You might be familiar with using resources in Microsoft Project but did you know you can pool one set of resources between several Project plans? This lets you effectively manage resources over several projects and enables you to detect resource conflicts between projects. This article describes the key steps in setting up resource sharing in Microsoft Project. The steps are to first create the resource pool file and then link one or more Project plan files to this Resource Pool. Once linked, each Project file will see only the resources in the resource pool, so resources can then be assigned to several projects from the linked resource pool.

Setting up the Shared Resource Pool

The first step is to set up the actual resource pool. You could include this within one of your Project plans, but it's more usual to create this in a separate Project file which only contains resources. So in this new Project file you choose the Resource Sheet view and add all your resources details including resource name, type, initial, number of resources, cost rates, calendar and so on. You might save the file as something like ResourcePool1 so you can easily recognize it later. Within an organization the Resource Pool file might be saved to a shared folder accessible by you and other relevant staff.

Linking a Project plan file to the Shared Resource Pool

Next step is to link a Project file to the Resource pool. So create or open an appropriate Project file in which you want to assign resources from this new Resource Pool file. It's best to leave the resource sheet empty to avoid confusion regarding which resources are being used. However when linked, the Project file will only see the resources in the Resource pool. Before making the link ensure the file ResourcePool1 is also open. We then create the link from the Project file. This is done using the Share Resources panel. To do this in Project 2003/2007 you choose Tools, Resource Sharing, Share Resources and you'll see the Share Resources Panel. In Project 2010 you choose the Resource tab, then Resource Pool, Share Resources to see the panel.

Share Resources panel settings

In the Share Resources panel choose the "Use resources" radio button and click the pop down which shows you all currently open Project files, including any Resource Pools. If you find the radio button and pop down options greyed out you may not have opened any other Project files. Assuming the correct files are open and the options are available choose the resource pool, for example, ResourcePool1. Then in the lower part of the panel choose the "Pool takes precedence" option and click OK to finish. Choosing this option means that if there is any conflict between resources details in the Resource Pool and the Project file, the detail in the Resource pool will be used.

Project now links the two files. To confirm this, in the Project file select the Resource Sheet view (don't forget this may have been empty before linking), and you'll see the Resource Pool resources as if they are part of the same Project file. You can make further links in the same way between other Project files and the same Resource Pool file to enable you to manage resources over several project plans.

Working with Shared Resources

Resources are assigned from within each Project plan, but all from the same Resource Pool file. The key point is that the Resource Pool file must be open along with all relevant Project files. Then within each Project file you assign resources in the usual manner. Any resource conflict will be detected because the Resource pool keeps track of all the resources assigned in different projects, and conflicts can be investigated by using the Resource Graph view. You can then eliminate resource conflicts by manually re-allocating resources or by resource levelling over multiple projects.

If the Resource Pool is edited, for example, by adding or removing resource details, all the updates will be visible in all Project plans using the Resource Pool. Sometimes Resource Pool file permissions can be set to allow all relevant staff read only permission and one person full read/write permissions, so that the Project Manager is the only person who can update the Resource Pool, but all users can access it.

In conclusion, Resource Pooling is an extremely useful feature of Microsoft Project which allows resource allocation over multiple Projects from a single Resource Pool. Any resource conflicts are automatically detected. In some situations the Resource Pool editing is restricted to a Project Manager whilst allowing read access to relevant staff.

Hopefully this article has given you a brief insight into how Resource Pool sharing works in Microsoft Project. To learn much more you could consider attending a training course and take your learning to a new level.