Team capacity planning – achieving high levels of utilisation

As new projects emerge, resources get allocated and project teams are formed. Often the source of these teams are departments that need to manage other tasks as well. For effective Team capacity planning,  each team must efficiently manage their incoming tasks. This can be particularly difficult when team members have to balance conflicting demands between project and departmental tasks. For major projects, the project team members may be full time which reduces the potential conflict.

Resource planning tools help with Team capacity planning. Team leaders can keep an eye on their forecast utilisation levels, so the incoming tasks (requests for resource) can be allocated most effectively. Resource management tools can also be deployed directly to team members, so that individuals can select incoming tasks and self assign. This is particularly helpful for short term tasks that just need to be picked up and dealt with.

Team leaders need to see the forward loading on the overall team, as well as for each individual. By layering new requests on top of the committed work, emerging bottlenecks can easily be seen. For larger organizations, where multiple teams can have similar skills, a struggling team leader can see if any other teams have the spare skills that they need. Resource planning tools can drive improvements to team capacity planning by tracking the temporary secondment of people between teams.

Team Leader’s view showing loading on each of 4 team members plus sum of outstanding requests for ANALYSTS. No red cells in totals row so there is sufficient capacity to handle the new requests!

Measuring the achieved utilisation levels is an important performance measure on team leaders. Timesheets record how each member has actually spent their time, so that the team percentages spent on productive work can easily be seen. Comparing the actual effort spent with original task estimates is also useful. Consistent discrepancies should trigger a review of task estimating process, so that future estimates will be more realistic.

Team based resource planning tools should also be used by those requesting resource. Project based tasks are notoriously difficult to estimate and there will inevitably be changes that impact the smooth running of teams. Team capacity planning demands effective collaboration between project managers and team leaders, and for individual projects not to suffer. In volatile environments, the project manager may need to change work estimates unexpectedly. The system must enable this, yet be able to track and report on the details of all such changes.

So, although many teams make do with spreadsheets to manage their workload, investing in suitable resource planning tools can transform your team capacity planning.

Barry Muir is a Director of Innate Management Systems Ltd. We have been implementing resource management software in a wide variety of professional services organizations for more than 20 years.
Posted in multi project environments, Project Management, resource management