The most common situation in organizations is to work simultaneously on several projects. This situation is called “multi projects environment.”
At Intraway, we had to afford, since many years ago, the need to schedule several projects at the same time. We had to use some tool that supports our planning and give visibility to the top management. For that reason, we started to use the capacity plan tool. Nowadays it is a standard planning tool that we use all the time. It is simple to build, easy to read and it has plenty of benefits.
What is a capacity plan?
It is a tool, most of the times a spreadsheet with some intelligent behavior, that allows you to plan projects, tasks or any item in the backlog for a particular work team. Using this, you can see how long the team will be busy and when a certain task will be ready. It is a high-level plan, and it is used to have a macro view.
How to build a capacity plan?
To build a capacity plan, you need some input information such as:
- The backlog prioritized items (e.g. The list of projects with a defined priority)
- The estimated effort per backlog item
- Team members and their effective time (part time, full time)
The first and second points are needed to know how much work you have to do and in which order. The others are necessary in order to measure the team capacity.
All this information it’s enough to build a capacity plan. After that maybe you could improve it with some extra information such as how much you can parallelize the tasks, how is your lack of attendance in your company, etc.
About the holidays, you have to keep in mind that if it is a distributed team, you should consider the holidays for the different countries for each resource.
What are the benefits of using a capacity plan?
The benefits of using a capacity plan as a tool to manage multi projects environment are:
- to know the delivery capacity that you have
- to give internal visibility to the top management and stakeholders
- It generates greater commitment in the team: Everyone has visibility of the committed delivery date
- It allows for sizing the team and make decisions for the medium and long-term
- It gives visibility of the impact of decision making such as the change in a project priority
To summarize, all these benefits contribute to work in harmony for the whole team, since it generates clear rules and everyone is aligned with the dates and priorities of the projects.
How we do it at Intraway:
Here you have a basic template that you can use: Capacity plan template example. It contains an example to be used in the following paragraphs.
The first step is to set the projects in order of priority including their estimated effort.
In the example file, this information should be set in the first sheet called: “ Team Capacity planning.”
The second step is to define the team. Set the effective time for each resource per period. For example, if a resource works part-time, you have to set 75% of the time. If a resource is going to take holidays, you have to set it too.
In the template file, we use the second sheet called “Team” to set these variables.
As you can see, in this example, the Resource 1 works part-time, and the Resource 3 is going to take half of the 4th month.
The last step is to set the holidays in the sheet called “Holidays,” for example Christmas, public holidays.
After following this three simple steps, you can overview the planning of the projects:
As a result:
- The project B ends in the 4th month
- The team will be busy until the 9th month
At Intraway, we have one capacity plan per team/technology. It is an honest and powerful tool. I invite you to try it and let me know your comments.