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The Guide to Resource Capacity Planning in Agile

Any project manager will agree that planning is one of the most important stages in the project journey. Without proper planning of resources, the goals may not be defined clearly, risks may increase, deadlines will be missed, and budgets will spin out of control. When done right, resource capacity planning delivers successful results and ultimately boosts profits and growth.But in an agile project where requirements are volatile, how is it possible to manage resource capacity planning? While it might seem impossibly complex, it can be broken down into simple actionable techniques.In this blog, we’ll help you understand how to go about resource capacity planning in Agile.Resource Capacity Planning: What Is It, Exactly?In very simple terms, agile resource capacity planning is a matter of scheduling tasks to suit the capacity of the resources you have in hand. To do this, you should be aware of the capacity of your team to perform the tasks in hand. Keep in mind that the pace should be sustainable and should not burn out the team or under-utilise their capabilities.The Right Time To Undertake Resource Capacity PlanningResource capacity planning can be broken down into two, resource planning and capacity planning. In Agile, short-term planning is more important than long -term planning (which is equally important, except that it can be put off to a later date!)Short-term tasks:Also called resource planning, this includes the work that must be done over the next month. Ensure that goals are met, but teams are not pushed beyond their capability. You might need to queue the tasks or delay some work to limit the amount of work allocated to the team, so that they can stay focused and achieve greater quality.Long-term tasks:The work that needs to be done further down the line, say 3 months from now, requires a different planning approach. This is capacity planning, and includes backlog items that are critical, as well as those that can be done at your discretion.  Capacity planning factors in your team skills, the timing of work, and the priority of tasks. Capacity planning for the long term is more flexible than resource planning for the near term.Agile Resource Planning ProcessMost teams use a simple excel spreadsheet for their resource planning. This sheet is shared, so that team members can view it in real-time and get on the same page with respect to tasks to be done.Here are the steps to be followed, for your easy understanding!  Group Your Resources Into TeamsAgile is all about team collaboration. You’ll need to group together your available resources into teams of between 5 and 9 members, making sure that each team has multi-skilled members who can self-manage the tasks that you will be allocating. Once you’ve grouped them into teams, you no longer have to worry about who will do what, in an individual capacity. That’s for the teams to decide!Calculate Team Capacity in a Fixed DurationTeam capacity refers to the work that your team can complete in a fixed timebox. This could be calculated based on days and hours, or story points. Do keep in mind that people are not productive a 100% of the time. They will take coffee breaks, catch up on office gossip, fall sick or take spontaneous holidays. While calculating the capacity, do reduce it by a small percentage to account for all this. Do Resource Planning for Short-Term Work  When starting out, you are already aware of the work that needs to be done immediately, which you can start with. Short term planning can now be done for the next 1-3 months. Think about which team needs to do specific tasks (keep their capabilities and expertise in mind), what is the capacity of each team, and how much quantum of work needs to be completed in the near time.    You can use an easy calculator for this. Assume that you are following Scrum, and the sprint duration is 2 weeks.  Your team strength is 7, and a typical workday (after factoring in all the breaks!) is 7 hours. Over the 2-week duration, they will work for 10 days as weekends are off.  So, this means that their capacity is 7*7*10= 490 hours. If the total quantum of work is 980 hours, they will be able to finish it in 2 sprints, working 490 hours per sprint.Next, Sketch Out the Long-Term WorkLong-term work is planned in a similar way, but of course in much less detail. Instead of getting into the nitty-gritty details, just roughly estimate the work that can be done in all the upcoming sprints. Come up with a total estimate for the remaining work on the project, taking care to ensure that the work planned does not exceed the capacity of the resources.  Make Adjustments in the Resources, Tasks, Priorities and Schedules to Finalise the Plan.  This is where previous experience plays an important role. What you need to do now, is to tweak the resource allocation, order the tasks and work with the schedules that are already in place to get a solution that is manageable.  If you foresee that there will be shortfalls in the resources, plan to hire more resources, or re-allocate resources from other tasks that have a lower priority. Tasks should be prioritized to ensure that product increments of higher value are rolled out first. Lower priority work can always be deferred. Timing of schedules should be adjusted to come up with a plan that will work, instead of being just wishful thinking! And that’s Resource Capacity Planning, in a nutshell! Of course, it takes experience to come up with a plan that can be followed successfully but do rest assured that it will happen over time. Benefits of Capacity PlanningThere are significant benefits to getting your capacity planning right. Most importantly, you will be able to:  Allocate suitable resources to each project. Get a high-level view of available resources and what tasks each team is working on at any given time. Stay informed about the overall resource utilization and be able to judge who would be free to take on emergent tasks in the next sprint. For teams working on different projects at the same time (not advised in agile, but this does sometimes happen), you will be in an acceptable position to understand whether it is possible to re-allocate resources as per the requirement for additional projects. Identify any bottlenecks on time and respond in the manner required. Do away with conflicts in allocation of resources, as everything is laid out very clearly. Complete more projects on time and within budget. All importantly, you can create and maintain customer delight! 10 Principles for Agile Resource PlanningReady to get started? Keep these 10 principles in mind, and you’ll be sure to get your agile resource planning right! Be prepared for change. In agile projects, change is the only constant. Work with just enough data and inputs to get started. Since change is inevitable, there’s no need to spend too much time on detailed estimation or planning. Just-in-time planning is what works best. Planning needs to be done at the team level, not at the individual level. Agile is all about teamwork. Plan resource allocation for the short-term and long-term in different ways, using different techniques.  Short-term tasks must be fleshed out properly and articulated clearly, while the long-term ones can be handled later. Resource capacity for the short term is fixed, but resources for the long term are fluid and could undergo change. Understand that you cannot do everything. All tasks must be prioritized and put in the Product Backlog queue. Take up the most pressing tasks first and reorder them after each sprint. Calculation of team capacity and velocity is important before planning schedules. If the team is new, it could take a couple of iterations to get this calculation right. More mature teams who have worked together in the past will be able to arrive at these calculations quickly. Agile teams are self-managed and cross functional. Allow the teams to take up the tasks according to their capability, without interference. This will increase their accountability. Wrapping up Regardless of whether you’re new to Agile or a seasoned Agile practitioner, resource capacity planning is something that you should understand and get right, so that your project stays on track and achieves the goals successfully. Strategic planning of the capacity of your resources makes best use of their skills, keeps teams engaged and focused on their goals, and is ultimately the basis of corporate success. 
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The Guide to Resource Capacity Planning in Agile

