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Assigning Resources in Microsoft Project

How to assign resources to the tasks in your Microsoft Project plan

This article will show you how to set up resource assignments in Microsoft Project, including advanced methods of work and cost management.

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Basic Resource Assignments

  1. Start with a simple Microsoft Project (*.mpp) plan. In this example, we have five tasks, split across two different phases. The simplest way to add resources is to type the name of the assigned resource into the Resource Names field:

    Microsoft Project plan with five tasks and resources assigned.

  2. Notice that resources are only assigned to child tasks. Summary tasks do not need to be resourced separately, since they are simply summaries of the child tasks underneath them:

    Don't assign resources to summary tasks.

    It's very important to select the tasks in the correct order. The predecessor should be selected first, and the successor should be selected second. If you end up selecting the tasks in reverse order, your dependencies will be backwards.

  3. Once you have assigned a given resource to at least one task, that resource will appear in a picklist, like this:

    Resource picklist in Microsoft Project.

    This makes it easier to select the same resource multiple times without having to type the same name over and over.

Managing the Resource Picklist

    When you assign a resource to a task in Microsoft Project, the resource name is added to Microsoft Project's resource picklist. If you need to remove or rename a resource that is in the picklist, follow these stps:

  1. On the Task tab of Microsoft Project, find the View panel, and then click on it to change the view from Gantt Chart to Resource Sheet:

    Switch to the Resource Sheet view in Microsoft Project.

  2. The Resource Sheet will list all available resources in the Microsoft Project plan:

    Microsoft Project resource sheet.

  3. You can edit the resource sheet to change the names of each resource, remove unused resources, or add new resources, like this:

    Add, remove, or modify Microsoft Project resources on the Resource Sheet.

    Previously, all of our resources only had first names, but we've added last names in this latest revision. We've also added a new resource that is not yet assigned to any tasks.

  4. Now, when we return to the Gantt Chart view, the people in the Resource Names field have been updated, and the dropdown now reflects all four resources instead of the original three, even though the fourth resource hasn't been assigned any tasks yet:

    Resource dropdown with first name and last name

Types of Resources (Work, Material, Cost)

Microsoft Project supports three different types of resources:

    • Work: People, equipment, and facilities that are assigned in the completion of a task.
    • Material: Physical goods or other inputs required to complete a task.
    • Cost: Other costs, such as overhead or travel expenses that are involved in the completion of the task.
  1. To assign types to your resources, go back to the Microsoft Project Resource Sheet.

  2. On the Resource Sheet, we can add more resources. Instead of just people, we'll add some equipment like 3D printers, which are still categorized as "Work", plus some raw materials for use with those 3D printers which are classified as "Material":

    Assign resource types on the Microsoft Project resource sheet.

  3. When adding materials as a resource, it's a good idea to specify units of measure in the Material field. Here, the raw plastic used by our 3D printers is measured in tons:

    Specify units of measure for material resources in Microsoft Project.

Assigning Individual Resources to Groups

While resources are typically tracked on an individual level, they can also be assigned into groups to give you better understanding of which types of resources are being used. This is also useful if one of your resources becomes overloaded and you need to assign a different person from the same group or skillset.

  1. To assign your resources to groups, return to the Microsoft Project Resource Sheet.

  2. On the Resource Sheet, there is a Group field. Here, we've assigned three of our employees to the "Engineering" group and one to the "Sales" group. All of our 3D printers are in an "Equipment" group, and all of the material for the 3D printers are in a "Raw Materials" group:

    Create resource groups in Microosft Project.

    There is no limit to the number of resource groups you can create in Microsoft Project. Typically, employees are assigned by department or functional area, and contractors are assigned based on the name of the vendor that they work for.

    Equipment, materials, and costs can be grouped in a similar fashion. A good test for your resource grouping is to see if one resource in a group can be substituted for another in the same group. For example, if the first floor 3D printer gets overloaded or is down for maintenance, can you move the work to the second floor 3D printer? If so, then those two pieces of equipment probably belong in the same group. Conversely, you might not want to substitute someone from your sales department to do engineering work, so it makes sense to place those employees in different resource groups.

  3. Once the resource groups have been established, switch back to the Gantt Chart view. Click on Add New Column and choose the Resource Group field from the dropdown:

    Insert the Resource Group field into the Microsoft Project Gantt Chart.

  4. Now, the Gantt Chart in Microsoft Project shows not only the individual resource assignments, but the resource group assignments as well:

    Resource Groups displayed next to Resource Names in Microsoft Project.

