January 01, 2015

How to create a resource pool in MS Project

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. 


Resource Pool using MS Project
Resource Pool using MS Project

There are two fundamental reasons to have a resource pool - Resources are not maintained in a centralized location. Every project manager could have same resources defined with different names, different rates or different availability.

How to create a resource pool in MS 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.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. After setting up the resource pool with the resources it is now ready to be used in any project plan. 

Share resources in MS Project
Share resources in MS Project
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. 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.

Few things to note when creating resource pools

  • 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.
  • Open the Resource Pool mpp and project plans at the same time. It has to be always open when using it.
  • If you create multiple copies of a project plan and open a copy 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.

How to maintain the MS Project Resource Pool

Always keep the resource pool in shared location. Always save the project plan and resource pool after updates are complete. 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.....".

MS Project Resource Pool
MS Project Resource Pool

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.

Resource Pool MS Project
Resource Pool MS Project

How to disconnect a resource pool and a project plan

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

disconnect a resource pool
Disconnect a resource pool

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. 


Advantages of using a resource pool

  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.
  8. Resource helps the project managers to manage the organizational resources in an efficient manner.