Susan May
Blog
14th Sep, 2021
The Guide to Resource Capacity Planning in Agile

Any project manager will agree that planning is one of the most important stages in the project journey. Without proper planning of resources, the goals may not be defined clearly, risks may increase, deadlines will be missed, and budgets will spin out of control. When done right, resource capacity planning delivers successful results and ultimately boosts profits and growth.

But in an agile project where requirements are volatile, how is it possible to manage resource capacity planning? While it might seem impossibly complex, it can be broken down into simple actionable techniques.

In this blog, we’ll help you understand how to go about resource capacity planning in Agile.

Resource Capacity Planning: What Is It, Exactly?

In very simple terms, agile resource capacity planning is a matter of scheduling tasks to suit the capacity of the resources you have in hand. To do this, you should be aware of the capacity of your team to perform the tasks in hand. Keep in mind that the pace should be sustainable and should not burn out the team or under-utilise their capabilities.

The Right Time To Undertake Resource Capacity Planning

Resource capacity planning can be broken down into two, resource planning and capacity planning. In Agile, short-term planning is more important than long -term planning (which is equally important, except that it can be put off to a later date!)

  • Short-term tasks:

Also called resource planning, this includes the work that must be done over the next month. Ensure that goals are met, but teams are not pushed beyond their capability. You might need to queue the tasks or delay some work to limit the amount of work allocated to the team, so that they can stay focused and achieve greater quality.

  • Long-term tasks:

The work that needs to be done further down the line, say 3 months from now, requires a different planning approach. This is capacity planning, and includes backlog items that are critical, as well as those that can be done at your discretion.  Capacity planning factors in your team skills, the timing of work, and the priority of tasks. 

Capacity planning for the long term is more flexible than resource planning for the near term.

Agile Resource Planning Process

Most teams use a simple excel spreadsheet for their resource planning. This sheet is shared, so that team members can view it in real-time and get on the same page with respect to tasks to be done.

Here are the steps to be followed, for your easy understanding!  

  • Group Your Resources Into Teams

Agile is all about team collaboration. You’ll need to group together your available resources into teams of between 5 and 9 members, making sure that each team has multi-skilled members who can self-manage the tasks that you will be allocating. Once you’ve grouped them into teams, you no longer have to worry about who will do what, in an individual capacity. That’s for the teams to decide!

  • Calculate Team Capacity in a Fixed Duration

Team capacity refers to the work that your team can complete in a fixed timebox. This could be calculated based on days and hours, or story points. Do keep in mind that people are not productive a 100% of the time. They will take coffee breaks, catch up on office gossip, fall sick or take spontaneous holidays. While calculating the capacity, do reduce it by a small percentage to account for all this. 