Assigning Multiple Resources to the Same Task

In many cases, each task in Microsoft Project is assigned a single resource. However, it's not uncommon for a task to require multiple resource assignments. A task might require two people to collaborate, or might require one person to operate a piece of equipment using some materials. There are two ways to assign multiple resources to the same task in Microsoft Project:

Option 1: Use the Task Information Window

  1. To manage resource assignments for a specific task, double-click anywhere on that task. Here, we are double-clicking on the Resource Names cell, but any cell in that row will do:

    Double-click on a resource assignment in Microsoft Project.

  2. When the Microsoft Project Task Information window appears, click on the Resources tab:

    Resources tab of the Microsoft Project Task Information window.

  3. Using the grid, add more resources to the task, like this:

    Add more resources to a Microsoft Project task using the Task Information window.

    Nari was already the employee assigned to this task, but now we've specified that she wlll use ABS Plastic in the first floor 3D printer.

  4. Notice that when you close the Task Information window, both the Resource Names and Resource Group fields have been updated to show multiple resource assignments, separated by commas:

    Add more resources to a Microsoft Project task using the Task Information window.

    In European editions of Microsoft Project, you may find that your resource separator is a semi-colon (;) instead of a comma.

  5. Option 2: Use the Assign Resources Button

    1. Another way to assign multiple resources is to select the task in question and then go to Resource > Assign Resources:

      Assign Resources Button in Microsoft Project.

    2. The Microsoft Project Assign Resources window will appear, showing the same multiple resource assignments that we established earlier:

      Microsoft Project's Assign Resources Screen.

      Resources with a green checkbox next to them have already been assigned.

      To assign a new resource, left-click on that resource and click the Assign button. To unassign a resource from the task, left-click on the resource and click the Remove button isntead.

    3. You can reassign resources, swapping one for another, by clicking the Replace button. Here, we are replacing the first floor 3D printer with the second floor 3D printer:

      Replace one Microsoft Project resource with another.

    4. When you close the Assign Resources window, notice that the Resource Names field has been updated to show the revised resource assignments. In this case, we see that one 3D printer has been substituted for the other. The Resource Group field doesn't change because both 3D printers are assigned to the same "Equipment" resource group:

      Add more resources to a Microsoft Project task using the Task Information window.

    Resource Allocation and Adjusting Units of Work

    Microsoft Project enables you to adjust the amount of work that is assigned to each resource. For materials, this represents the amount of material being used. For employees or equipment, it represents the number of hours that will be worked on a given task.

    1. In the project schedule below notice that there is a "Task 1A" and a "Task 1B" that are both assigned to Nari, and are scheduled to take place at the same time. Employees like Nari can work on multiple things at once, but they cannot work on two simultaneous tasks full time, which is what's taking place right now:

      Overallocated resource due to multiple full-time tasks being assigned at the same time.

      The red people icons in the Indicators column means that one of the resources--Nari in this case--is overallocated. The other resources assigned to the task are OK. The tasks are assigned to different pieces of equipment, and we can assume that there are enough materials (ABS plastic) to complete both tasks at once.

    2. To determine which resource is causing the problem, right-click on the red person icon, and choose Fix in Task Inspector from the context menu:

      Microsoft Project Fix in Task Inspector

      Microsoft Project also gives you the ability to Reschedule to Available Date, which will move the task to a date when the overbooked resource is free, but let's use the Task Inspector for now.

    3. When the Task Inspector panel appears on the left-hand side of the Microsoft Project plan, it will confirm that Nari Pyo is the resource who is overallocated:

      Microsoft Project identifies resource overallocation issue.

      To remedy the issue, we can again Move task to resource's next available time which will reschedule the task, but if Nari doesn't really need to work full time on both tasks, there is an easier way to solve the problem without letting the schedule slip.

    4. Instead of rescheduling the task to a time when the resource is available, we are going to tell Microsoft Project to split the resource's time equally between the two tasks. To do this, click on the first problem task, and then go to Resource > Assign Resources. When the Assign Resources screen appears, notice that the Units for Nari's assignment to "Task 1A" are currently set to 100%. This means that the resource is fully allocated to this one task and cannot split her time with other concurrent tasks:

      See the units of resource allocation in Microsoft Project.

    5. Adjust the Units from 100% to 50% for "Task 1A":

      Adjust resource allocation units.

      Repeat this reduction in work for "Task 1B".

    6. After adjusting the resource's workload for both tasks, Microsoft Project will remove the red warning indicators. Also notice that the reduced workload is noted in brackets in the Resource Names field::

      Square brackets in the Resource Names field indicate someone working full-time or overtime.

