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Capacity Planning is the Secret to a Successful Project

August 24, 2021 / by Frederid Palacios

For a project to be successful, it requires access to a specific set of resources – whether human, equipment, or otherwise. Managing these resources can be challenging, particularly regarding human resources. If you are managing a project and require the skills and experience that one person can only provide, it is crucial that they are available, lest the project is delayed. Unfortunately, a person can only be in one place at once, and it's unlikely that the individual you need will be available at all times. This is where resource capacity planning comes into play. With capacity planning, project managers can balance the time and effort of their team members with the project's requirements, ensuring that resources are available. For this reason, capacity planning is vital for the success of your project.

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Why Does Capacity Planning Matter?

Countless factors could affect your project at any given time, particularly concerning your workforce. Should an employee fall sick, get caught up in another project, or servers crash, it is possible that you will not have the resources needed to complete your project on time. No matter the case, these disruptions could occur and will cost you. For this reason, proactively planning your projects is critical – and you can do so with capacity planning.

Resource capacity planning enables project managers to account for the right human and monetary resources necessary to deliver a successful project. It may seem common sense to ensure that you have the people and money to complete a project, but this is often miscalculated, resulting in delayed or incomplete projects.

Capacity planning goes beyond assigning employees to a project. Your first mistake would be to assume that all team members have the time and capacity to undertake all of the requirements of your project. Likely, this is not the only project that your team members are assigned to, so you must respect their time and workload and plan accordingly.  If you fail to do this, your employees may be overworked, leading to poor performance and burnout. Once burnout begins, it is challenging to recover, so this must be avoided—additionally, the more overworked your employees are, the more their performance will suffer. As a result, you will create a cycle of low-performance and low-quality projects. Fortunately, we have some best practices for resource capacity planning to ensure the success of any project.


Capacity Planning Best Practices


1. Track Time

One of the most efficient ways to plan for resource capacity is to track your team members' time. Using time tracking software, you can see how much time individuals invest into one or all of their projects. This will reveal how much capacity your team members have available and which projects are the most time-consuming. If a team member is clocking a considerable amount of time for several projects, they may not have enough capacity to contribute to a new project. On the other hand, you may see that a team member has ample time to take on a new project, making them an excellent candidate to bring on board.

Whatever your time tracking software may reveal of your employees’ capacity, it is vital to gain these insights. Time tracking is instrumental in understanding your team's capacity, enabling you to allocate resources to your project accordingly. When implementing this software, make sure that you communicate with your employees how it will benefit them. Some may initially view this as an invasion of privacy, while in reality, it is being used to ensure they have a healthy workload and are not spread too thin. With the information you gain from time tracking software, you will be able to conduct resource capacity planning better, ensuring that your team members have ample time and effort to devote to your project.


2. Determine True Work Availability

While it is crucial to understand employees' capacity regarding other projects they may be working on, there is more to their job than just the project they contribute to. Consider your own day-to-day work routine. Do you spend every second of the day devoted to a specific project? The answer is likely no. In reality, employees also check emails, participate in meetings, and gather information for their tasks. These tasks are essential to performing one's role efficiently and wholly, and they can be time-consuming.

As a result, you should understand that the time an employee tracks on a project may not be a true reflection of their capacity and availability. Just because an employee appears to have a spare hour away from a project each day does not necessarily mean they have the capacity for another project. Utilizing project management tools such as a capacity calculator can help you determine your employees' actual work availability, considering side projects and housekeeping tasks. 


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3. Don’t Work Employees to Capacity

As mentioned, there is more to an individual's job than completing project after project. For employees to perform their job well, they should gather additional knowledge and develop their skill set. Activities such as this occur outside of typical project activities, and employees should have time allocated to do so. If your employee's workload capacity is maximized, they will have no time to grow in their role. For this reason, leaving room for activities such as learning and research – in addition to basic housekeeping tasks, is critical for your employees to succeed.

Leaving in time for employees to develop their skills will allow them to perform better in their roles, leading to more success for your projects. But, learning is time-consuming, so project managers should plan for this time during the capacity planning process. By not maxing out individuals' capacity, you leave room for growth and heighten your company's chance of success.


4. Identify Delays

 Once you have determined a reasonably accurate read of your team members' capacity, you need to identify any bottlenecks they may experience. Your organization’s workforce is likely filled with personnel of diverse experiences and skills, and some of these skills may be more scarce than others. As a result, specific individuals may be in more high demand for projects because of their knowledge. This is important to keep in mind as it may limit an individual's capacity for each of their projects or a new one.

Monitoring bottlenecks resources, whether technology, an employee, or a set of skills, can ensure that resources are not overloaded. Typically, project management software will offer this insight, providing visibility into how resources are being utilized. This will notify you if a resource is in high demand so that you can find an alternative resource or plan accordingly. If not, you may experience delays on your project while waiting for this resource.


5. Prioritize Projects

With capacity and bottlenecks established, it is time to carry out capacity resource planning. Having determined your team members' actual work capacity, you should understand that they are working on several projects simultaneously. With this in mind, each project should be ranked in priority. Determining which projects are most important or time-sensitive is critical to balancing capacity and allowing employees to manage their time efficiently.

While each project should be treated with the same level of effort and commitment, the reality is that all projects cannot be an individual’s highest priority. Utilizing project management software, project managers can assign resources to projects in the order of their priority. This will significantly reduce the bottleneck of in-demand resources while ensuring that high-priority projects are completed efficiently and on time.

By allocating resources according to capacity, you can avoid conflicting responsibilities and ensure that all team members have the time and energy to complete a project successfully. With careful resource capacity planning, you can prevent overworked and burnt-out employees while ensuring that all projects receive the resources and devotion they need to thrive.


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Tags: Project Management

Frederid Palacios

Written by Frederid Palacios

Fred Palacios is a seasoned software architect with more than 20 years of experience participating in the entire software development cycle across a host of different industries--from automotive and services to petroleum, financial, and supply chain. In that time, his experience working closely with high-level stakeholders has provided him with a strategic vision for developing the right solutions to flexibly meet critical business needs. As CTO of Intertec, he's continuing to focus on the creation of business-critical applications for large enterprise projects, particularly those that handle high concurrency and large datasets. He is passionate about using technology as a tool to solve real-world problems and also mentoring technical teams to achieve their maximum potential and deliver quality software.

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