This week I introduce a simple way of accounting for people resources' time away from work. Project has some great features just for this need, but sometimes an even simpler approach is "good enough."
First, let's consider the "by the book" way of accounting for nonworking time per resource. The main feature for this is the resource calendar, defined as the working and nonworking days and times of an individual work resource. The calendar features in general in Project are powerful features. In previous posts I covered this subject here and here.
When I really need to account for individual resource's nonworking time and how it can affect the scheduling of tasks to which the resources are assigned, the resource calendar is my go-to feature. For some simpler projects, though, I use a simpler approach that gives resource nonworking time enough visibility to be managed. Strictly speaking this approach violates some key usage guidelines of Project, so buyer beware.
What I do is this: I create a summary task called something like "Resource time away from work." Below the summary task I then add subtasks for the known out-of-office times of resoruces who will have assignments in the plan. Here's what it looks like:
TIP Click the screenshot image to see a larger view.
As you can see, this are really just tasks with the resources assigned with start dates and durations set to align with the resources' planned times away from work.
With this quick-and-dirty approach, I then filter the view to show tasks assigned to a specific resource. I can easily spot any cases where the resource has a task assignment that conflicts with their "vacation" task. Here for example is the Gantt Chart view filtered for Carole Poland:
No problem here with Carole's planned vacation. Jane Dow, however, does have a problem:
I can easily see in the Gantt Chart view that one day of Jane's planned vacation time (task 10) conflicts with one of her assignments (task 13). Now that I am aware of the issue I can remedy it, perhaps by delaying the start of task 13 by one day, or if it cannot be moved, discussing the issue with Jane.
Long-time Project users might now be asking what's the benefit of this approach instead of just using the resource calendar feature as it was intended to be used? I have found a couple of benefits:
Anyone who has access to the plan can easily see (and if allowed, edit) the vacation task details. Getting to real resource calendar details is a bit more complex.
The vacation task has no impact on other tasks in the plan. Contrast this with an edit to a resource calendar. In Jane's case with task 13, if I had set her January 16-18 time away from work in her resource calendar, then task 13 would have been automatically rescheduled to start on the next working day (unless prevented by a constraint). That's exactly what the feature should do. However, for a simpler project plan, I actually might prefer having a manual means of resolving such issues myself, and rescheduling the affected task might not be my first preference.
I mentioned above that this approach violates a key usage rule of Project. I'll explain myself now. The usage rule is this: generally, avoid creating tasks in a plan that describe something other than work to be completed. Clearly my vacation tasks violate this guideline. In fact, the vacation tasks represent the opposite: the expected absence of work for the named resource during the specified timespan. However there's no harm in breaking a rule if I know and can live with the consequences.
Some other consequences of this approach: If I'm using resource pay rates to calculate project costs, I may need to make some adjustments to account for any unpaid vacation time incurred by the vacation tasks. I also need to be careful with automatic leveling and my vacation tasks.
Overall though I find this approach to be perfectly adequate for simpler projects where I can eyeball the potential schedule conflicts between resources' time away from work and scheduled tasks. When I have more rigorous needs, I'll go to the resource calendars.
Hands-on with Project Step by Step
To read more about this blog entry's subjects in the two most recent editions of Tim Johnson's and my Project Step by Step books, see the following cross-references.
Customizing resource calendars
- Project 2010 Step by Step: "Adjusting Working Time for Individual Resources," pg.63.
- Project 2007 Step by Step: "Adjusting Working Time for Individual Resources," pg.70.