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MS Project Tutorial Lesson 2

-- Anjana Srikanth

In this lesson we will learn to successfully schedule all the resources required to complete a project - people, equipment, supplies and materials. We will also learn to include costs of various kinds and assign resources to tasks.

There are three main parts to this lesson:

  1. Resources
    a. Entering Resource Information
    b. Resource lists
    c. Resource information dialog box
    d. Assigning a base calendar other than the project
    calendar to the resource

    e. Editing a resource calendar
  2. Assignments
    a. Assigning a resource to a task
    b. Task Types
    c. Changing the default task type
    d. Assigning work resources to Tasks
    e. Assigning work resources in the Task Form
    f. Assigning Material Resources to Tasks
    g. Assigning material resources to a task in Gantt Chart View
  3. Costs
    a. Defining and Controlling costs
    b. Accrual methods
    c. Entering Cost Information
    d. To enter costs for a resource


Download PDF Version here.


Once you determine that you need to include resources into your project you will need to answer the following questions:

  • What kind of resources do you need?
  • How many of each resource do you need?
  • Where will you get these resources?
  • How do you determine what your project is going to cost?

Resources are of two types - work resources and material resources.

Work resources complete tasks by expending time on them. They are usually people and equipment that have been assigned to work on the project.

Material resources are supplies and stocks that are needed to complete a project.

A new feature in Microsoft Project 2000 is that it allows you to track material resources and assign them to tasks.

When a set of resources is available for working they are called the resource pool. After you determine the number of resources that you need, you need to establish the time and availability of each resource. In the case of work resources, the amount of time that they can work for, be it in hours, days or months, or years and the amount (units of measurement) of material resources need to be specifically defined.

The next step is to assign these resources to their respective tasks. When you allocate a resource's time to work on a task you are assigning resources. Once this is done Project can recalculate the schedule to accommodate the working times of the assigned resources. Vacations and nonworking times can be identified and included for each resource. It goes one step ahead and tells you when you have overallocated a resource, i.e. when you have assigned a resource to multiple tasks in the same time period or when a resource is assigned to do more work than it can complete in a certain time.


The Assign Resources dialog box is used to create list of names in the resource pool.

b. To enter resource lists:

  1. Click the Assign Resources button on the Standard Tool bar or Tools > Resources > Assign resources.
  2. Select a cell in the name column and type a response name. Press Enter. (You can also click Addresses and add addresses from Microsoft Outlook Express)
  3. Repeat step 2 until you enter all the resource names.
  4. Click OK.

Resource names cannot contain slash (/), brackets [ ] and commas (,).

Another way of defining your resource list is through the Resource Sheet View.

  1. Display Resource Sheet View by choosing View > Resource Sheet or click the Resource Sheet icon on the View bar.
  2. Enter your information. (To enter material resource use the Material Label field)

The Max Unit's column contains the maximum capacity for which a work resource is available to accomplish any tasks in a certain time period. The default format is the percentage format. For example, if the assigned units are 100% this will imply that this resource will work for all the eight hours in a normal working day. If the assigned units are 50%, then this resource will work for four hours a day. In the case of a resource pool consisting of 5 workers, their maximum units will be 500% or a decimal value of 5.

You can change the default format to decimals using Tools > Options > schedule tab > Show Assignment Units as.

Material resources don't have Max Units. Their resource units show their consumption rates that could be fixed or variable.

The other three columns in the Resource Sheet View are concerned with Costs and we shall take a look at them a little later in this lesson.

c. Resource information dialog box:

Clicking on a resource name in the Resource Sheet will display it's Resource Information dialog box that gives information about a resource, the Workgroup, resource type, material labels, working time, costs and resource specific notes. All the above information can be customized to suit your needs.

With the Working Time tab in this box, you can assign a different base calendar to each resource and change the working times of that resource as and when required.

d. To assign a base calendar other than the project calendar to the resource:

In the Resource Information dialog box switch to resource view and double-click resource and click on the Working Time tab to make your changes.

e. To edit a resource calendar:

Tools > Change Working Times > Select the calendar you want to edit.

Workgroup defines how you intend to communicate with the resources in the project. You can use Microsoft Project Central to communicate using the Web.


a. To assign a resource to a task:

  1. Open the Gantt Chart View and the Assign Resources Dialog box.
  2. In the Entry Table select the tasks for which you want to assign resources.
  3. In the Assign Resources Dialog box, select the resource (resources) you want to assign.
  4. Click the Assign button.

You can change or assign more resources to tasks using the Assign Resources Dialog box.

Setting up a project file, assigning resources to tasks and changing resource assignments during the course of the Project are fine, but how do you incorporate unpredictable factors that can affect task duration and work assignments.

How does Project 2000 help you with this?

When you assign resources to tasks, Project takes the task's duration and multiplies it by the specific percentage or number of units of the resource to arrive at the hours of work that will be done in the task.

Work is amount of time or effort that a work resource expends on a task i.e. 16 hours of shipping, 5 days of training, and so on.

Duration is the amount of clock time between the beginning and ending of a task.

Work = Duration * Units
(W = D * U)

For a particular task, lets say, in developing a certain training program, the duration is 5 days and 3 resources have been assigned to work at 100% units. Considering that the normal working hours in a day (by default) are 8 hours, each one of these resources will work for 8 hours on all 5 days.

Now, if two part-timers with units of 50% were assigned to the project, then, they would work for 4 hours a day. This will result in the work being completed earlier than the stipulated 5 days and the amount of work (time) expended by the first 3 resources will decrease. In such a case, Project will need to recalculate schedules from its default settings.

Given the choice between duration, work and units, Project will choose to change duration. If the duration happens to be fixed, then it will change work before it changes units.

