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Iryna Viter

Understanding Resource Smoothing: The Easiest Explanation

No resources, but the time is limited? Enter resource smoothing for on-time project delivery and even workloads.

One thing that project managers have learned in years is this - you don't always have all the resources you need to finish a project. Changes in scope, employees leaving, clients shifting priorities can all bear a footprint and leave you with fewer resources. 

Whatever the reason, using resource optimization techniques, you can quickly find a solution to your problem and avoid the risks of delivering poorly. One of such techniques - resource smoothing - is meant to help you deliver a project when time is limited. Learn more about it in our easy guide below. 

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What is resource smoothing?

Resource smoothing, also known as time constrained scheduling, is a technique used to optimize resources to deliver a project without changing the delivery date. It might involve hiring new people to speed things up, or changing the scope of the project. The ultimate goal of resource smoothing is to finish the work by the deadline without causing resource demand to spike or fall.

The Project Management Body of Knowledge defines resource smoothing as "a technique that adjusts the activities of a schedule model such that the requirements for resources on the project do not exceed certain predefined resource limits.”

Project managers use this technique to manage resource conflicts especially when time is a priority. 

Using Runn, you'll have a shared access to all your projects, resources, and their workloads to understand where and how to optimize. 

resource risk example

Benefits of resource smoothing

  • It minimizes fluctuation in resource demand including peak demands.
  • It lets you amend the project schedule without changing the critical path.
  • It ensures the timely completion of a project.
  • It protects resources against spontaneous changes during project implementation.

Drawbacks of resource smoothing

  • It may require additional resources to solve persistent conflicts.
  • It doesn’t resolve all resource conflicts.
  • The project cost might increase.

When is resource smoothing applied?

Project managers apply resource smoothing when there is a time constraint with the aim of completing the project by the required date.

For example, let's say you want to build a house and have allocated 12 months to the construction process. However, after you start building, the owner tells you they want to move in in 6 months. You can't change the start date of the project, so you will have to optimize your given resources so that you complete 12 months' worth of work in 6 months.

On the other hand, if the owner tells you they plan to delay their move until 3 months after the initial deadline, you get to stretch the construction process to 1 year and 3 months. Within this fixed timeframe, you may aim for uniform resource utilization to ensure no resource is over-allocated or under-allocated.

In both of these situations, you will utilize free and total float to meet the deadline. Total float is the length of time you can postpone an activity without extending the project completion dates. Free float is the span of time you can postpone an activity without delaying the start date of its dependent activities.

Uniform task allocation ensures that resources are maintained at a predetermined constant level to meet the set deadline. By avoiding peaks and troughs, it enhances efficient and cost-effective resource usage. The compromise is reduced flexibility of the schedule.

Another example would be a game development project that has a fixed deadline. Project managers can apply resource smoothing to avoid crunch time before the deadline. 

Resource leveling vs resource smoothing

The main difference between resource leveling and smoothing is the primary constraint on the workflow. Are you working with a resource constraint? Or are you working to a fixed schedule? Whether you are handling limited quantities of resources or time will determine which of these two techniques will work best.

resource leveling vs resource smoothing

Resource leveling

  • Resources are the main constraint. It is a resource-limited scheduling technique for when you have fewer resources than you need.
  • You should conduct resource leveling at the beginning of your project.
  • The critical path may increase.
  • Your project’s finish dates vary.
  • It is crucial when you’re dealing with under-allocated resources.
  • During rescheduling, you can extend tasks beyond the original timeline.

Resource smoothing

  • Project end date is the main constraint. It is a time-limited scheduling technique focusing on project duration.
  • You should conduct it after resource leveling.
  • The critical path doesn’t change.
  • Your project’s end date remains constant.
  • It is vital when you’re dealing with uneven resource allocation.
  • You allocate resources within the set timeline.

Although sometimes the terms are used interchangeably, the two are used under different situations in resource management. You can use both of these resource optimization techniques in your project management, if you need to - in which case you would apply the resource leveling technique first. 

For example, after determining the critical path for the project, you can identify resource constraints and apply resource leveling to help you set the project duration. You can then apply resource smoothing to rearrange tasks of the schedule model so that there is no resource risk and therefore, resource demand doesn’t exceed the predefined resource limits. This is done by rescheduling tasks to cover the free time bringing the finish dates forward. 

All in all, resource smoothing is a useful technique that can help you button up a project on time, while smoothing out any peaks and troughs in demand. However, doing it in spreadsheets can take a lot of time and energy. 

Try Runn for resource scheduling today and get a powerhouse of resource management features. 

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