Resource Pool : 7 Advantages with MS Project

Microsoft Project Resource Pool
Sharing of resources between projects is a very common scenario in any organization. In fact it has become the norm. Having different project mangers create their own resources in Microsoft Project can lead to resourcing conflicts.

In this article we will look at a solution which we will use with Microsoft Project to create a single resource pool.

Issues when a Resource Pool is not used

Here are some of the issues which could arise if a common resource pool is not maintained -
  • Resources are not maintained in a centralized location.
  • Every project manager could have same resources defined with different names, different rates  or different availability.
  • Two project managers using a shared resource could allocate the same resource at the same time to different tasks. This is a very common occurrence in the project management area.
This article will discuss how you can setup a resource pool using Microsoft Project which can be used by a group of project managers. If you need to know other basics of Microsoft Project please see my articles

Advantages of using a resource pool

Creating a resource pool not only allows sharing of resources but it also allows a project manager to use the Microsoft Project reports on the resource pool. Resource helps the project managers to manage the organizational resources in an efficient manner. Here are some advantages of using a common resource pool in Microsoft Project -
  1. All the project plans will use the same resource pool.
  2. Conflicts in resource allocations can be easily identified. This is the most important advantage of  using a resource pool.
  3. Microsoft Project reports can be used to create built-in reports on all the resources in the pool. 
  4. Easy to find out all the tasks for any given resource is working on.

  5. Holidays, vacations, availability, cost and other resource specific properties can be setup at a     central location. 
  6. Having all of the resources defined in a central location will also mean resources name,             vacations, cost etc will be consistent across the organization's project  plans.
  7. Easy to find out availability of any resource. Please see Microsoft Project Reports to understand  how to create reports in Microsoft Project.
Implementing the resource pool can be done in two steps - creating the resource pool and then using the resource pool in other projects.At the end we will look at some of the maintenance aspects of using a resource pool.

Creating the resource pool
A resource pool is nothing but a Microsoft Project plan with no tasks but resources defined.
So you create a Microsoft Project plan like you create a normal project plan and then you add resources. You can name the plan as ResourcePool.mpp so that you don't confuse it with other plans.

You can add the resources as you would do for any Microsoft Project plan - please see How to Add resources and working time to understand how to add resources.

Using the Resource Pool

After setting up the resource pool with the resources it is now ready to be used in any project plan. Follows these steps to use a resource pool - 

Microsoft Project Resource Pool
Step 1 : Open the project plan for the project which needs to use the resource pool. Under the resources tab you should see the option for Resource Pool. Click on the "Share Resources..." pool option.

Microsoft Project Resource Pool
Step 2 : After completing step 1 you should see the Share Resources dialog. Select the second option to use resource from resource pool and select the resource pool you want to use. Select the Pool takes precedence when option so that the resources are always taken from the resource pool.  After completing Step 1 & 2 you will be able select resources from the resource pool when assigning tasks in the project plan.

Note 1 : If you already have a existing plan then the resources in the project plan which you want to configure will also be added to the resource pool. It can sometimes create duplicates so it is recommended that you use resource pool when you draft your plan for the first time.

Note 2 : Open the Resource Pool mpp at the same time. It has to be always open when using it.

Note 3: (Important)If you create multiple copies of a project plan and open copies then each of the plan's copy will link to the resource pool. If you follow the practice of keeping dated mpp plans then each of the plans will be treated as different plan by Microsoft Project. 

If you want to store multiple copies of then make sure that you disconnect all the unused copies by the method mentioned below. You should have only the current project plan referring to the resource pool. 

If you have multiple copies of the same project pointing to one resource pool your resources will be allocated multiple times and all your reporting will be wrong.

Maintaining the Resource Pool

A few points to remember about maintaining the resource pool -
Microsoft Project Resource Pool
    Microsoft Project Resource Pool
1. Keep the resource pool in shared location.
2. Always save the project plan and resource pool after updates are complete.

3. When you open any project plan that uses a resource pool Microsoft Project will ask if the resource pool should also be opened. Always select the option "Open resource pool to see assignments.....".

4. Make sure you update the resource details like availability, vacation plans, public holidays in the resource pool.
5. When you open the resource pool mpp you will get an "Open Resource Pool" dialog. If you want to see the resource plan without making any any change then select option 1. If you wan to make changes to the resource pool then select the second option.

Disassociating the Resource Pool and a project plan

Microsoft Project Resource Pool
You may sometimes want to disconnect a project plan from a resource pool. Open the resource pool and go to the resource tab. Select the "Resource Pool" option and then click on "Share Resources" option.

You will  then see a "Share Resources" dialog which will have all the projects using the resource pool listed in the "Sharing Links" section. Select the link that you want to disconnect and then click on the "Break Link" button.  T

he dialog window will will close itself after you click the break link button.

Note : The link to the project plan will be continued to be displayed in the "Sharing Links"but the project plan will no longer point to the resource pool.