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Microsoft Project 2010 : Sharing Resources Among Projects

11/22/2011 3:14:52 PM
People usually work on more than one project for more than one project manager. If each project manager creates a resource to represent the same worker in each Project file, then overallocated resources and resource squabbles are soon to follow. The solution in Project Standard and Professional is a resource pool, which is a Project file dedicated to resource information—the pool of resources who work on projects, their cost, availability, and most important, how much time they're already allocated to tasks. (A resource pool in Project follows the same idea as the enterprise resource pool in Project Server, although Project Server includes a few more tools for finding the right resources.)

The beauty of a resource pool is that resource information is in one place. Project managers who use those resources simply link their projects to the resource pool. Assigning resources works exactly as it does when resources are contained in the project file. The only difference is that you can see how much of the resources' time is allocated to tasks from all linked projects.

1. Creating a Resource Pool

The simplest way to set up a resource pool is to create a new Project file, which does nothing but act as a resource pool. Although you can use a Project file with tasks in it as the resource pool, you may run into problems if you want to work on the tasks and someone else wants to work on resource information.


Tip:

If an existing project contains all the shared resources in your organization, you don't have to build a resource pool from scratch. Open the existing project, and then choose File→Save As to save a copy of the project. Open the copy, delete all the tasks, and then save the Project file. (To quickly delete all tasks, display the Gantt Chart view. Click the Select All cell immediately above the first ID cell, which selects all tasks. Then press Delete.) Voilà—you have a Project file suitable for a resource pool.


To create a standalone resource pool, do the following:

  1. Choose File→New. Under Available Templates, double-click "Blank project".

    A blank project opens.

  2. Choose View→Resource Views→Resource Sheet.

    The Resource Sheet is home to all the data about your resources.

  3. Fill in information about your shared resources.

    Typically, you fill in resource names, their standard charge rates or cost, and the maximum availability for work resources. If you want to include other information like work group, overtime rate, or cost per use, fill in those fields, too.

  4. Choose File→Save, and then name the project something meaningful (like "Resource Pool").

    Be sure to save the resource pool in a location that all project managers can access. Saving the resource pool to your laptop, for example, won't help other project managers who need to link to the file. Save the resource pool to a network drive or shared folder.


Tip:

If you have resource information in Microsoft Outlook or a human resources database, then you can import that information into Project.


2. Connecting a Project to a Resource Pool

Before you can assign resources from a resource pool to project tasks, you must link the file to the resource pool. Any Project file that uses a resource pool is known as a sharer file. With the project–resource pool connection in place, the resource pool resources act as if they're part of your project file.

To connect a project to the resource pool, do the following:

  1. In Project, open the resource pool.

    Since many project managers may share the resource pool, open the resource pool Project file as read-only so you don't lock anyone out of the file. To do that, when you choose File→Open, select the resource pool filename. On the Open button, click the down arrow, and then choose Open Read-Only.

  2. Open the Project file that you want to access the resource pool.

    If you have several projects to share with the resource pool, you can open them all at the same time and then cycle through to connect each one to the resource pool.

  3. With the Project file active, choose Resource→Assignments→Resource Pool→Share Resources.

    The Share Resources dialog box shown in Figure 1 opens.

    Figure 1. The Share Resources dialog box includes options to tell Project to use resources from the project file itself or from the resource pool. For example, if you want to switch from using the resource pool back to your own file, select the "Use own resources" option.

  4. Select the "Use resources" option and then, in the From drop-down list, choose the resource pool.

    If you have several projects open, the From drop-down list shows open projects except those that aren't already sharer files.

  5. Under "On conflict with calendar or resource information", select an option to tell Project how you want to resolve resource information discrepancies.

    The best choice is to let the resource pool take precedence (select "Pool takes precedence"), because the resource pool then has the final say about resource information. When the resource pool takes precedence, changes made in the resource pool overwrite resource information in the sharer file. For example, suppose someone else opens the resource pool and updates everyone's standard and overtime rates. When you open a sharer file, the project automatically uses the new updated rates. In turn, if you change resource information in your project file, the resource pool is immune to those changes.

    If you select "Sharer takes precedence", then resource information you change in your project overwrites information in the resource pool. This approach is fine if you use a resource pool for resources dedicated to only your projects. With this option selected, you can change resource information in a project and update the resource pool when you save the project. If you share the resource pool with several other project managers, though, the "Sharer takes precedence" option usually leads to unwanted resource changes, as each project manager tries to modify resources.

  6. Click OK.

    The project now obtains its resource information from the resource pool.

