At Teamdeck, we regularly talk with people working at different software development companies. When demoing our resource management app and onboarding new clients, we learn about their typical processes and issues. We've noticed that many software houses...
What’s the ultimate goal of project managers? Delivering their projects successfully. PMs themselves admit that this doesn’t happen very often: according to the latest Pulse of the Profession survey, less than 60% of projects are completed either on time or within their original budget.
Effectively managing resource capacity can help companies increase these numbers. In this article, you’ll learn more about capacity planning in project management, but we’ll also touch on the advantages of company-level capacity management. Let’s start with some necessary definitions.
What is capacity planning?
At a project level, capacity planning is all about determining whether you have enough resources to complete a given project. In order to calculate your team’s capacity, you need to know their availability and their current workload.
Note: The word resources may mean people, equipment, software, rooms, and so on. In this blog post, we’re using it to signify people with the skills necessary to meet the requirements of a project.
What’s the difference between capacity planning and resource planning?
Capacity planning requires you to make sure you have sufficient resources to deliver your project. As such, it contains an element of prediction. Resource planning is more about coordinating the workforce in real-time: you’re assigning people to projects while monitoring resource utilization.
Three steps for successful capacity planning
What do you usually do when you are assigned to manage a new project? How do you put together a team and make sure your team members availability is enough to complete all of the tasks? Project managers trying to ensure they have sufficient resources at their disposal should complete the following steps:
- Gather project requirements and estimates. You need to understand what has to be done to deliver the project successfully. What is the technical scope? Which roles are necessary for the project team? What are the time estimates for this project?
- Identify available resources. Analyze resource availability and determine which people who fit your project’s criteria can join your project team.
- Align capacity with project needs. Decide who will be assigned to the project and how many hours they should be booked for. Ideally, you should reserve these resources, even if your project doesn’t start yet.
Note: in some companies, the resource manager will be responsible for the bulk of the capacity planning process. The project manager is asked to request specific roles or skills, and the resource manager will analyze resource capacity. Read more about the role of the resource manager and how it is different from the project manager.
Leverage resource management tools for capacity planning
Project managers should be able to assess the requirements of their projects, but analyzing resource availability could be more challenging without visibility into the employee pool. Fortunately, organizations often have resource management software at their disposal, which can streamline the whole process.
Resource management tools, such as Teamdeck, provide you with a single resource pool with information about everyone’s availability and workload. As a project manager, you can filter out the roles necessary to meet your project’s demands and check when these people are available.
A company-wide resource calendar is a key tool for successful capacity planning.
In order to avoid resource conflicts, you can book selected team members in advance. If your project is not yet 100% confirmed, you can add tentative bookings. Other project managers will see that these people are likely to be assigned to your project if it ends up happening. Once you get a green light, you’ll have a group of people ready to start working on the project plus a schedule visible to other managers in your company’s resource management app.
Add tentative bookings to plan your project’s schedule well in advance.
Resource management software makes it easier to assess resource capacity. Not only can you see whether people have already been assigned to other projects, but you can also take their vacations or bank holidays in your account. You will be able to calculate your team’s actual capacity and decide whether you’re ready to deliver the project in a proposed time frame.
You’ll also have a chance to take finances into account. Some resource management apps (including Teamdeck) allow you to store information about your team’s rates. Use Teamdeck’s reports to calculate how much money you need to allocate in the budget to secure the staff you want to book for your project. Before you commit to this team, make sure you can afford them with your current project budget. Cross-checking resource capacity with estimated costs is yet another way to ensure your project’s success.
Both teams have sufficient capacity to deliver a given project. The estimated costs, however, differ significantly. Fortunately, you can assess multiple scenarios with Teamdeck.
Capacity planning should help you avoid overworking and underutilizing your team. It’s still useful, however, to regularly monitor resource utilization as the project kicks off. Check out our guide to measuring team utilization.
Capacity planning at a company level
Aligning project demand with your team’s capacity is an essential part of project management efforts, but strategic capacity planning benefits the whole organization, not just the production teams. Managing a broad portfolio of projects, you shouldn’t forget about capacity management. It will allow you to make better resource allocation decisions but also support other parts of your company:
- HR teams have a clear overview of recruitment needs and get enough time to hire or train new employees. Capacity planning helps to avoid resource bottlenecks in the future.
- Sales teams get more visibility into the production pipeline, so they know whether there’s room for more projects in a given period.
- Finance specialists can calculate profit forecasts based on the planned capacity and actual projects assigned to the staff.
Think: Does your company have established procedures for too much or too little team capacity? If not, raise this issue during your next project management team meeting. Perhaps you can figure out solutions like R&D initiatives for when you have available employees and no projects to work on? After all, underutilization is not great for employee morale.
Protect your employees with capacity planning
Capacity planning is appreciated by the employees, too. Such a strategic approach to resource management means that team members are not expected to work over their capacity. On top of that, employees know that their availability is visible and respected by the managers. They’re not likely to get assigned to an urgent project in the middle of their summer vacation.
Finally, if your company uses a resource management app, your employees know what’s coming in their schedule: what’s the next project they will be working on, how long it will take, etc.
Plan your team’s capacity with ease!
We hope that this article convinced you that capacity planning is both manageable and necessary. Forget about checking your team’s capacity, and your project is at risk: you’re not likely to deliver it on time without having enough qualified people. At the same time, you may exceed your budget if you end up outsourcing extra workforce. Luckily, both scenarios can be avoided when you compare capacity with demand. Remember about leveraging resource management software to make the whole process more robust.
Want to see how simple capacity planning is with Teamdeck? Book a consultation with one of our customer success experts. We’ll show you how you can make better strategic decisions thanks to effective resource management.