Resource allocation is one of the most tasks for a Project Manager. How resources are allocated may make the difference between a project being completed on time and on budget or being completed late, over budget, or not at all. In some instance it makes sense to tie resources to projects; in other cases it is better not to do so. There are potential benefits and downsides to each decision. This paper will briefly examine the costs and benefits of tying resources to projects.
Tying resources to a project allows project managers to determine in advance a number of variables. If resources are properly allocated at the beginning of a project then the end result will be that the project is likely completed in a way that aligns with expectations. A scenario such as this one allows project managers the opportunity to allocate resources in a manner that is predictable and can be planned for. The problem with such a scenario is that when managing multiple projects the resources that are tied to one project will not be available if they are needed for another project. In other words, if the circumstances change during the course of a project it is possible allocated resources that have been tied to that project will go to waste or otherwise be unavailable for use in other projects.
In a real-world setting project managers typically, or at least frequently, have to manage multiple projects. By not tying resources directly to projects the project manager has the opportunity to adjust the resource allocation over the course of completion of these multiple projects (Gray and Larson, 2011). This requires that project managers be able to function in a dynamic manner and to shift resource priorities as circumstances warrant. These dynamic environments are quite common in practical settings; resource managers more often than not are charged with managing multiple projects.
Because of the demands on project managers to adequately allocate and schedule resources it is necessary to plan projects strategically, and to take long-, medium-, and short-term views of every project (Pennypacker and Dye, 2002). When planning long-term strategy it is necessary to give some consideration in advance to how resources will be allocated, while during the medium- and short-term stages it is possible to monitor the use of resources to ensure that they are being distributed and used appropriately. Managing multiple projects often means that short-term assessments of resource allocation will show that resources must be shift between projects as circumstances warrant. If resources are tied to a particular project it may become more difficult to allocate them differently, meaning that such resources could be wasted and multiple projects could go unfinished or be delayed.
Dynamic resource allocation allows project managers the flexibility to move resources from one project to another as needed (Pennypacker and Dye). This is not always desirable, as last-minute decisions about resource allocation may mean that the costs of these resources are higher than they would be if they had been planned for well in advance. Such determinations, however, are often unavoidable in practical settings where multiple projects are undertaken at the same time and where start and stop times do not align perfectly. In an ideal setting a project manager would know from the beginning how resources will be allocated for a given project, but such scenarios are increasingly uncommon in many environments. The risk of tying resources to projects is that those resources will be unavailable if they go unused o a particular project when they could be shifted to another project. The risk of not tying resources to projects is that last-minute or short-term allocation of resources can be expensive and time-consuming.
Gray, C. F., & Larson, E. W. (2011). Project management: The managerial process. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.
Pennypacker, J. S., & Dye, L. D. (2002). Managing multiple projects: Planning, scheduling, and allocating resources for competitive advantage. New York, NY: Marcel Dekker.