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Resource Pool - Major Issues RRS feed

  • Question

  • All,

    I have been messing with the resource pool functionality with MS project 2013 for a few months now. I have had everything working flawlessly for the majority of the time, but something always messes up out of nowhere so I'm hoping someone could make some suggestions as to what is really going on here. I am using about 10 different projects linked together by a resource pool consisting of about 50 resources, on my local hard drive. I was originally storing these files on a shared network drive and was experiencing the same issue. The reason I put them back on my local hard drive was to see if saving them on the network was causing the issue. 

    Here's what I did:

    1. Unlinked the projects(quit sharing resources) from the original resource pool on the shared drive
    2. Deleted the resource pool file copied the project files
    3. Created a new folder on my local hard drive
    4. Pasted the project files into that folder on my hard drive.
    5. Renamed all of the project files on my hard drive to esnure I was working with a "clean slate", so to speak
    6. Created a new resource pool file and linked each project file (saving the project file and the resource pool after every time I would share resources to link the project file to the resource pool) individually.
    7. Closed all files, including the resource pool.
    8. Opened a blank project file and created a "master" project file. I added each individual project file as a sub project and saved the file.
    9. Closed the file

    4 Scenarios and 4 different outcomes:

    Below, I'm going to outline 4 different scenarios and their outcomes. For simplicity of these examples, I will be using "A, B, C, D, E, F" to represent 6 different resources. Keep in mind, there are about 50 resources total, but only 6 of them(A,B,C,D,E,F) were skewed in the resource usage view. When I say the resources were skewed in the resource usage view, I'm referring to them showing 0 hours under the column "work". I know this isn't true because I went into the project plans within the master project and saw both resources were allocated at some point in the project.

    When I opened the Master and Resource pool:

    • When I go into the resource usage view, resources A and B are showing 0 hours of work.

    When I left the Resource Pool open after I closed the Master file:

    • When I go into the resource usage view, resources A, B, and C are all showing 0 hours of work.

    When I opened the Master without the Resource pool:

    • When I go into the resource usage view, All work is accounted for, for all resources. The only difference is that now I have multiple A's, B's, C's, etc., since all 9 of the projects are using many of the same resources. This is why it's beneficial to use a resource pool, so when you run the reports, you won't have multiple instances of the same resource.

    When I opened the Resource Pool, by itself:

    • When I go into the resource usage view, resources A, B, C, D, E, and F are all showing 0 hours of work.

    Does anyone have any idea of what's going on here?

    Thanks in advance,

    Wednesday, November 13, 2013 11:24 PM

Answers

  • So after spending all weekend troubleshooting and trying to find the root cause of the problem, I finally found the solution... What I did is went through every schedules and found some of the settings on some schedules were different than others. I thought this could have caused the problem so I went ahead and made sure these three settings were uniform, across all projects. File-->Options-->Schedule: "Duration is entered in: Days", "Work is entered in: Hours", "Calculate project after each edit: On". This still didn't fix the main problem I was having but I'm sure it's not a good thing when the schedules don't share the same settings.

    I don't know what made me think of this but this is ultimately what fixed the problem. I deleted all resources from every individual project and deleted the existing resource pool (ensured that none were linked before I deleted it. I created a new resource pool but the trick this time was that I built the resource pool first. What I mean by that is I entered all 50 or so resources into the resource pool before I shared resources with any project. Then I shared resources with the first project schedule, set the pool to take precedence, and started assigning resources to tasks, one by one. As soon as I finished the first 2 project plans, I did a test to make sure it was fixed. I tested it by saving the 2 project files and the resource pool, separately, and closed everything. I opened the resource pool, by itself, and went into the resource usage view. Everything was FINALLY correct. Also, the reports aren't missing random resources like it was before either. So as of now, everything is working correctly, but I'll update you all when I've completed everything.

    I do have a question, however. Can I send Project plans along with the resource pool stored locally, in a separate zipped folder, in an email without corrupting the files again?

    Monday, November 18, 2013 4:29 PM

All replies

  • Hi Program Scheduler,

    Not sure why you created a separate master file in step 8.  The creation of the pool file allows you to make a consolidated master by opening the pool.

    The method I use with success is to open the pool file with the third option -

    Can you try that method?

    Thursday, November 14, 2013 2:46 PM
    Moderator
  • Hi,

    Did you save the new resource pool under a different name? That did the trick for me.
    Greetings,

    Thursday, November 14, 2013 5:05 PM
    Moderator
  • I'm aware of that method, but the sole reason I created one manually was because of crashing issues when the schedules were stored locally and on the shared network drive. It didn't crash every time but I want to have something that is as consistent as possible. Either way, the main issue is with the resource pool, not the master file.

