Updated: Dec 9, 2019
Strategic capacity planning can be a time-consuming, if not daunting, task for anyone undertaking it; knowing where to start is challenging, but accuracy is difficult and without the right process your project delivery can be unpredictable. This is as capacity can be a complex metric, not just as a unit of time management, but also as:
the predictive foundation of staff with the skills required
the insurance that the right employees can implement the right projects at the right time
Therefore resource planning can and should be conflated with capacity planning when you’re compiling your employee's “worth” via skill, experience, passion, time, availability and other such measures.
But it doesn’t have to be time-consuming if you can create the right capacity playbook for your company.
1. ESTABLISH YOUR PROCESS
Your business is unique, as should your process be. You can cut it various ways based on what is most important to your organisation at any given time: whether that be the number of projects and their duration, number of resources in total and those available or industry type.
Firstly set the frequency of your strategic planning process and ensure everyone from management to project leaders and the PMO are involved. The PMO should define your process, a process that ensures the right people with the right capacity are available and motivated through to completion.
Decisions on project start dates and resource availability need to be data-driven - put in an expectation of how one arrives at those conclusions based on accurate historical data and trends. Establish the workload and how it will be measured (not always simply by days, hours and minutes) and set service levels based on each activity so clients never become overserviced unnecessarily.
Whilst generically workload can be defined by the number of resources to be involved, the metrics by which they’re measured shouldn’t be one-dimensional.
2. EVALUATE CAPACITY LEVELS
Firstly make sure all your current and future project and staff data is recorded in a single system (for projects in-play this should be a simple as the remaining effort required to complete).
For each project, there should be a minimum-viable effort recorded to achieve customer success. Then prioritise projects based on time-available to complete and importance to the company. For each project evaluate which resources are being over or underused and understand which resources are the biggest users of capacity. This should provide the complete picture of all booked and forecast work and provide insights into if it is a viable schedule, including if there are any skills gaps that need plugging or resources that are stretched. Checking this by skill rather than on a per-employee basis means you’ll save time.
3. KNOW YOUR CAPACITY
Once you have your overview you can compare your “bucket of capacity” against the requirements of the business. They should match up but if they don’t this provides a basis for any future planning. Any ad hoc work or new business can be placed in accordance with the remaining capacity and against your prioritization features. This can even help pre-sales by adding forecast or potential bids into the plan and checking their feasibility (or simply being honest with your client on delivery timelines). Pockets of capacity open-up when overservicing is identified and reduced.
With all these activities in alignment, the business should find its optimum capacity and therefore the most productive output, reducing burnout and dissatisfaction in the process.