I asked Jerry Manas, author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook: A Guide to Maximizing the Value of Your Limited People Resources, that question in a recent podcast. The podcast and entire transcription can be found at Resource & Capacity Planning.
An excerpt from the podcast:
Joe: Resource capacity and planning seems kind of very disciplined and very structured; is it?
Jerry: Well it’s structured in a way. It’s disciplined in that if you look at it contextually, with any organization, you have work coming in and there’s some kind of a brief step or to assess the work that’s coming in, if it’s bigger than a red box, where it should go, something like that, some kind of scoring or scoping or something with the work coming in. But then instead of just sending it into project execution and saying, okay let’s go – which a lot of companies do, they say okay let’s go and then resources aren’t available. Usually, you find that out when a project gets delayed or things like that.
It’s structured in the sense of as this work comes in, ideally it should hop over into some sort of investment planning or portfolio planning mode where the work can come in and you can assess it in the context of all the work in the portfolio. When you assess that, to whatever even if it’s a thinking step, whatever method you use, the idea is to bring it into the portfolio, assess where can this fit in, how does it fit in in terms of importance, what’s the available capacity to do this work and this is the part everybody leaves out, when can I do the work based on my capacity or do I need to start looking at alternative sourcing strategies and start using contractors. Contractors don’t always work for everything but if you have a strategy for it, some kind of strategy to say here are the cases where we’re going to consider bringing in contractors where it makes sense and then have those as an option, otherwise the work has to slip or really you just have limited options, either you reduce the scope and you slip the work or you bring in help. So even at that high level helps an organization.
When you plan when you can do the work, then you come over, and that’s when you can get into execution and then assigning your resources and things like that. But that missing piece, that whole capacity planning piece is what a lot of organizations skip and they don’t have the process to do that.
Joe: I think one of the buzz words for a long time now is agile and in a lot of company, you asked anybody in any company, “Oh, we’re agile…” Does this conflict with an agile mentality or does it help it?
Jerry: Actually it helps it. In fact, I speak quite heavily about agile. The thing is with agile; it is a bit of a different animal; it really turns everything on its head. So if you look at a wonderful project, really it starts out with a plan and then you’re estimating the cost and the schedules. You’re saying, okay here’s my requirement, here’s my scope and then I’m saying, okay what’s this going to cost me to do and when can we get done? Agile literally turns that upside down. It says, okay here are the features that I like but what I’m going to do is I’m going to fix the cost and the schedule so I’m going to have a…here’s my release period or my sprints during a certain time period and now I’m going to estimate, these are the features that I think I can deliver within that schedule. So really, it’s a completely different animal that literally turns a waterfall model on its head.
But from a resource planning perspective, people say, okay well since we’re agile well does that mean we can’t plan resources? Well, with a lot of agile organizations, what I suggest is at least reserving your resources at a high level. Even if it’s at a sprint level, saying okay we’re going to reserve our resources, so you can get some kind of sense of demand because those projects consume resources too and if you’re not tracking that work at all, if those resources are isolated to a specific project, it’s not as much of an issue but if they’re shared with the rest of the organization or they’re doing other things, then you really need to at least keep track at a high level of what the resources are doing. I don’t think you need to get into detailed resource allocations like test level things because that would be a fruitless effort on an agile project but at least at a high level to be able to get a sense of demand and that way you can mix that demand in with waterfall projects or whatever other kind of projects are going on in the company.
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