    Yes, I saved the resource pool under a different name every time. Is it possible that these files can become corrupted for good to the point where the original functionality can never be restored? The only other thing I can think of would be certain settings differing in some projects.

    Thursday, November 14, 2013 7:22 PM
  • replied above...
    Thursday, November 14, 2013 7:23 PM
  • Yes, it is entirely possible that the corruption is severe enough that a rename is not going to fix it.  I'm not sure why you keep saving the pool file with a different name.
    Thursday, November 14, 2013 7:34 PM
    Moderator
  • Ok, well let me ask the stupid question: Is there any way to be able to tell if the file is in fact, corrupt?

    I keep saving the resource pool file with a different name just as a measure to ensure there are no anomalies, causing the files to corrupt. This is something I've always done and have also seen other people say this prevents possible corruption, as well.

    Thursday, November 14, 2013 7:57 PM
  • Hi Julie,

    The advice to save the new pool under a different name comes from me. I've been in a similar mess years ago and after trying everything else changing the pool name wasthe thing that saved me. Not logical but is anything here?

    Greetings,

    Thursday, November 14, 2013 8:00 PM
    Moderator
  • Program_Scheduler,

    If I may jump into this discussion. Jan mentioned that he had success in dealing with a corrupt resource pool by renaming it and then re-building the links to the sharer files. The important point here is that that process is a one-shot deal, it should NOT be done every time the resource pool file is saved. One of the cardinal rules for working with linked structures in Project is to never copy, rename, move, or "save off" any of the files in the structure. Doing so will most assuredly sow the seeds for corruption.

    Your question is not stupid, there are no stupid questions. Generally file corruption will show up in subtle ways. Sometimes it is easy to spot, while at other times it comes disguised as strange behavior.

    John

    Thursday, November 14, 2013 8:45 PM
  • John- I can't tell you how much I appreciate your response. It definitely confirmed a lot of the suspisions I've had. So it sounds like you're pretty experienced with this. One of the big questions I've had is how do I go about backing the files up in case of a corruption?  I'm sure you know that the corruption is not consistent, which adds a whole different level of complexity situation. There's really no way to test and be 100% about anything because it's not a controlled environment. Here are the ideas and the concerns I've had. I've tried to do some testing to see if it will cause the files to corrupt with the methods listed below:

    • Have the server do an automatic backup of the files every 24 hours

    Here's my concern with the automatic backups: Since the files are not supposed to be saved anywhere else, moved, renamed, etc., I can't help but think the backups might cause some sort of corruption because I'm assuming when the system backs the files up, it makes a copy of the files somewhere else, right? I'm not exactly sure how backups like that work or if they all even work the same way or not.

    • Syncing them to sharepoint

    This was actually my initial approach when trying to link the projects to a resource pool. The only problem is, Microsoft isn't stupid and this basically negates the need for Project Server if the ability to manage resources across multiple projects, was the only functionality you needed. So my approach to backing them up, so to speak, on sharepoint, would be this:

    Store all of the project files on sharepoint and when we wanted to run resource allocation reports that would account for all resources across every project, we could just manually pull the schedules off of sharepoint, create a blank resource pool, and link each individual project schedule to the new resource pool. Of course, we would have to use the same resource names so there are no duplicate resources. The trick to it all would be not to save the resource pool. Just build it out, run the necessary reports, and close without saving. If we really wanted to get lazy, I'm sure I could write up a macro that could automate this.

    This way I feel like we accomplish a few things.

    1. Mitigates the risk of file corruption
    2. This is the project managers' original and preffered method of storing the files. Less change = happier PM's
    3. We still get the desired functionality since we only need resource allocation reports, every quarter or so
    4. I don't have to try and teach the PM's all of what could possibly cause file corruption. I've been working with this solution for months now and I feel like I'm still not even close to fully understanding what causes corrupted files.

    Here's another thing that you, or someone else, might be able to chime in on. Like I said in one of my earleir posts, my goal is to be able to leave the orginization I'm with right now, with a solution that is reliable and consistent. When the files get corrupted, It's a nightmare to remake 9 project schedules consisting of 200-300 tasks (yes, I've had to do it several times and no, you can't just copy and paste everything over due to the complexity of the dependencies). What I'd be trying to accomplish is simply finding a tool that would easily pull desired data from all project schedules (either from the shared network drive, or from sharepoint), to provide resource allocation information. Here are some of the ideas I've had so you can get a better idea of what I'm trying to do here and maybe you would be able to determine if they are even remotely plausible, or not.

