Wednesday 2 February 2022

Mythical 50% resource in projects

Many software development project managers have come across resources that are set aside for some time for their project. The most common approach to allocating a resource between two tasks is to assign 50% of the resource to both tasks, although there are other percentages. There are also resources allocated to more than two tasks for 50% of their time!

Sharing a resource with another project manager or functional manager would not create problems in an ideal world, but our world is not perfect, and sharing a resource with another manager can present a number of challenges for a project manager. Below are a few tips and tricks that you can use to improve the situation.

When sharing a resource doesn't work

Never plan to use a resource whose time is more than 100%. Your school math isn't wrong; in general, there are only two halves! It may seem like we're saying the obvious here, but this situation happens, and the math is justified with these excuses: "Joe works a lot of overtime, so you can expect him to spend 20 hours a week on our project," or "Jane works very productively, she can easily do 50% more work than the rest of the programmers." Don't fall for this bait! Joe may work 20 hours of overtime for one or two weeks, or even one or two months, but you can't expect him to maintain that pace of work throughout your project. Jane may be doing exactly as well as she is said to be, but since estimating the amount of work she will be doing probably comes from her, you'll have to lay a 50% buffer to be able to meet deadlines, and having a 50% buffer will be difficult to explain to your stakeholders. The likelihood that you will get one-third of its time is also quite small.

Beware of situations where your partner-manager does not control the amount of time that the resource spends on its work. The work of the help desk is a great example. A developer who plans to spend 50% of their time answering customer calls and solving problems will not be able to ensure that they will only spend 4 hours a day on this activity because they simply cannot quit in the middle of solving the client's problem.

You have 3 options when you're faced with a sharing organization that won't work: negotiate a split up to 100% of that resource's time, postpone the use of the resource until you can get 100% of its time, or use the resource to replace the one that will be shared.

When sharing a resource will work

There are times when a critical resource needs to be shared by multiple projects or operational activities. For example, when you need a resource for a task on a critical path, and there is no other resource capable of accomplishing it, you are forced to compromise. Even when a task is not on a critical path, putting it off can move it to a critical path before you find an alternative solution.

Sharing a resource in an organization that has experience in sharing resources and with other managers who have experience sharing them gives you a better chance of success. But even if you're sharing a resource in an organization that's not used to these working conditions, and with other executives who have no experience in the field, there are tips and tricks you can use to increase the likelihood of success.

The key to successful resource sharing is the interaction between managers who share the resource. To work successfully as a team, managers must understand that the goals of projects or operational actions must be equally taken into account. If this is not the case, you will not be able to share the resource; they will be assigned to the project or operational task with the highest priority. Interoperability here means that the sharing organization is planned by collaborative managers, and a successful plan is one that supports both sets of goals. Engagement also means that the manager or managers with whom you share resources are now stakeholders in your project, and they should be appropriately considered with respect to project communications and any changes or risks that affect shared resources.

Time sharing

Time sharing is a common practice now that clients share property for a vacation, and the same principles that apply to vacation properties can make it easier to share a resource. The Time Sharing approach plans that 100% of the resource time will be allocated to activities on the first project. Once these steps are complete, the resource moves to the second project for 100% of the resource's time. This can be repeated as many times as necessary. Use common sense when determining the length of time a resource is allocated to each project; the more time a resource spends on one task, the more efficiently it will work. One day should be the absolute minimum duration of the time block, with one week being the preferred minimum.

Compare the project plans with the manager with whom you plan to share the resource to determine when the resource is needed for the two projects. If the times during which you both need this resource coincide, review both plans to determine if the activities can be combined so that the resources for the activities can be ordered so that the resource time can be allocated from start to finish by 100% for the first project, 100% for the second project, and so on until (not) the resource is released from both projects. Be flexible when planning this with your lead partner; you both have to sacrifice something to make this allocation work. Working with a day-to-day manager to reach a time-sharing agreement will work in a similar way, but a day-to-day manager may have more constraints that will prevent you from rescheduling activities.

Once you agree on time sharing, change your project plan accordingly. MS Project provides calendars for individual resources. These calendars allow you to set aside time for a resource for individual activities, such as training or vacation. Define the times during which the resource will work on the partner project or on the operational action as "unavailable". This will allow you to avoid accidentally changing the schedule of your shared resource while it is working on another project. Keep in mind that any scheduling changes to a shared resource should be discussed with your lead partner. The dates of purchase and release become agreements between you and the other executive. You should meet your graduation deadline and expect another executive to do the same. Avoid any schedule shifts that affect the start and finish dates of your shared resource's tasks. Shifts that cannot be avoided should be discussed with your supervisory partner. Your lead partner may be able to give you extra time before the completion date, or use the resource after its start date if you warn them. Remember that this distribution works both ways, so be prepared to meet your project manager partner halfway if the need arises.

50% solution

There are situations where it is not possible to establish the order in which a shared resource works, such as when a resource is responsible for ongoing support work that requires several hours daily. The only possible way out in this case is to divide the resource time between your project and the work of your partner-manager.

The 50/50 split (or any other distribution) depends on a good business relationship with your lead partner and that manager's ability to manage resource time as they work on their projects or operational tasks. Define the terms of a sharing agreement with your partner. The distribution, according to which the resource works on your project in the morning, and on another project in the afternoon, has the greatest chance of success, so try to organize the separation so that the transition occurs in some natural break during the day – lunch break or coffee break.

The sharing terms should be formally documented, an email or memo will do, but the documents should contain distribution details, including start and finish dates, percentage sharing, how the resource time will be scheduled, when the resource should work on your project, and when it should work for your lead partner. This is your resource sharing agreement. Require your manager partner (and resource) to comply with the terms of this agreement and make sure that you fulfill all your obligations.


There are some situations where sharing a resource is not possible and they need to be resolved in a workaround. If everything else doesn't work, report the problem to your sponsor, explaining your need for a resource and why it's not possible to share for your project. In situations where sharing might work, the easiest option is to specify a sequence of resource actions between two projects, and when you can't do that, define the form of sharing in a formal document. Remember that there are 2 signs of a working form of sharing: the feasibility of the form and the agreement between the two managers. Finally, don't forget that when you share a resource with another manager, that manager becomes an interested person in your project, and you should keep them informed.

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