When starting to develop your project schedule, it’s important to understand the availability of key resources throughout the project lifecycle. This includes identifying non-working days such as a planned holiday.

Detailed below are three different approaches for managing resource availability in regard to planned leave.

1) Resource Calendars

Those used to working with Microsoft Project standalone will be aware of the ability to account for non-working time via a resource’s calendar. This is managed from within the Project schedule. However, when connected to Project Online, Project Managers are not able to create or edit calendars like they would if they were using a local version of Project. The enterprise calendars are managed centrally and are the responsibility of the Project Online administrators.

Each resource in the Enterprise Resource Pool in Project Online is also assigned a Calendar. Resource calendars are used to determine when resources are available to work on tasks to which they are assigned.

As well as defining a resource’s normal working pattern, resource calendars can also be used to define unique exceptions for individual resources, for example, to update non-working time such as planned leave. Although, just as with enterprise calendars, resource calendars also need to be managed centrally by a Project Online administrator.

To add planned leave to the calendar of any resource, navigate to the Resource Centre in Project Online > select the checkbox next to the resource whose calendar you want to edit and this time to choose Open from the Resource ribbon to open the resource profile in Microsoft Project.

Resource Calendars in Project Online

From here, double-click the resource name > click the Change Working Time button in the Resource Information dialogue window.

Change working time button in resource information dialogue window in project online

In the Change Working Time dialogue window > add the planned leave under Exceptions > click OK

Change working time in dialogue window - Project Online

Save the changes to the checked-out enterprise resource and then close the Enterprise Resource Pool file. When that resource is assigned to a task, the work will only be scheduled during their working time.

Again, as resource calendars are managed centrally, consider the administrative overhead on your system administrators before agreeing to this approach for managing holidays for each individual resource. Accounting for every holiday day can make scheduling more challenging than it needs to be. A best practice is to only account for holiday time that will significantly impact project schedules.

2) Holiday Schedules

An alternative option is to shift the onus to Team Leads by enabling them to manage planned leave for team members via a dedicated ‘Holiday’ schedule. Similarly to how some organisations leverage Project Online to manage BAU/Operational activities, project schedules can be set up to forecast and track actual planned leave for the team.

Team leads can assign resources to ‘holiday’ tasks in the schedule which in turn will affect their future availability. Unlike updating a resource’s calendar, from a scheduling perspective, this method will not actually prevent a resource from being allocated work during the time of their planned leave.

Rather, when a Project Manager creates an assignment that clashes with that resource’s planned leave, i.e. containing an over-allocation, the ROG indicator will immediately show that the resource has been over-allocated. In which case the Project Manager should modify the resource assignment.

This will also provide team leads/resource managers/management with a good picture of remaining availability after accounting for future planned leave.

3) Timesheets

If your organisation is using timesheets, then it may be an option to allow users to populate a future timesheet period with planned leave. In doing so, this will ensure their future availability is updated accordingly. Just as updating a resource calendar, any tasks that this resource is assigned to will now be scheduled around their planned leave, typically, lengthening the number of days it will take to complete the task by preventing work to be scheduled during that period.

The ability for end-users to populate future timesheet periods is controlled under a setting in the administrative area of PWA, which by default is disabled. To enable this setting, a Project Online Administrator will need to select the Allow future time reporting check box, under Timesheet Policies.

Timesheets in Project Online

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By: Rachel Goodwin

Rachel Goodwin
Senior PPM Consultant, Wellingtone | An experienced PMO professional; P30 and PRINCE 2 certified, skilled at developing and implementing Project & Programme management methodologies, tools and best practices, with the ability to balance formal processes with pragmatism to drive delivery.

Published: 30 November 2021

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