Forget everything you thought you knew about the Arthur legend. The search for the Holy Grail has nothing to do with Indiana Jones or the Crusades. When talking about collaborative work management, we’re really talking about managing capacity.
Whenever the topic of capacity planning comes up among my project management friends, there seems to be two pretty standard comments:
- “Capacity planning is a critical part of our work management process and makes us more efficient and competitive.”
- Or, “We see the value of better capacity planning and are working toward a more formalized method for actually measuring capacity.”
Project management software companies have been trying to figure out the best way to capacity plan since they started making project management software. Everyone takes a different approach, some of them seem to work—while others don’t. In my opinion, there are a couple of critical components to any attempt to accurately plan for capacity. Although they might sound simple, depending on your organization, it might be easier said than done:
- Filtering requests is critical: If you provide shared services within your organization like the IT, Marketing, HR or Finance departments, you receive inbound requests from throughout the organization everyday. When those requests come in via email, text message, phone conversations or a hallway chat, it can be difficult to make sure nothing gets missed, the requests that deliver the most value get addressed first and everything gets handled in a timely manner. Organizations that have formalized the project request process with an inbound request queue find managing capacity a lot easier. They have a better handle on which projects get attention now and which projects need to take a back seat. This helps them better allocate their resources on the work that provides the most value to their organizations.
- We’ve got to start looking at projects within the context of other work: In a perfect world, your project team works on your projects and nothing else. Unfortunately, this is not a perfect world. What’s more, by some estimates, project teams spend upwards of 50 percent of their day working on tasks that are unrelated to any active project. That’s not to say the work doesn’t provide value, but the idea of a project team working on only projects is a pipe dream in most organizations. When project leaders have visibility into all the work being undertaken by project teams, they’ll be better able to project plan, manage capacity and successfully complete projects.
- Make it easy for the team to engage in the work—or they won’t: The problem with most solutions designed manage projects, teams and capacity is that they are complicated and cumbersome to use. I’m a big fan of the social media metaphor for this reason. It’s familiar, it’s easy and it encourages dialog, which is critical to understanding what’s happening within the team today, what the workload looks like tomorrow and how that’s going to impact your capacity plan.
This is where the right tools can really make a difference and add value. When project leaders and decision makers have visibility into what’s really going on with their project teams and can get out of theoretical capacity planning, they can make informed decisions about their capacity—and maybe even find the Holy Grail.
What are you doing to understand and manage the capacity of your project team?