    • Store projects on Sharepoint and somehow link the desired fields and datasets to some type of database:

    I was thinking of something simple and free that we could use (like MYSQL workbench), that we could store on our servers. Since technically, the projects would still be saved on our network, and so would the MYSQL database, it would be pretty easy to find a way to retreive real-time data from the schedules. This would pull al of the data from all 9 schedules into a centralized location. From here, I could create a macro for excel that would create a pivot table and pivot charts. Since excel is such a robust tool, we could easily create customized reports within excel that I think would actually be better than the reports in MS Project.

    • Find an open-source, web-based, resource management or PPM software:

    I'd need something that is web based so everyone could access it and something that could import MS project 2013 schedules. I also need it to do one of two things, or both: Be able to create some really good resource allocation reports and/or export data to excel. I've tried a few open-source resource managment software products and wasn't too impressed with any of them.

    The easiest and best thing to do, in my opinion, would be to use a cloud-based software and just pay the low monthly rate. Unfortunately, our company policy does not allow any of our data in the cloud. Any feedback would be GREATLY appreciated.

    Best Regards,


    Friday, November 15, 2013 4:20 AM
  • Thanks Jan.  I agree that it can clear up a file - my concern was Program_Scheduler appeared to be doing this on every save.  Yikes!
    Friday, November 15, 2013 2:44 PM
    Moderator
  • To address a couple of your points:

    Backups

    The backed up files will maintain their original relationships and would need to be restored as a whole piece.  The issue is that it can take a while for any potential corruption to appear.  If the backups are being replaced (over written) every night - the concern is that you will over write a "good" copy with a bad copy.  Most backup routines backup to different rotating locations.

    SharePoint Sync

    SharePoint sync is good for fairly simple projects - but once you get into more complex task relationships other than F to S, SharePoint is not an option.

    Storing the files on SharePoint won't prevent file corruption in an of itself.  If you are still opening the files within Project (which you need to be able to work with them), you still run the risk of corruption. 

    It sounds from your description that you are only using the Resource Pool file for reporting?  Are you using the pool file for active allocation and overallocation prevention?

    Friday, November 15, 2013 2:56 PM
    Moderator
  • Julie- Great info here, thanks for the clarification.

    As for the sharepoint, we're simply storing the schedules in our libraries and using the check-in/check-out method. We don't actually sync them to sharepoint. When I tried to simply store them on sharepoint and share resources with the resource pool, if I remember correctly, I recieved an error basically stating that the resource pool functionality is basically blocked when saving projects on sharepoint. I think this is so people don't just use this, instead of implementing project server.

    Yes, we're basically just using the resource pool for reporting purposes. For example: Resource "A" is allocated on 4 of the 9 projects and we want to see what his allocation percentage looks like for the next 6 months. We've been having problems with overallocation issues which, in most cases, pushes the projects back. We want to be able to bring hard copy, visual reports to executive management that can easily be generated. I'm not really sure what you mean exactly by using the pool file for active allocation or overallocation prevention. In a sense, we're using it for overallocation prevention because if we run the reports and see there are some resources that are way too overallocated, we will adjust the schedules accordingly.  


    EDIT: On a side note, I've been trying to figure this out with the resource pool. Whenever I go into the resource pool in the edit format, When go to share resources, it lists the file path of all 9 schedules. If I highlight all of them and hit break link, All of the data dissapears. All that's left are the resource names in the resource sheet, which is great. That's exactly what I would've expected it to do. What I don't understand is if I delete the resource names and save the pool file after I've broken the links, close the file, open it back up and check to see if the filepaths are gone and they are still there. Additionally, even though I've broken the links and saved the resource pool file after, when I open up a project schedule, it still acts as if it were still linked to the resource pool (I'm assuming because in reality, it probably still is). It still asks me if I want to open the resource pool when I open the project schedule file, and still shows it is sharing resources with the resource pool (when i go into resource pool --> share resources). Is this some type of bug or am I doing something wrong? I feel like this could cause corruption as well when trying to un-link all of the schedules from the resource pool and deleting the resource pool before it's actually been un-linked. What I've been doing to actually get it to be removed is going into each project schedule file while having the resource pool file open as well (in read-write). I'll break from within the project schedule, hit save, then go over to the resource pool, break to the project I have open and hit save. This is the only way I've found that works and, to me, that sounds like something is broken or I'm not doing somethin correctly.
    Friday, November 15, 2013 3:32 PM
  • Program_Scheduler,

    Actually I have very little experience with resource pool/sharer linked structures, rather my experience comes from cross-project links (i.e. external predecessors/successors), and dynamic master files. I also have a fair amount of experience with paste links in and between Project files. The latter is even more tentative than resource pool/sharer and dynamic masters. I have no experience with SharePoint, Project Server, or any other project/resource management software. I do have a good working knowledge of Project VBA, and that's the process I've used for creating custom reports for Project data.