      The number in square brackets represents the units of work assigned for a particular resource on a specific task. In this case, [50%] means that Nari is working half-time on one task, and half-time on the second task. This keeps her from being overallocated.

    7. The Units assigned to a resource for a task can also be used to designate overtime required to complete work. For "Task 3", let's bump Jack Abernathy to 125%, indicating that he's working 25% more hours than he normally would in a given day:

      Assign overtime to a resource in Microsoft Project.

      As soon as we do this, the red warning icon appears next to the task since Jack is working more hours than he's currently scheduled.

    8. Unlike Nari, Jack isn't double-booked. He's just putting in some extra hours to complete a task, and we're allowing him to work overtime. We can tell Microsoft Project that this is ok for Jack by increasing how allowable amount of work in the Resource Sheet:

      Resource sheet showing someone working overtime

      Initially, the Resource Sheet shows that Jack has exceeded his maximum capacity of 100%.

    9. Since overtime is allowable for Jack, we can increase his Max from 100% to 125%:

      Increase maximum resource allocation

      The red text in the Resource Sheet disappears as soon as we increase the allowable amount of work for this resource.

    10. Furthermore, back in the Gantt Chart, we see that Jack is working overtime based on the [125%] designation, but since this overtime is permitted, the red warning icon no longer appears:

      Gantt chart showing overtime

      Of course, Jack's overtime is limited to 125%, so if he were to work 150% on this task, the issue would reappear and would need to be reevaluated by management.

    Tracking Cost

    While the availability of resources impacts the overall project schedule, resources also have direct impact on the cost of the project. This is true for all types of resources. Employees and contractors have a cost associated with their time, which is usually calculated at an hourly rate, even if they draw an annual salary. Equipment costs include power consumption and maintenance, plus depreciation. Material costs are typically accounted for as they are used. There are also overhead costs such as rent and insurance that can be tracked down to a task level in Microsoft Project.

    1. To calculate cost in your project based on resources, you need to establish rates for each resource in Microsoft Project's Resource Sheet. We'll start by looking at the Standard Rate for each resource:

      Microsoft Project standard cost for resources.

      Each employee or contractor resource has an hourly rate, which is based on their compensation, whether annual or hourly. Equipment resources also have an hourly rate, which is typically calculated based on the equipment's use of electricity, routine maintenance costs, and depreciation of the original equipment cost.

      The rate for raw materials is based on the unit price of those materials. In this example, our raw materials are measured in a cost per ton.

    2. The next field is the Overtime Rate, which defines how much a resource costs when it is used at a rate above 100%:

      Microsoft Project overtime cost for resources.

      Many employees are considered exempt from overtime, meaning that they don't cost any more if they work more than 40 hours per week. In the example above, Jack and Dayna don't have overtime rates because they are exempt employees. Nari and Carlos are contractors, and are paid at time and a half for any work they perform in excess of 40 hours.

      Equipment isn't paid at an overtime rate, but its costs don't stop when it runs overtime, so at minimum, you should repeat the standard rate in the overtime column for equipment. If equipment incurs accelerated maintenance costs when running overtime, you might calculate a separate overtime rate for equipment, but this is optional.

    3. The Cost/Use field is separate from the standard and overtime hourly rates, and captures a flat cost each time a resource is used:

      Microsoft Project cost per use for resources.

      An example of cost/use might be a minimum fee for a service call, which is typical of a plumber or electrician that charges a flat rate to start work, no matter how many hours are ultimately involved.

      For equipment, cost per use usually represents a startup cost. For example, there may be a setup cost required to prepare a piece of equipment for a task, or the initial startup of a piece of equipment might require a surge of electrical power that needs to be accounted for.

    4. The Accrue At field is used to determine the timing for when costs are incurred:

      Microsoft Project accrue at field for resources.

      There are three options: Prorated, Start, and End. The default selection of Prorated means that costs are incurred throughout the completion of the task. When a task is halfway complete, then half of the costs are accounted for. The Start and End options have costs accrue at the beginning or ends of a task, respectively. Accruing costs at the beginning is useful in the case of pre-paid materials or something requiring a deposit. Accruing costs at the end of a task is useful in the case of a contractor who is only paid once the work has been completed satisfactorily.

      For the most part, project costs are accrued as the work takes place, so unless there are special circumstances, you can leave this as Prorated

    5. Once your work on the resource sheet is complete, return to the Gantt Chart and insert the Cost column to see the resulting costs for each task in the Microsoft Project plan:

      Microsoft Project cost, based on resource allocation and rates.

    Last Modified: December 14, 2020