Capacity planning is the process of calculating the amount of resources you need to meet demand before starting a project.
Whether you’re allocating staff, time, or some other resource critical to the success of a project, capacity planning is a secret weapon that’ll help you excel in balancing the challenges of finding and allocating these resources.
In theory, capacity planning sounds excellent, but in reality, managers struggle to implement it. But don't fret because, in this guide, we’ll share all you need to know about capacity planning and how to create a comprehensive team capacity plan using Coda.
👉 Get started with this capacity planning template.
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What is capacity planning?
In organizational terms, capacity is the ability of a given system to meet demand within a specific period (or regular working schedule).
With that definition in mind, capacity planning is the process of determining whether you have the resources or capacity to complete a project. Or, in other words, whether your supply can meet demand.
? 🤔 No. While resource planning and capacity planning involve resources, capacity planning goes beyond just allocating resources to tasks.
Capacity planning considers the data available to see whether you have enough to get a project done. After a consideration of resources, then you use a project resource planning template to allocate these resources to tasks.
For instance, say you manage a writing agency. Capacity planning will involve determining whether your company has enough writers based on their availability and skill set. Then, based on the data, you’ll have to make the following decisions:
If you don’t have enough writers, you’ll decide whether to cancel future projects or hire writers to assist with the workload.
If hiring full-time writers will be too much of a drain, you could decide to hire freelancers to help.
Then resource planning will involve:
Allocating writers based on their skills
Creating milestones, deliverables, timelines (start and end dates)
Providing tools that’ll help your team work efficiently
Of course, this is a hypothetical scenario, but the underlying principle of knowing whether your resources can complete a project is the same regardless of your industry.
Why is capacity planning important for project managers?
Here are some of the reasons why project managers need capacity planning:
Provides a clearer overview of available resources
Sure, you could allocate resources and make things up as you go, but you’ll agree that a failure to plan sets you up for, well, failure.
On the other hand, when you lay out everything you need in a capacity planning template, you can see how your resources—budget, staff, projects, etc.—connect. And with all of this information at your fingertips, you can make decisions based on concrete data.
Maximizes project success
Capacity planning templates help project managers and Scrum masters make data-driven forecasts and decisions to increase a project's chances of success. With capacity planning providing all necessary real-time metrics, managers will not be caught off-guard when challenges occur in a project lifecycle.
Offers better team organization and workload distribution
Reviewing the capacity of a project allows managers to organize their project teams and distribute the workload better.
With a proper team resource capacity planner, managers can ensure that resources, like employees, are allocated on a “best fit” basis instead of an “it’s what’s available” basis. Capacity planning also helps project managers know when to inform
As the name implies, a skills inventory is a record of the skills of each member of a workforce. And it’s pretty useful for projects that require technical prowess.
For a writing agency, for instance, you can list the skills of each team member as follows:
Niche; SaaS, fashion, product reviews, and so on
So when it’s time to allocate resources, you can quickly see whether a team member has the necessary skills
to carry out a task.
Additionally, having a skills inventory makes it easy to identify any skill shortages. Capacity planning helps you to see any gaps your team might have. Therefore, you don’t have to start a project before you realize that nobody on your team knows how to write a press release, for example.
With a capacity plan, you can know whether to
Recruit temporary or permanent resources to the team that has the skills needed.
Or train existing team members in the new skill
Capacity planning helps managers fight burnout and
This planning process gives managers a better view of the availability and schedules of their resources. Thus, they can handle resource utilization better and avoid assigning mundane tasks to employees with higher skill levels.
Using a capacity planning template also helps you save time you otherwise would have spent on creating new spreadsheets from scratch.
Helps monitor costs
Capacity planning considers all resources needed to complete a project, including facilities, budgets, supplies, workforce, and so on. This overview of resources helps manufacturers and managers to carefully
With this process, you can project capacity needs and accurately budget for any changes you foresee.
Furthermore, capacity planning allows you to optimize projects in terms of costs.
For instance, let’s say you have a new project from a client that requires a graphic designer. You have a team of graphic designers who can do the job—however, some are better than others and are more expensive to put on the job.
Sam is available to take on the job. While he’s a rockstar, he’s one of your most expensive resources. On the other hand, you have Bob, who can also do an excellent job—but isn’t as expensive. The only problem is that he’s not available at the right time, but will be in a month.
Using capacity planning, you can determine whether it’s best to delay the start of the project by a month to reduce the cost of using Sam instead of Bob. While you might decide to still go with Sam, capacity planning makes it possible to have all the necessary information needed to make the best decision.
In addition, a human resource capacity planning template helps you save money you would have spent on resource management apps or tools.
Whether you’re a manufacturing firm, legal firm, or content agency, a capacity plan helps you to ensure availability.
