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June 4, 2021

Resource Analysis in Microsoft Project Online

Resource Analysis in Project Online


Resource analysis is a core feature within Microsoft Project Online that offers some dynamic potential for resource managers and project managers alike. The cloud based toolset within the Microsoft application allows you to assess your resource capacity and demand so that you can make better decisions about which projects to deliver. Often assisted by automated workflows, Resource analysis in Project Online also lets you identify any gaps in resources, as well as forecast additional costs needed to reach targets.

Executing a resource analysis with Microsoft Project Online requires several tasks, including defining the project demand profile and the resource capacity profile as well as performing a portfolio analysis and saving a minimum of one cost analysis. This is necessary since any resource analysis needs to happen within a specified cost scenario. In this article, we will look at each in detail to ensure you’re ideally positioned to leverage Project Online as a resource analysis tool.

Configuring Your Resource Pool

As a starting point in the resource analysis process, you need to begin by configuring the resources in your enterprise resource pool. The goal being an accurate picture of a all team members capacity, demand, and availability for project work. Since resource analysis part of portfolio analysis involves the comparison of the project demand for resources against the available supply of resources, each resource needs to be configured accurately. 

Proper organizational strategic planning requires a formalized project planning phase.  Often organizations will utilize other Microsoft tools such as Microsoft Teams and Power BI to increase collaboration and visibility.

Your available supply of resources within Project Online may be assigned any of the attributes listed below:

  • Availability
  • Skills
  • Cost
  • Organizational unit

You can also assign customizable characteristics to a resource, as needed.

portfolio analysis of project online

Creating a Resource Analysis

Your first step in creating a resource analysis is to confirm that the Resource Planning option has been selected in the Define Properties section of the cost analysis you will use to run the resource analysis. If this is not selected, you will not be able to specify the variables used in the resource analysis.

Once you have done this, you can create a new portfolio analysis. To do this, click on Portfolio Analyses in the left navigation menu and select ‘New.’ Populate all necessary fields, and make sure to select ‘Analyze project resource requirements against resource capacity.’

You can also define specific properties within the Define Properties screen in the Portfolio Analyses menu. Defining these properties allow you to generate more precise calculations:

  • Planning Horizon: Allows you to set start and end dates for an analysis
  • Planning Granularity: Allows you to define the time period used to assess allocation of work resources in specific roles
  • Resource Filtering: Allows you to filter out project requirement and resource capacity data
  • Resource Capacity Impact for Projects Outside of the Analysis: Allows you to choose whether or not to include proposed bookings in your analysis
  • Project Start and Finish Dates: Allows organizations that use external tools such as ERP to input start or finish dates as a custom project level field

Defining Project Demand

project demand in project online

Next you will need to define the resource demand for a project. Project Online provides two different methods for doing this:

Bottom Up: Allows PMs or schedulers to assign specific tasks to resources before publishing the schedule.  

Top Down: Allows the PM or scheduler to generate a high-level resourcing plan as a first step that reserves resources for a set period of time. This option is ideal when you are still early in the project cycle and have yet to assign specific tasks.

Establishing Your Pool of Resources

Of course, to run a resource analysis, you must first establish a pool of resources. In Project Online, this is done in the Resource Center. You can generate your pool of resources in one of two ways: importing your resources from an external database or spreadsheet, or importing resources from an Active Directory list of users.

Once you have imported your resources, you will need to define additional fields and values associated with each resource. Defining resource capacity in this way ensures a more accurate resource analysis.

Generic and Named Resources

One value that needs to be defined is whether a resource is Generic or Named. Generic resources are general roles or skills, such as Front-End Developer or Marketing Analyst. A Named resource is a specific user within your organization that can deliver work on a task. Calculating available resource capacity in a resource analysis, as such, requires Named resources.

generic and named resources in resource planning

For example, if you had two developers in-house, but three projects that require the generic role of developer, the system would run your available capacity of two named developers against the generic resource demand of three developers and conclude that only two projects should be done. 

Chances are that you define a standard list of roles within your organization. When assigning standard roles, make sure to make note of the field you are using, as you will need the field name in your resource analysis.

Configuring the resource pool

Next, you will need to configure your resource pool so that it will work effectively within the analysis process. To do this, go to the Resource Center and click on ‘New’ on the Resource tab. You will be able to define the following parameters associated with your resources:

  • Maximum Units: Defines the total availability used in Resource Analysis as the total resource availability
  • Resource Calendars: Reduces total availability based on calendar constraints, such as holidays
  • Role: Assigns a specific role to a resource
  • Standard Rates: Assigns a standard rate to resources that is then used to approximate incremental costs when adding resources to a portfolio

task level in resource analysis project online

Using Task-Level Assignments  

You can also use task-level assignment to define resource demand, analyze capacity, and identify resource gaps. This is a key step in defining the resource capacity and project demand that needs to happen before resource analysis. Using items such as the Gantt Chart in the Project Online Desktop Client is often a key ingredient to task-level planning with your project team.

Booking Type

Project Online allows you to classify task assignments as either Proposed or Committed. You can assign one of these booking types to any of the resources in your Resource Center.

Selecting a booking type directly impacts calculations related to resource capacity. As an example, an organization may decide to filter out demand when it comes to proposed bookings, since they are not confirmed and should not factor into forecasts. 

Configuring the Schedule

schedule tasks in analysis

When selecting a booking type, make sure that you choose the one that aligns with forecasting practices at your organization. By default, Project Online factors in Committed tasks.

You can also select whether the Project Online system uses task assignments or associated resource engagements in your resource analysis calculations. This defines how you estimate tasks within a project.

Go to the Project Information screen in the Schedule in Project Professional and toggle “Calculate Resource Utilization From” to select your chosen option. Keep in mind you will need to save and republish the project at this point to implement the changes and ensure that they factor into a new resource analysis. Any existing resource analyses will need to have their resource data reloaded so that you can execute a recalculation.

Creating Prioritizations via Custom Fields

Finally, you can also prioritize certain projects in your analyses by generating custom fields. You can create these prioritizations either via business drivers or manually by creating an enterprise custom field. Manual prioritization is ideal if you are an organization that already utilizes an external tool for project prioritization or if your native business driver prioritization process doesn’t align with your business needs.

Perform this action in Project Web App. To create an enterprise custom field, enter a name for the new field. A description is optional. Finally, make sure the field is defined as ‘Project’ level and that it has either a number or cost field associated with it and assign field values for each project in your analysis.

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