Project management isn’t possible without proper capacity planning.
To ensure you hit your deadlines and cover every important milestone along the way with your projects you need an idea of your capacity. In an ideal world the project pipeline would be a straightforward A-B process, and tasks would fly through to completion without a hitch.
Yet you know this isn’t the case in the real world. There are so many variables that can throw you and your team off course during the project management process. The number one issue that can trip you up and inhibit your progress is poor capacity planning.
In this guide, we’ll address how you can overhaul your current capacity management process and plan ahead in a way that guarantees projects are finished, and get completed ahead of schedule.
Capacity planning and project management
The responsibility of the project manager is to oversee the progress of projects, ensuring that everything is delivered on time and meets the company’s or client’s expectations. To do so successfully, they need excellent communication skills, an eye for detail, and a logic-based mindset.
Communication and a meticulous eye for detail can only get you so far, since if you lack the resources to complete a project it’s inevitably going to remain incomplete or be finished to a poor standard.
With capacity planning, the project manager assumes the responsibility of managing the company’s resources efficiently. Allocating hours and assigning the right amount of employees to take on different tasks is often paramount to success in any company.
However, capacity planning shouldn’t be confused with resource planning. Whereas capacity planning deals with human resources, resource planning is largely concerned with money, tools, and other requirements to complete the project.
Capacity planning helps you determine how many hours it’ll take to complete a project with the employees you have at your disposal. It accounts for skill level, experience, and other related factors to do with individuals and their ability to contribute to a project’s success.
How to plan for success
So you’ve determined that your current capacity planning procedures aren’t working, and you want to improve them.
What steps do you need to take in order to make that happen?
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to implement effective capacity planning:
- Establish the limits of your employees’ capacity. For instance, if they can comfortably complete project A within five days, but would feel overworked if they had to finish it off within three days then you have a clear idea of their maximum capacity. It can also be helpful to either ask your employees directly, or using a time-tracking tool, to find out how much time they have to dedicate to project work on an average day.
- Next, determine how long you think it will take to complete a task. Say the task is collating data to be used in an end-of-year performance report. If you estimate it’ll take 12 hours of work, it ends up taking 20 hours, you need to have a way of comparing planned vs. actual.
- Assign the individual tasks related to the project to your team members, bearing in mind factors such as which individuals have more time to dedicate to the tasks.
In order to streamline this process and store all of your capacity-related findings in one easy-to-access place, you might find that using a tool is helpful. Jira is a powerful project management tool, backed by numerous third-party apps and integrations.
One such app is Activity Timeline, a popular capacity planning add-on. This app provides you with all the relevant capacity information in a scalable dashboard which allows for the assignment and tracking of various tasks. These tasks are mapped out on a calendar display so that you can assess how long they’ll take.
You’ll also be able to see exactly who in your team is working on what, leaving no confusion as to where your resources are being used.
The benefits of capacity planning with Jira
When you use Jira to manage your projects and add-ons such as Activity Timeline to plan capacity, you set yourself up for long-term success. If you can make the most of software tools in your company, you’ll be able to automate processes to save time, plan your resources with meticulous precision, and hit deadlines on time every time.
Here are some of the main reasons to give up the reigns on some of your capacity planning responsibilities to software:
Take control of time
A project manager’s role is to ensure that work is completed on time, and as such, they have to understand how much time each team member can realistically dedicate to every task to optimize efficiency and overall productivity.
With the right capacity planning practices and tools to back you up you can set deadlines that you know employees can hit. Rather than basing decisions on guesswork it’s wise to bring capacity predictions into proceedings to get the most out of the resources you have. Capacity planning will also likely lead to fewer missed deadlines and miscalculations.
Overestimating your team’s capabilities or setting a deadline that’s too tight are easy mistakes to make that can ultimately cost your company time and resources.
Reduce employee burnout
Employee burnout is a serious issue in many workplaces, and without a capacity planning procedure in place, you won’t know how close to the fire your team members are. Push them too far, and you could be pushing them to burnout which would be catastrophic.
This can be avoided if you fully understand each employee’s capacity, as you’re less likely to overwork them. You’ll even be more likely to eke more out of every individual in terms of productivity as they’ll be operating in their ideal output range when you assign them work based on their capacity and capabilities.
Accurate performance appraisal
When you maintain a capacity planning process for your company, you can effectively audit for skill gaps and assess the performance of your workforce. This can be hugely instrumental for future hiring decisions and pushing the company in the right direction.
Knowing each individual’s capacity and ability may also help you inform your succession planning process. You can use the information you gather to highlight potential candidates for senior management roles once those currently in the positions leave their post.