After carrying out this process, you’ll know whether you have the availability to take on new projects or clients. Then, with a capacity planning template, you can make a data-driven decision on whether to hire more people or allocate more resources.
A bottleneck is a work stage within the project lifecycle that holds up subsequent tasks. Unfortunately, it’s the worse nightmare of most project managers because of its capability to reduce the pace of the project or even halt the project completely.
Bottlenecks are a result of any of the following:
Old software, applications, and infrastructure
Limited performance of individuals due to several reasons ranging from exhaustion to sickness
Poor communication between teams
Failure to reassign tasks to available people
And many more.
A capacity plan arms you with just what you need to tackle bottlenecks heads-on. How? It makes it possible to spot the bottleneck early on. With this process, you can see where these problems might arise and create a plan to prevent them.
Capacity planning strategies
There are three capacity planning strategies project managers use:
Each of these strategies has advantages and pitfalls, which we’ll discuss right away.
Lag capacity planning strategy
In lag strategy, resources are acquired to meet the true demand. Here, managers responded to an actual increase in demand before adding more capacity.
Using the writing agency, for example, a lag strategy means the current number of writers available have the skills and resources to handle the current workload. You don’t have more writers than necessary to manage an existing project.
Advantage of lag capacity planning
It’s a conservative strategy that reduces the risk of acquiring resources that you don’t need.
Disadvantage of lag capacity planning
It runs the risk of causing a lag in the delivery of goods or services if there’s an increase in demand. And since customers hate to wait, it can cause you to lose them to your competitors.
Lead capacity planning strategy
This strategy involves an investment in more capacity than is currently required. Unlike the conservative lag capacity planning strategy, lead is aggressive. Here, managers plan to increase capacity in advance even before an actual increase in demand.
This strategy is often used in industries where competitors are susceptible to inventory shortages.
Advantage of lead capacity planning strategy
If you have a sudden increase in demand, you can take on the work and keep customers happy.
Disadvantage of lead capacity planning strategy
If there’s no increase in demand, you’ll make a loss due to under utilized resources.
Match capacity planning strategy
This strategy lies between the extremes of lead and lag strategies. With this strategy, you keep an eye on fluctuating conditions and adjust your capacity accordingly.
Advantages of match capacity planning strategy
You’re acquiring resources you’ll actually use
It’s more risk-averse than other capacity planning strategies
👉 Get started with this capacity planning template.
Copy this template
After you copy this template, you can utilize this free capacity planning template for your team’s capacity and resource planning needs. In this template, you can add your projects and available capacity (human resources) to see if you have enough human resources to staff your projects.
How to create a capacity plan with Coda's capacity planning template
table where you can define the Project Name, Start Date, End Date, and Capacity required (hours) /week) for you projects. If you want to make this capacity planning template more detailed (showing tasks or work breakdown structure), you can easily change this table to list tasks instead of projects (see this
table. This list should be all the available internal and external human resources available to work on projects. For each row, add each resource’s Available capacity/week and Working hours/week and the Capacity/week will automatically calculate.
Step 3: Track capacity and project timeline
Once you have entered in your projects and available resources and their associated capacity, you can start doing capacity planning for your projects. At the top of the
table to meet the capacity needs and demands of your projects.
Capacity planning template FAQs
What is capacity planning in project management?
Capacity planning is the process of determining whether you have the resources or capacity to complete a project. It helps mitigate risks, avoid bottlenecks, and give teams the resources they need to complete a project. While there are Microsoft excel templates you could use for capacity planning, it's more efficient to use Coda.
What is the difference between capacity planning and capacity management?
Capacity planning is the initial process of assessing whether you have the resources needed to complete a project before starting. On the other hand, capacity management is a continuous performance-enhancing lifecycle that consists of intake, assessment, optimization, and monitoring of a project.
What is capacity planning in operations management?
Capacity planning in operations management refers to the process of assessing the production capacity an organization needs to achieve all project deliverables.
What is rough-cut capacity planning?
Rough cut capacity planning (RCCP) is a long-term capacity planning tool that helps you balance production capacity against client demand.
A master production schedule (MPS) plans out projects for engineering and production companies so that orders aren’t delayed or forgotten. However, the MPS will not reveal whether the company has enough resources to complete projects. This is where rough-cut capacity planning helps.
It helps you to assess whether your resources are capable of meeting the capacity requirements for your MPS. It’s used by sales, marketing, and manufacturing departments.
RCCP doesn’t factor in current resources as it assumes you already have the resources necessary to carry out a project. Instead, it focuses on how to adjust capacity to achieve project deliverables.
What is capacity requirement planning?
Capacity requirement planning (CRP) is the process of assessing and adjusting capacity levels or limits. It assists a company to know if its production capacity can meet production goals.
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