    Jason Vanzante

    This article was exactly what I was looking for. Nicely written and applicable.

  • Avatar
    Charity

    Tim – great article! I’m having a problem with this, though. I’ve got my resource leveling set to “week by week” and yet I’m still showing over-allocations for 1 day here and there. Is this a bug? I am using MS Project Pro 2013 and sharing resources.

  • Avatar
    Advisicon

    Overallocations will still show up if you are booking overlapping tasks.

    For example if you have 2 tasks that are booked from 8am to 12pm (4 hours each, but yet still overlapping), then the leveling setting won’t count, since it is looking for work that is beyond the 8 hours of a day.

    You may want to go to the File Tab, turn on the Date and Time setting format and then spot check the tasks to see where the issue is.

    Hope that helps.

    ~TR

  • Avatar
    Opuda Precious

    Here is my Issue. For a construction EPC project, A project Manager is a resource. The site manager is yet another resource. They both work round the clock supervising the work execution, except on off days, which is no more than 1 day out of the week. How can we allocate these kind of supervisory resource without over-allocating them?

  • Amanda Mathews
    Amanda Mathews

    Excellent question. The first part would be to identify if the site manager and the project manager are single resources vs. a role type that may have more than one resource. If they are a single resource (each), then you can set their working calendar to reflect the overall hours. The question you will need to determine is when is an overallocation going to occur? Does it mean when they work more than 40 hours, 50 hours 80 hours? You may want to consider that you can always simply ignore the overallocation for a period of time.
    Another solution is to set the resource calendar for each of the resources to a wider range of hours across a time period.
    You can double click on a resource and set the resource availability for a period of time, including their Max Units to a higher amount, which will help Project ignore the over allocation.
    These are some simple steps that will help. You can also set the Leveling options in the Resource Tab to Week by Week, vs. Day by Day if you want to avoid the overallocation on a single day, turning the overallocation icon (Burning Man) on.
    I hope this helps you. Happy PM’ing!

  • Avatar
    Emma

    Such a useful article, thank you. I’m interested in understanding my resources’ over-allocation based on “Work”, not “Duration”. For example, a task is going to take two weeks, but the person will dip in and out of it, over those two weeks. All up it might only take five hours.
    How can MS Project identify when we’ve exceeded a person’s 40 hour work week, instead of the durations of the tasks?

    Thank you!

  • Avatar
    Leslie Pfau

    Thanks for the great question, Emma. Project provides alerts to resource overallocations based on work, not duration, as I think you’re indicating is your requirement.

    What you might be seeing is that your Leveling Options (see the last image in the post) might be set to “day by day”. Try changing this setting to “week by week” and I think Project will give you indications more in-line with your expectations.

    Please try this and let me know what you find. Happy scheduling!

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