  • Do Resource Planning for Short-Term Work  

When starting out, you are already aware of the work that needs to be done immediately, which you can start with. Short term planning can now be done for the next 1-3 months. Think about which team needs to do specific tasks (keep their capabilities and expertise in mind), what is the capacity of each team, and how much quantum of work needs to be completed in the near time.    

You can use an easy calculator for this. 

  • Assume that you are following Scrum, and the sprint duration is 2 weeks.  
  • Your team strength is 7, and a typical workday (after factoring in all the breaks!) is 7 hours. Over the 2-week duration, they will work for 10 days as weekends are off.  
  • So, this means that their capacity is 7*7*10= 490 hours. 
  • If the total quantum of work is 980 hours, they will be able to finish it in 2 sprints, working 490 hours per sprint.

Next, Sketch Out the Long-Term Work

Long-term work is planned in a similar way, but of course in much less detail. Instead of getting into the nitty-gritty details, just roughly estimate the work that can be done in all the upcoming sprints. Come up with a total estimate for the remaining work on the project, taking care to ensure that the work planned does not exceed the capacity of the resources.  

  • Make Adjustments in the Resources, Tasks, Priorities and Schedules to Finalise the Plan.  

This is where previous experience plays an important role. What you need to do now, is to tweak the resource allocation, order the tasks and work with the schedules that are already in place to get a solution that is manageable.  

  • If you foresee that there will be shortfalls in the resources, plan to hire more resources, or re-allocate resources from other tasks that have a lower priority. 
  • Tasks should be prioritized to ensure that product increments of higher value are rolled out first. Lower priority work can always be deferred. 
  • Timing of schedules should be adjusted to come up with a plan that will work, instead of being just wishful thinking! 

And that’s Resource Capacity Planning, in a nutshell! Of course, it takes experience to come up with a plan that can be followed successfully but do rest assured that it will happen over time. 

Benefits of Capacity Planning

There are significant benefits to getting your capacity planning right. Most importantly, you will be able to:  

  • Allocate suitable resources to each project. 
  • Get a high-level view of available resources and what tasks each team is working on at any given time. 
  • Stay informed about the overall resource utilization and be able to judge who would be free to take on emergent tasks in the next sprint. 
  • For teams working on different projects at the same time (not advised in agile, but this does sometimes happen), you will be in an acceptable position to understand whether it is possible to re-allocate resources as per the requirement for additional projects. 
  • Identify any bottlenecks on time and respond in the manner required. 
  • Do away with conflicts in allocation of resources, as everything is laid out very clearly. 
  • Complete more projects on time and within budget. 
  • All importantly, you can create and maintain customer delight! 

10 Principles for Agile Resource Planning

Ready to get started? Keep these 10 principles in mind, and you’ll be sure to get your agile resource planning right! 

  1. Be prepared for change. In agile projects, change is the only constant. 
  2. Work with just enough data and inputs to get started. 
  3. Since change is inevitable, there’s no need to spend too much time on detailed estimation or planning. Just-in-time planning is what works best. 
  4. Planning needs to be done at the team level, not at the individual level. Agile is all about teamwork. 
  5. Plan resource allocation for the short-term and long-term in different ways, using different techniques.  
  6. Short-term tasks must be fleshed out properly and articulated clearly, while the long-term ones can be handled later. 
  7. Resource capacity for the short term is fixed, but resources for the long term are fluid and could undergo change. 
  8. Understand that you cannot do everything. All tasks must be prioritized and put in the Product Backlog queue. Take up the most pressing tasks first and reorder them after each sprint. 
  9. Calculation of team capacity and velocity is important before planning schedules. If the team is new, it could take a couple of iterations to get this calculation right. More mature teams who have worked together in the past will be able to arrive at these calculations quickly. 
  10. Agile teams are self-managed and cross functional. Allow the teams to take up the tasks according to their capability, without interference. This will increase their accountability. 

Wrapping up 

Regardless of whether you’re new to Agile or a seasoned Agile practitioner, resource capacity planning is something that you should understand and get right, so that your project stays on track and achieves the goals successfully. Strategic planning of the capacity of your resources makes best use of their skills, keeps teams engaged and focused on their goals, and is ultimately the basis of corporate success. 

Susan

Susan May

Writer, Developer, Explorer

Susan is a gamer, internet scholar and an entrepreneur, specialising in Big Data, Hadoop, Web Development and many other technologies. She is the author of several articles published on Zeolearn and KnowledgeHut blogs. She has gained a lot of experience by working as a freelancer and is now working as a trainer. As a developer, she has spoken at various international tech conferences around the globe about Big Data.


Website : https://www.zeolearn.com

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