    As far as backups of a linked structure. My experience is that if the whole structure (i.e. pool/sharer or master/subproject) resides in a single directory and folder, which it should, then that directory or folder can be saved as a whole entity and not contribute to file corruption. The problem occurs when an individual element of the structure is copied, saved or moved. That effectively creates duplicate links and initiates a near guarantee of eventual corruption. File renaming of an individual element of the structure again creates duplicate links, (link fragments will still exist with the old file name).

    You didn't mention anything about cross-project links among the 10 individual projects so I will assume you don't have that added concern of maintaining the integrity of those links.

    Julie asked if you were using a resource pool primarily for reporting. If the answer is yes, then I think there is a simple solution. Do not create a resource pool at all. When you need to do reporting, create a static master by unchecking the "link to project" option in the lower right corner of the Insert Project window. That will give you a snapshot of all the subproject files without any links. That static master can then be manipulated to create built-in project reports, export to Excel through Visual Reports or, my preferred method, export to Excel for custom reporting using VBA.

    If you are using the resource pool for centralized resource control, then opening the resource pool using the first option as Julie suggested in an earlier response should give you the combined resource data for reporting. And since you are only opening this for reporting, do not save when you close.

    Hope this helps.

    John

    Friday, November 15, 2013 4:08 PM
  • John- Thanks again for the in-depth response. I'm not using cross-project links. The problem with just creating a master is that there are many resources that are allocated across 4 or 5 different projects. So if I simply just inserted the individual project files as sub projects into the master, this doesn't combine like resources. Intead, it creates a separate instance of the resource for every project the resource is allocated to. I can't have that when I'm creating reports. I haven't found a way around it except to use a resource pool.

    I'd be interested in what types of custom reports you have created with VBA. Would you mind giving me a short explanation of some of the custom reports, so I can get a better idea of something I might be able to create?

    Friday, November 15, 2013 4:43 PM
  • Program-Scheduler,

    Something I forgot to mention in my last response. A link in a linked structure has two parts, a source tag and a destination tag. Whenever a linked structure is edited, it is very important that both (or all) files be saved. If they are not, link fragments will result.

    The same if true when breaking links. Both the source and destination files must be saved or link fragments will remain. It sounds like that is what you are seeing after you delete a resource from the pool.

    Link fragments are a PRIME source for corruption.

    John

    Friday, November 15, 2013 4:43 PM
  • So after spending all weekend troubleshooting and trying to find the root cause of the problem, I finally found the solution... What I did is went through every schedules and found some of the settings on some schedules were different than others. I thought this could have caused the problem so I went ahead and made sure these three settings were uniform, across all projects. File-->Options-->Schedule: "Duration is entered in: Days", "Work is entered in: Hours", "Calculate project after each edit: On". This still didn't fix the main problem I was having but I'm sure it's not a good thing when the schedules don't share the same settings.

    I don't know what made me think of this but this is ultimately what fixed the problem. I deleted all resources from every individual project and deleted the existing resource pool (ensured that none were linked before I deleted it. I created a new resource pool but the trick this time was that I built the resource pool first. What I mean by that is I entered all 50 or so resources into the resource pool before I shared resources with any project. Then I shared resources with the first project schedule, set the pool to take precedence, and started assigning resources to tasks, one by one. As soon as I finished the first 2 project plans, I did a test to make sure it was fixed. I tested it by saving the 2 project files and the resource pool, separately, and closed everything. I opened the resource pool, by itself, and went into the resource usage view. Everything was FINALLY correct. Also, the reports aren't missing random resources like it was before either. So as of now, everything is working correctly, but I'll update you all when I've completed everything.

    I do have a question, however. Can I send Project plans along with the resource pool stored locally, in a separate zipped folder, in an email without corrupting the files again?

    Monday, November 18, 2013 4:29 PM
  • Great.  I'm glad the rebuild fixed the issues.  Sorry it was so painful.

    As far a sending the files - store the pool and all sharer files in one folder - zip the entire folder and send.  You should be all set.

    Julie

    Monday, November 18, 2013 5:42 PM
    Moderator
  • Awesome, thanks a lot Julie (and everyone else that chimed in).
    Monday, November 18, 2013 5:54 PM