How to Do Resource Allocation in Excel

Updated on June 10, 2020
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Max earned his project management professional (PMP) certification in 2013. He holds an MA in Communication from U of I.


Resource planning can be one of the most challenging aspects of project management, especially if you're asking to do it for multiple project teams across an entire organization over a long period of time. If you have Microsoft Project Server, you can do resource allocation fairly easily because Microsoft Project Server can looks across all of the projects in your organization and tell you where a specific resource is allocated. However, the standard edition of Microsoft doesn't let you do that, and at that point it's easier to refer to your project schedules in Microsoft Project or elsewhere, and build your resource allocation documentation in Excel. This article walks you through everything you'll need to do your resource documentation in Microsoft Excel.

Working on resource allocation can feel like you're solving a very large puzzle.
Working on resource allocation can feel like you're solving a very large puzzle. | Source

Build a List

The first step is to build a list of all the resources you'll be responsible for allocating. If this is for a single project or a small department, you can likely do this on your own, but if you're doing resource allocation for a large department where the employees are working on hundreds of projects, you may need to work through a support department to ensure that you have the full list of names. Have someone review the list. You don't want to start moving people around and adjusting project timelines, only to find out that there were other people who could have filled some of the holes.

Factor in Support Work

At some companies, employees who do work on projects also do a fair amount of support work. The percentage of support work that employees do varies from company to company, and from employee to employee. It's important to understand what percentage of support work you need to bake into the numbers for each employee over the average work day or work week over the duration you're allocating resources for. And if you're not the person who is familiar enough with the employees workload, make sure you get that information from someone who is. If you make a guess and it's wrong, it will throw your numbers off in a big way that can lead to a lot of pain.

What to Do When a Project Goes Bad

Know the Duration You're Allocating For

As a point of clarification, always verify the duration you're being asked to allocate resources for. Forecasting where people will be in the near term is an easier thing to do, but the further down the road you're asked to look, the greater the risk you'll be wrong, and if you don't have to put a number out there, you may want to strongly consider not doing it.

Gather Project Schedules

The forecasting you do as part of resource allocation becomes wildly more accurate if you have full project schedules as an input. Even if the project hasn't formally started yet, you should be able to pull together a bare bones, high-level project schedule that calls out all of the known tasks that will need to be done. However, at that stage, the development work will likely just be a big chunk of time without details, as a work breakdown structure that details all of the tasks won't have been built out yet. But you should still be able together the names of the individuals doing the development work, along with the names of individuals associated with all of the other tasks. After reviewing the business case and a conversation with the business entity who requested the project, you'll get a very high-level feel for the complexity of the project and be able to forecast durations for each of the tasks from that. If the project is already in flight and there is a work breakdown structure that calls out all of the tasks associated with the development work, then you'll have even more detailed information around who will be work on what and when.

Resource leveling is a critical final step in working on resource allocation, as it helps businesses understand when to scale their workforce up and down, and it helps project managers set up realistic project schedules.
Resource leveling is a critical final step in working on resource allocation, as it helps businesses understand when to scale their workforce up and down, and it helps project managers set up realistic project schedules. | Source

Build Your Resource Allocation Spreadsheet

The steps for funneling all of the information you've gathered into a resource allocation spreadsheet in Excel is as follows:

  1. Open a new workbook in Excel and create new sheets for each resource you'll need to do forecasting for.
  2. In the first sheet starting a handful of rows down, start plugging in the names of the projects that individual will be working on in the first column, with each project going in its own row.
  3. In the empty row directly above where you entered your first project, skip to the second cell in the row, and start entering either the individual days or the one-week date ranges for the duration you need to do resource allocation for across that row. Ultimately, this depends on how granular you, or your boss, wants to get.
  4. Open the project schedule for the first project on your list, and filter down to just the tasks the resource you're looking at was involved with. Find the duration for the first task that resource was involved with, and pivot into the resource allocation spreadsheet you're creating. Navigate to the cells in that project row that line up with that day or one-week range, and then input the number of hours see that resource putting in over that time frame. Repeat this step for all tasks across all projects for all employees.
  5. Input a formula at the bottom of each day or one-week date range column that sums up the total number of ours in that column that also factors in the necessary support work for that resource.
  6. Review the totals. If you used single, standard work days, than any days where it looks like an employee will put in more than eight hours is a red flag and needs to be looked at. It's very normal to have this when you go to sum the numbers, and it really highlights how most organizations over-allocate their resources and don't even realize it until they go through an exercise like this.
  7. Level your resources. This is where you go through the exercise of either shifting work to other people or extending task durations so that everyone is allocated appropriately.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2017 Max Dalton


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