You can assign a greater control over Project's calculations by defining the Task type as described in the next section.


Project defines three task types that help it recalculate variables when resources are assigned to it:

  • Fixed Units
  • Fixed Work
  • Fixed Duration

Each task type definition is based on the variable that is kept constant. For the Fixed Units task type, Project will recalculate work or duration as whenever necessary, but work units will remain fixed.
Similarly, in Fixed Duration tasks, if the units are changed, work will be recalculated accordingly.

When using Project 2000 to manage a project, a project manager will need to analyze each task and then choose the suitable task type.

The default task type is the Fixed Units task.

c. To change the default task type:

  1. Tools > Options > Options Dialog box.
  2. Schedule tab > Fixed Duration or Fixed Work from the Default Task Type drop-down list.
  3. Click OK.

Also, the default settings for Tasks are effort-driven. The task's duration is completely dependent on the resources you assign to it. If you change the number of resources after the initial assignment, Project will recalculate duration but leave work alone.

You can use Tools > Options > Options Dialog box > Schedule, to turn off "New Tasks are Effort-driven" check box.

d. Assigning work resources to Tasks:

The Task Form can display resource assignment details like Units and work. To display the Task Form along with the Gantt Chart click View > Gantt Chart > Split the view by choosing Windows > Split. The Task Form is automatically displayed in the lower half pane. Right-clicking there will display the short-cut menu.

e. To assign work resources in the Task Form:

  1. Select the task in the Gantt Chart View.
  2. In the Task Form, select a resource from the Resource name drop-down list.
  3. In the Units and work columns, use spin box controls to enter units, work or both.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until all the resources are chosen for the selected task and click OK in the Task Form to assign the resource.

You can also assign resources using the Assign Resources Dialog box described earlier.

f. Assigning Material Resources to Tasks:

When you assign a material resource, you specify the way the material is consumed. Choosing 'variable material consumption' changed the task duration. (For example, 6 gallons/hour or 4 pk/h) Fixed material consumption will not change task duration.

g. To assign material resources to a task in Gantt Chart View:

  1. Select the tasks in the Gantt Chart pane.
  2. Select the Resource Name field in the task form.
  3. Select the resource name from the drop-down list.
  4. Select the units field and enter the units you want to assign. If you leave this field blank, Project will set default of 1.
  5. Project will append the Material Label to your decimal entry.
  6. Work Field Entries: For fixed consumption rates, the value in the Work Field and Units Field will be the same, whereas for variable consumption rates, the Work Field value will be the Units Field value multiplied by the task duration.
  7. After all the resource assignments are made for the task, Click OK.

If you intend removing an assignment from a task, select the task and then the resource name you want to remove and press the Delete key.

The Effort Driven Task Field appears on the Task form and in the Task Information Dialog box as a checkbox that is filled by default in Microsoft Project.


a. Defining and Controlling costs:

Project multiplies the number of hours a resource works and the hourly cost rate to give you the resource cost rate. For multiple resources the individual resource cost is added. The number of units used reflects material costs.

The Standard Rate or the Rate of pay per time unit for regular working hours or the cost per unit of a material resource and the Overtime Rate defined for overtime hours are the two rate values that have to be filled in the Resource Sheet view. Fixed costs and the resource costs add up to the total costs.

b. Accrual methods:

The accrual methods describe the ways in which Project calculates costs. Sometimes, you may have to pay a resource in full before it starts work, then the accrual method adopted by Project is 'Start'. Likewise, when payments have to be made only after completion of the task, the 'End' method is used. For tasks that are partially completed, estimated costs are prorated i.e. if 20% of the work is completed, the calculated cost at that time will be 20% of the estimated cost. This is where accrual methods play an important role. They don't have any effect on the final cost of the project.

c. Entering Cost Information:

On the costs tab of the Resources Information Dialog box you can record up to 5 different rates for a selected resource that is assigned to 5 different tasks.

You can also enter separate rates like the Standard Rate, Overtime Rate and a Per Use Cost.

d. To enter costs for a resource:

  1. Open Resource Information Dialog box and click costs tab.
  2. Effective date of the cost may be the same as the project start date. If not so, enter a date or select a date from the drop-down calendar.
  3. Enter the Standard Rate. For work resources the default is $/h, but you can type in /y, /m as necessary. Material resources use the Material Label assigned to the resource (gallons or boxes).
  4. Enter an Overtime rate (enter it even if it is the same as the Standard Rate)
  5. Enter any additional Per Use Costs for a resource (costs for shipping and so on).
  6. If you know that rates may change, click in the second row, type an effective date and enter new standard, overtime and Cost Per Use rates. You can fill in the actual rates or enter them as a % decrease or increase from the rates in the first row.
  7. If resources have different accrual methods, select your choice from the Cost Accrual drop-down list.

Project supports fixed and variable costs. Fixed costs are those that do not change over the life of the project. To enter fixed costs choose View > Table > Cost and open the Cost table. Select the Fixed Cost field for the task and enter the amount.

In addition to the costs listed above, you can also have a fixed resource cost. This is when a stipulated amount has to be paid to a resource irrespective of the work done by it.

To include these costs, split the Gantt Chart View and activate the bottom Resource pane and follow these steps:

  1. Choose Format > Details > Resource Costs to display cost details.
  2. Select the task and set its Task Type to fixed duration.
  3. Enter the Resource name and type % in the units field.
  4. Click OK. (This tells Project not to calculate work)
  5. Enter values in the Cost Field.
  6. Click OK.

Additional changes to resources assignments can be made using the Task or Resource Usage View and the Assignment Information Dialog box.

Download PDF Version here.

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MS Project
Lesson 1
Lesson 2
Lesson 3
Lesson 4
Lesson 5

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