Resource Capacity Planning: Thinking Beyond Project Management

When I talk to certain people about resource capacity planning (you know who you are), their mind immediately goes to technology resources, not people. After all, Capacity Management is a key service delivery component of ITIL (Infrastructure Technology Infrastructure Library), the set of standard processes that facilitate IT service delivery. 

In ITIL, the term resources generally applies to components (network bandwidth, workstations, etc.) or services (email, internet, messaging, etc.), not necessarily human beings, except maybe in the context of keeping those services running and available. Even the “Business Capacity Management” sub-function of ITIL deals strictly with technology services as it relates to meeting business demand. See the Tech Republic article “ITIL 101: Capacity Management Sub-Processes” for an example of this focus.

As mentioned, (and as pointed out in this OpenCampus article), ITIL Capacity Management does indeed consider human workload in the context of meeting SLAs or operational commitments for IT services. In reality, this aspect of capacity planning is often given short shrift, and if done at all, is often isolated from any big picture “people resource” planning for meeting prioritized project demand.

Compare this to the Professional Services industry, where human beings ARE their business. In this article by David Young titled “The Art and Science of Capacity Planning” for TSIA (Technology Services Industry Association), the concept of a Resource Management Office is introduced, where the defined goal is “to have the right people with the necessary skills in place at the right time to meet your business needs.”

It’s the same for any project-driven organization.

Caveats When Referring to People as Resources

In the professional services industry and in the project portfolio management arena, the primary resource is people. From an IT internal services/infrastructure perspective, the primary resource is technology (though people are considered as a secondary means to keeping the technology and services running). 

Referring to people, processes, and technology as resources is accurate, but there are some advisable cautions when it comes to people.

The key thing to remember is, people are not a commodity, and by referring to them as resources, we do risk forgetting that these are human beings we’re dealing with, who have good days and bad days, individual personalities, and preferred working habits.

Regardless, the industry has well established the term resources in both contexts: technology and people. The same is true for capacity planning.

Addressing All Aspects of Capacity: The Right Tool for the Right Job

In the broadest sense, the capacity to tackle business initiatives is provided by way of people, processes, and technology.

Standard methods like ITIL can ensure the technology services are available to meet the appropriate needs. Process reengineering and improvement tools (such as Six Sigma) can be used to remove process bottlenecks and improve process quality.

Last, but not least, an overall resource management process and toolset (whether facilitated by a Resource Management Office, an EPMO, or some other organization) can maximize your “people resources” toward optimal delivery of prioritized business strategies.

Let’s talk about that third area for a minute.

In the project arena, the Project Portfolio Management (PPM) field has already established the use of the term resources to primarily refer to people, though most PPM tools also allow for adding non-labor resources such as equipment, trucks, etc.  

Even the Project Management Institute (PMI) says of Resource Management, “Hiring, developing and retaining the people needed to turn corporate strategy into reality is of critical importance… Research sponsored by PMI shows that talent deficiencies significantly hamper 40 percent of strategy implementation efforts.”

Clearly, “people resources” is a vital topic. Of course, even PMI acknowledges that the topic of resource management also can include managing supplies in the supply chain. 

Resources As Assets

When I wrote The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, I made sure the subtitle said “A Guide to Maximizing the Value of Your Limited People Resources,” emphasizing the word “people,” since that’s the focus of the book. Of course, I’ve since learned that in France, “limited” can be interpreted as “stupid,” but that’s besides the point.

Anyway, according to the Collins thesaurus, synonyms for resource include supplyfacilitymeans, and ingenuity. In others words, a resource is an asset that can help you achieve your goals. Without a doubt, people are an organization’s greatest asset (at least until such time robots take over, but… SPOILER ALERT… that’s the subject of my next post). 

Meanwhile, my advice is to consider the audience when talking about resources, clarify your intent, but also acknowledge that capacity can and should refer to technology, processes, and people, with respective disciplines for addressing each.

Most importantly, never treat people like machines. Don’t assume you can move them around and load them up like trucks. Look beyond the term resources when you’re harnessing their talents, working styles, strengths, and availability to meet business needs. Think of them as what they are—your greatest asset.

Jerry Manas

Jerry Manas

Jerry is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn

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