Arguably, the most requested service provided by a Project Management Office (PMO) is to offer a resource capacity plan. Few PMO’s I have seen deliver resource capacity planning that is widely used within the organization. Why?
The simple answer is that many organizations introduce complexity within their resource capacity planning process in terms of scope and in complying with the process. A key requirement of any resource capacity planning process should be simplicity. Simplicity in terms of who complies with it and how everyone is required to comply with it.
Not everyone should have to comply with a resource capacity planning process. My experience in PMO’s has been dominated by work done in Information Technology organizations. CIO’s in these organizations often desperately want to know what their future capacity is. Many times, I have found that they are not interested in what their total future capacity is. Their need is more specific. It is usually about their capacity for new project development.
Leaders could care less about what their capacity is to keep the business running. Truthfully, if they have excess capacity to keep the business running then this capacity will either be eliminated or quickly be re-purposed. Leaders always want to know what their capacity is to provide ever more value to the organization.
So now that you know this, refrain from making everyone comply with this process. Identify only those resources that do new project development and make sure all those resources are represented in your data. If they are not, be sure and be completely transparent about this by having some type of reporting mechanism showing who is not complying with this requirement
Next, you will need to create simplicity in terms of how people are required to comply with this process. Stated another way, you need to create a very simple way for people to enter their resource planning data. If this is cumbersome, then the process will be error prone, ultimately leading to either less and less people entering time, less and less people using the output, or both.
This is something that must be avoided at all costs.
A note about Excel. This program can be a very effective tool for small organizations to forecast their resource capacity. Unfortunately, it will not scale to larger organizations. My rule of thumb is that if the number of people that you are doing resource capacity for is expected to remain less than 100 then you can make Excel work for resource capacity planning. If not, consider making the investment into an enterprise level tool. You will be glad you did.
Whatever tool you use, great care must be given to the Resource Capacity Planning user experience. It should be easy to do and easy to explain. The only way to accomplish a great user experience in Resource Capacity Planning is to make it simple.
The key indicator of simplicity in Resource Capacity Planning is the number of fields that must be entered and maintained for each record. The greater the number of fields, the greater the complexity and the greater the chance of failure. It is just that simple.
I recommend requiring these key fields for user entry:
- Employee Number – Unique identifier for the resource
- Role – What role is the individual playing in the project
- Project Name – What project is the resource doing work for
- Hours by Week – The number of hours projected for each week for the next 13 weeks
I know that immediately you might point out that these 16 data points do not provide enough information.
That is true. Consumed without any additional information, this information is nearly worthless. However, when implemented in reporting, HR hierarchies can tell us who the employee reports to, what the employee makes, and even where the employee is located. This information, along with information for other employees who work for the same manager, can be used to show a picture of what each leader’s capacity looks like for the next 13 weeks. This information can also be used to show the dollar amount for the employee’s time. This is information that could be used to optimize the financials of future capacity consumption.
Remember that you should design a system that will require minimal data collection for each entry. Let your other reference data fill in the gaps.
Finally, do not require frequent updates for your resource capacity plan. Simplify by requiring monthly or quarterly updates. Just remember to highlight who is not complying with the ongoing process.
I hope this article will serve your need to create a simple, yet useful resource capacity planning process. By simplifying both the people who are involved with this process, as well as simplifying the level of effort with complying with this process, you will be well on your way to deploying a solution that is appreciated by everyone.
Tell me your thoughts in the comments and let’s open a dialog. I would be excited to hear other opinions on this topic.
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