3. Opening and Saving Sharer Projects

When you open a sharer file, Project asks whether you want to open the resource pool (if it's not open), as shown in Figure 2. In almost every case, you want to open the resource pool, because you'll see all the resources from the resource pool in your project's Resource Sheet. All resource assignments (from all sharer files) appear in the Resource Usage view, so you can see all the tasks on which a resource works. To open the resource pool, select the "Open resource pool to see assignments across all sharer files" option (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. If you level resources to remove overallocations (page 277), be sure to open the resource pool. When you level resources in one sharer file, the resource pool hears about the modified assignments and passes them on to all sharer files.



Tip:

Because an open resource pool shows all assignments for a resource, your Resource Usage view is likely to have a lot more tasks than you remember. The problem is you can't tell which assignments are from your project and which come from other projects. To identify the project an assignment belongs to, right-click the heading row in the Resource Usage table area, and then choose Insert Column. In the drop-down list, choose Project. The Project cell for an assignment shows the sharer file that made the resource assignment.


Opening the resource pool also means that the resource assignments you make in your project affect the resource's availability in the resource pool. When you save a sharer file with the resource pool open, Project asks if you want to update the resource pool. To save the resource changes to the resource pool, click OK. (Click Cancel to save the sharer file without saving the resource pool, for example when you're testing what-if scenarios and haven't decided which one you're going to use.)


Note:

If other sharer projects are open, updating the resource pool saves the resource changes from all open sharer projects. Before you update the resource pool, be sure to close any sharer files that contain resource changes you don't want in the resource pool just yet. When those sharer files are ready for prime time, open them with the resource pool, and then save the project and update the resource pool.


If you select the "Do not open other files" option, then only the resources already assigned to tasks in your project appear in the Resource Sheet. Likewise, you see only the assignments from your project. When you save the sharer file, the resource pool doesn't receive the resource assignments you make.


Tip:

To make sure you're up to date with the most recent changes in the resource pool, choose Resource→Assignments→Resource Pool→Refresh Resource Pool. Project immediately shows the most current information from the resource pool. Similarly, if you've made scads of resource assignments, then you can update the resource pool immediately by choosing Resource→Assignments→Resource Pool→Update Resource Pool.


4. Detaching a Sharer Project from the Resource Pool

You can disconnect a sharer file from the resource pool, which is perfect if your project gets canned before it gets started. On the other hand, if a project contains a lot of assignment information, keeping the sharer file and the resource pool connected helps you report on all resource assignments at once. For example, if you want to evaluate resource usage for the past year, you want to keep all projects—active, completed, and discontinued—connected to the resource pool.

To remove a project from the resource pool:

  1. Choose Resource→Assignments→Resource Pool→Share Resources.

    The Share Resources dialog box opens.

  2. Select the "Use own resources" option, and then click OK.

    Any resources assigned to tasks remain in the project and appear in the Resource Sheet. Other resource pool resources disappear from the Resource Sheet. In addition, the assignments from the detached sharer file (now back to a regular Project file) no longer appear in the resource pool.

5. Editing Resource Pool Information

When you open a resource pool after it's connected to at least one sharer file, you have three choices for opening the pool. Sometimes you just want to see what's in the resource pool. Sometimes you need full read-write access—for example, when you're updating everyone's cost rates or work calendars.

When you open a resource pool file, the Open Resource Pool dialog box appears with options that win the prize for longest option labels. Here's what your choices are, and when to use each one:

  • Read-only. The "Open resource pool read-only allowing others to work on projects connected to the pool" option opens the resource pool as read-only. Although the resource pool is opened as read-only, saving your sharer files updates the resource pool with assignments you've made. The benefit of opening a resource pool as read-only is that everyone else who uses the resource pool can continue to work on their projects at the same time.

  • Read-write. If you must make changes to resources in the resource pool, select the "Open resource pool read-write so that you can makes changes to resource information (like pay rates, etc.), although this will lock others out of updating the pool with new information" option. By selecting this option, you can modify fields like costs and resource calendars. Of course, you want to use read-write mode for as short a time as possible, because no one else can access the resource pool while you're using it. That means other project managers can't see resource assignments and availability across all sharer files. If they open their Project files, they have to do so without opening the resource pool.

  • Create master project. The "Open resource pool read-write and all other sharer files into a new master project file. You can access this new master project file from the View tab, Switch Windows command" option combines the resource pool and all sharer files into a brand-new master project. If you work on several projects of your own, this is an easy way to build a master project. However, this master project is also useful when you want to produce reports that span all the projects your organization performs. Remember that the resource pool is read-write, so other project managers can't open their sharer files connected to the resource pool while you have it open.

 
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