Common Questions About Modern Capacity Planning: You Asked, We Answered

Author: Lindsey Marymont

How do everyday portfolio and project managers handle the details and the strategic impact of resource demand planning?

Here at KeyedIn Projects, we talk a lot about top-down strategy. Oftentimes, however, we end up in a room with project and portfolio managers who want specific details about the execution end of things. That’s why we created our webinar Modern Capacity Planning – Putting the Strategy into Resource Management.  Project and portfolio managers have seen that if you don’t nail down the particulars of metrics, formulas and budgets, especially as they relate to resource management, chances of hitting the mark on strategy remain slim-to-none.

During the Q&A after the webinar, Andy and Kevin fielded some questions live—others came in via chat that we weren’t able to get to. If you want to check out the webinar prior to reading this (spoilers ahead!) I truly recommend it. But, you can comfortably read on without watching it, to see what questions your peers asked about how to measure resource capacity activity to ensure performance. Plus, a bonus one on how to keep resources motivated.

How are metrics captured and computed as a predictor?

Capturing resource related metrics should already be well established in organizations. Project management tools should capture planned and actual resource utilization on projects. For example, IT support and ticketing systems will track who was assigned and how long it took to resolve the issue, whereas operational areas will use various methods, including detailed time-tracking with ‘clocking in’ all the way out to models that assign standard times to each work item.

As you probably realize from painful experience, the hard part is translating that historic data into information that can be used to help planning. Projects tend to have the most variance between planned and actual resource utilization so that’s a good starting point.  Look at the last couple of years of data and see how much effort projects were planned to take and how much versus actual effort. Use those numbers to predict what will happen and also consider the type of project, how much is known about the work, the use of specialist skill sets, etc. but it will be a good starting point.

Are there key formulas for resource capacity planning that can be used as a “rule of thumb”?

There are a lot of different suggestions online for calculating available hours from individuals but you need to be careful using them because they are affected by so many variables.  Operations and support are different from projects, but even in the project space, it always depends on:

  •    How many projects people are assigned to;
  •    How often they have to shift between those projects; and
  •    How much they are expected to contribute to their functional area while assigned to projects, etc.

Also, flexible working arrangements can impact how many hours are available in any period.

A more reliable method than using standard percentages or other hard-and-fast rules is to look at how much time you are actually getting from people over the last few working periods – assuming that the reporting of time is accurate. Often, we can run reports in prototype (assuming the data is good) before even engaging with our clients so you can get these kinds of analytics to make better capacity and deployment decisions.

Is the concept of resource management in conflict with resource commitment?

If the suggestion is that there isn’t enough time for resource managers to manage resources because they are overcommitted then I would say that the management of resources should be a high enough priority task to ensure it always gets done.  If the organization or individual doesn’t see resource management as something that needs to be prioritized, that is a larger issue that will likely prevent any progress being made on strategic resource management concepts.

Perhaps you are having issues with changing from a tactical approach to a top-down, all-encompassing approach. This makes all the difference in the world when differentiating between what people have committed to and what they’re supposed to do on paper (within a PPM solution).

Change management will be key as well as education and clearly communicating the value proposition to everyone involved. Resource Management failures remain one of the most common reasons many projects fail. That’s why it should be a high enough priority task to ensure it always gets done.  If the organization or individual doesn’t see resource management as something that needs to be prioritized, that is a larger issue that will prevent any progress being made on strategic resource management concepts.

What can I do to inspire our people (resources) to increase their commitment? As a leader, how can I empower them?

Gaining buy-in from all levels of the organization will go a long way toward creating an environment that encourages employees to be motivated and engaged. Done consistently and well it will increase the resource capacity an organization has, but that will only go so far.  If it becomes the only approach used to address resource capacity shortfalls it will likely move from a positive approach to creating empowered teams to a negative approach of overworking those teams.

We have many examples of how this was true for KeyedIn customers, and how they optimized effectiveness and efficiency across the portfolio as a result.  The culture changes we have seen during and after implementation have helped the people involved feel more empowered and engaged on every level of the organization. It is amazing and gratifying to watch.

For more about resource demand planning, certainly watch the webinar—also, watch our features video for some of the tactical ways our solution gets to your stickiest resource demand planning issues. And let me know what you think about any or all of this at information@keyedin.com.