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How resource leveling can keep your projects on track 8 min read
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Despite careful planning, most projects will change over the course of their lifetime.

Perhaps a stakeholder needs to shift the project finish date, or a task you’re depending on seems to be never-ending.

Whatever the reason, it’s possible that at some point, you’ll face a problem in matching the work that needs doing with the resources you’ve got available.

If that happens, resource leveling may be the answer.

In this article, we’ll look at what exactly resource leveling is, why it’s important, and how to put the technique into action.

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What exactly is resource leveling?

Resource leveling recognizes that resources are finite. It’s a technique that matches resource availability to tasks that need completing while being conscious of other constraints, such as time and budget.

Businesses use resource leveling when a project environment shifts and influences resource levels. For example, if a team member leaves or a stakeholder requirement changes.

It’s also common to see resource leveling used in conjunction with a second technique — resource smoothing. Both methods care about balancing resource allocation with work that needs to be done.

Resource smoothing — also called time-limited resource scheduling — is used when time is the dominant consideration for a project.

If there is a fixed deadline for project completion, resource smoothing delays tasks that are not on the critical path to prioritize available resources for those that are. Only tasks that are on the critical path affect project duration.

Additional resources may also be used to help speed up activity completion time.

Resource leveling is most common when resource availability is the most significant constraint.

You can schedule tasks to fit the availability of limited resources and the project duration shifts if required.

In practice, you often need a blend of resource smoothing and resource leveling in your resource management process.

Why is resource leveling important?

Resource leveling is important because it:

  • Eliminates over-allocation: by balancing the demands of project tasks with resource capacity, resource leveling removes the risks of over-allocating resources.
  • Enhances productivity and reduces burnout: by removing over-allocation, the risk of resource burnout is reduced. Productivity is also improved as resources can focus on the highest-priority work without juggling other tasks.
  • Ensures quality of output: when resources can focus on a single task, the likelihood of a quality outcome increases.

By ensuring the right project resources are working together at the right time, the sequencing of work is optimized, decreasing the likelihood of error or something being missed.

How do you tackle resource leveling?

Resource leveling is a mitigation technique that depends on a deep understanding of resource availability and your project’s critical path.

The resource leveling process actually begins in the project planning phase when you seek to understand these elements.

Critical path analysis

During the project planning phase, project managers will map out the critical path. Project tasks are organized sequentially, and tasks that are dependent on others are identified.

Individual task duration will be estimated, and the critical path — all the tasks that need finishing on time for the project to complete by its deadline — highlighted.

Flowchart showing project tasks and the critical path
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Once project managers are clear on what needs to be completed, they can review their resource capacity. This will show whether there are times in the project when resource demand is expected to be higher than supply.

At this early planning stage, project managers can make decisions about task start and finish dates to try and reduce the likelihood of being under-resourced during the project.

If those tasks are on the critical path, project duration will shift.

If the project timeline can shift — and resource capacity is the greatest constraint — resource leveling will be applied, and the project duration extended. If the project timeline is fixed, project managers will use resource smoothing.

Fast tracking

Ideally, decisions made at the planning phase would mitigate all your resource constraints throughout the project.

In reality, there are a lot of unforeseen changes during the planning stage.

Resources may leave, there may be resource conflicts with another project, or the project timeline may have to be compressed.

Fast tracking is a resource optimization technique that can be implemented when the project timeline can’t change — or needs to be reduced — and additional resources can’t smooth capacity. Fast tracking requires project tasks to be executed in parallel rather than sequentially.

You also can’t fast track tasks that have a dependency on another task. To implement fast tracking, project managers need to analyze tasks on the critical path and identify those that could feasibly be completed in parallel.

First, determine how much time needs saving, then look for tasks that will help you achieve that most efficiently.

Industry guidance suggests tasks can overlap by 33% without compromising quality — so you can start a second activity when the first is around 66% complete.

Fast tracking can be risky as you’re asking team members to focus on multiple tasks at once, and you need to be careful not to overburden them.

For this reason, fast tracking should only be a short-term solution and needs to be carefully monitored.


A second technique you can use to balance resource capacity with demand is crashing.

Crashing effectively means adding resourcing to activities so they can be completed on time. Usually, this means engaging extra resources to help get the work done.

However, sometimes it can mean project managers asking their current resources to work overtime to get a task finished.

In this instance — like fast tracking — crashing should only be used for a limited time to avoid employee burnout. Adding additional resources can be helpful to meet demand, but it can increase the project cost.

Depiction of fast tracking and crashing

(Image Source)

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This means — like most things in life — a compromise needs to be reached. Discussions with stakeholders about which constraint is more important — time, cost, or project scope — will help determine which action should be taken.

How software can help you manage resource leveling

To effectively manage resource leveling, you need good planning capability, project visibility, and real-time reporting.

The Work OS can help you level up your resource utilization throughout the project lifecycle.

At the project planning stage, use our project timeline template to identify tasks, their durations, and other tasks they’re dependent on.

Then use our Gantt chart view to easily see how your tasks fit together and identify the critical path.


This type of visibility is crucial to understanding how your project progresses against expected milestones and gets an early warning for any potential problems.

With our fully customizable platform, it’s easy to track the important things for you and your stakeholders. Add status columns, assign task ownership, and flex task duration to monitor the overall impact on the project.

And, any changes you make to tasks will automatically update any dependent tasks, so you’ve always got a real-time perspective on how things are going.

To make it even easier to stay on top of things, use our automation recipes to trigger actions — like sending a notification when a task status changes.

Plus, our resource management workload view makes it easy to monitor resource capacity at a glance. This is vital if you’re asking a lot of your resources and want to avoid burnout.

Team member workload represented by colored dots of different sizes

Whether your project is moving along swimmingly or you’re facing a bumpy road, you need accurate, transparent reporting to help you choose between options.

Our colorful dashboards have 8 different data visualization options, so it’s easy to present information and engage stakeholders with effective and timely decision-making about the next steps for your project.

And, if you do need to use resource leveling techniques, reporting is crucial for monitoring the impact of those techniques on your likely project outcome.

After all, both techniques carry risk, so you want to make sure they’re creating the benefits you need.

Resource leveling supports beneficial project outcomes

In this article, we’ve looked at how using resource leveling can help you match resource availability to work required to keep your project schedule on track.

A Work OS — like — is vital to the process, enabling early sight of problems and offering planning and collaboration tools to shift things around quickly.

Plus, once you’re back on track, you can keep a close eye on things with our clear and colorful reporting.

Why not get started with our resource management template today?

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