ARE YOU READY FOR CAPACITY PLANNING?
I find that organizations are evenly divided across the three levels of readiness: chaos, visibility, and controlled/optimized. Only about 5 percent of the ready organizations were at the highest "optimized" level, ready with advanced capabilities such as ensuring the best-fit resource for the highest-value work, ongoing resource planning for adapting to change, and the ability to perform what-if simulations.
Some of my clients have asked be for quick advice on preparing the team for capacity planning; which by the way requires a fairly advanced team using many formalized processes building one on the other.
Ready organizations have the following common characteristics:
- Have insight into what people are working on, can identify bottlenecks, and run scenarios on demand to adapt to change
- Meld top-down with bottom-up approaches to capacity planning and resource management
- Have a dedicated function to run resource management and capacity planning activities
Organizations ready to deploy a capacity planning initiative agree on these top three best practices: prioritization, ‘what-if’ analysis, and executive buy-in. They are able to estimate projects well and have good supporting processes in place. They use PPM software to optimize their resources.
Organizations can take many paths to readiness. There is generally no right way, but there does tend to be consensus on a few key points:
- It takes time, so resist the temptation or pressure to do everything at once.
- Start with simple, fundamental processes.
- Do not overlook the culture-change aspect.
It's important to maintain an enterprise view and incorporate the whole spectrum of demand, not just projects. Data is power. People need to talk to one another, especially project and resource managers. Technology does not negate the need for communication, and people can't be managed like machine parts. Critical success factors for effective resource management and capacity planning include:
- Good data, encompassing all resources and demand
- Adequate software for capacity planning and resource management
- A phased approach to implementation and maturity
- Communication of the "why" during implementation
- A good face-to-face training and support model
- Active ongoing communication with resource managers
With capacity planning there are three common barriers to readiness. The first is disagreement over whether, or at what level, to capture time and assign resources. Secondly, failure to recognize the very real resource constraint. Lastly, Silo thinking regarding resource planning. Avoid these.
Be clear about the benefits and goals for time capture (which tells you about past resource usage) versus resource allocation (which tells you about future availability). Both work in harmony, but there is a difference in adoption difficulty. Let people know your not looking for eight hours a day, but that you need data to justify additional headcount. Ensure that the organization's leadership is aligned on whether or not to institute time entry and at what level.
When it comes to detailed resource allocations, Agile is· an exception, in that schedules and costs are fixed and that what's being estimated and measured is the completion of prioritized features within that schedule. Therefore, resources are generally soft-booked at a high level (phase or iteration), and time entry is done at whatever level the organization wants to assess costs.
Ensure that resources are heavily involved in what they can and cannot take on, based on their list of prioritized work in their pipeline. Keep them actively involved and engage them in the work allocation, estimation, and decision-making process. Then the organization can focus on productivity boosters and better demand prioritization methods in order to increase throughput. Ironically, reducing multitasking has been proved to increase both productivity and throughput.
Silo thinking is a major cause of pain. Without an enterprise view or a defined process for addressing cross-departmental conflicts and priorities, bottlenecks and delays will continue.
Thinking on an enterprise level, all projects in the organization (and especially those that share common resources) should benefit from having defined templates and good historical data on resource role usage and common task durations. After all, while a rising tide raises all ships, the opposite is also true. One delayed, poorly defined project using shared resources can bring the whole portfolio down.
Don't just capture lessons learned; review them at the beginning of projects and apply changes to processes and templates as appropriate. And also capture resource role usage and common task durations.
Many organizations begin with allocating resources or capturing time at a high level, and they soon realize that in order to optimize their resource usage, they need more details. That's perfectly fine, and it's a natural maturity path.
Overall readiness recommendations are:
- Establish a road map to move up the readiness matrix.
- Gain executive commitment and buy-in.
- Put a resource management and capacity planning function in place.
- Use enterprise software; stop· relying on Spreadsheets alone.
- Ensure visibility of full capacity and demand.
- Have a. system in. place for prioritizing demand.
- Implement processes and systems in a phased manner.
- Institute a standard process for addressing cross-departmental resource conflicts.
- Build historical data around roles required and common task durations for a variety of project types.
- Address the root causes of project delays
Using the considerations in this readiness checklist, establish a roadmap to move up the readiness matrix:. A general sequence for beginners might be:
- Put a high-level demand intake, prioritization, and capacity assessment process in place.
- Establish a flexible project-methodology and resource assignment approach that allows for Agile and Waterfall projects, as appropriate.
- Begin soft -booking named resources at a phase or iteration level.
- Seek to integrate projects, products, and services.
- Begin capturing time for improving estimates (this may need to be done up front if time capture is needed for billing, costing, or regulatory purposes).
- Begin allocating named resources at a task level to improve the granularity of the resource availability view. This may not be applicable to Agile projects.
- Seek to improve demand prioritization and resource skills selection.
- Seek to improve project throughput and maximize resource productivity.