Resource capacity planning is a powerful tool when carried out correctly
Resource capacity planning is the discipline of comparing available resources such as people and equipment with the likely scheduling needs of a project or portfolio of work. The aim is to ensure that there are always the correct amount of resources available at a particular point. Without capacity planning, the risk is that a project could grind to a halt due to a lack of resources, or valuable resources could be underutilized.
When carried out correctly, resource planning can highlight whether or not there are enough resources to complete existing work as well as whether it’s possible to take on more work. The aim is to anticipate, and consequently smooth out, peaks and troughs in resources. This helps ensure that the forecast takes account of a realistic schedule of work.
Common resource capacity planning challenges
While the principle of capacity planning is relatively simple, there are some challenges in carrying this analysis out in a real-world context:
Resource capacity planning cannot happen in isolation. If one project will draw upon a specific resource in an organization then another project, or element of work, cannot draw upon that same resource at the same time. To try and do so would create conflict, and likely cause a slippage in the schedule. If resources are lacking in one area then they may need to be brought in from other areas of the organization or externally.
It’s incredibly important, therefore, to ensure that your schedules cover all work within the organization in order to avoid these types of conflict. Whether the work is estimating, drawings, or construction, you need to specifically identify when the work will occur and who will do it at an enterprise level. This will help you not overcommit and ensure that the organization is maximizing its available resources across projects.
Accurate schedules are a key part of resource capacity planning. Inaccurate forecasts can mean that resources are suddenly found to be lacking at key points of a project or portfolio of work, and can mean that work isn’t completed and schedules need to be rewritten. Finding that a schedule shows a conflict or competition for resources allows the ability to move things around to solve the situation; an inaccurate schedule removes that possibility.
To avoid this problem it’s important that all scheduling information is pinpoint accurate, to allow a proper plan of resources to be created. An inaccurate forecast will lead to inaccurate resource capacity planning, because the assumptions upon which the plan is based will be wrong. This would then cause potential issues in delivering, introducing a level of risk to the schedule.
Forecasts need to be accurate and comprehensive
Data should underpin the process
Where resources are highlighted as being scarce or lacking, a decision will need to be made about what happens as a result. Will one project be prioritized over another? Do external resources need to be brought in to cover the gap? Can current staff levels cope with demands or do you need to consider using another approach such as staff augmentation to supplement your workforce?
The decision about what happens next will need engagement from the project governance team, and therefore it’s crucial that your analysis is rooted in data. Information on the schedule should be used to identify the likely peaks and troughs that you are ultimately trying to avoid. That evidence can then be used by senior management or the project governance team to make a decision on how to proceed.
Another challenge of resource capacity planning is ensuring that records are kept accurately, and in a format that can be accessed and interrogated. Good data leads to good project management and it’s vital that accurate information on things like costs and staffing levels is available for input into your resource capacity planning process.
The best way to ensure that your resource utilization is well-documented is to use a dedicated project management solution. There are a number of good enterprise project management tools which can help you in this regard which offer robust, customizable, project management frameworks.
DRMcNatty are resource capacity planning experts
DRMcNatty has extensive experience helping organizations carry out resource capacity planning exercises. We understand the importance of accurate scheduling as a component of project forecasts, and can act as a critical friend to identify potential problem points for resources.
If you would benefit from a conversation about your resource planning processes then get in touch with one of our team today. Your dedicated customer service representative will help identify how we can help your project succeed.