Agile resource planning

Right now agile resource planning is a hot topic – but one that many people struggle to master.

However, I will let you into a secret.

Agile resource planning is not that hard to master if you follow some basic principles.

In fact, it is a lot easier to manage than traditional resource management models.

So read on to learn the actionable steps you can take to set up an agile resource planning process that really works.

In this post I show you a simple agile resource planning model in a spreadsheet then show you how easy it is to do your resource planning in Kelloo (which is a lot easier!).

10 key principles and techniques for agile resource planning

Agile resource planning doesn’t need to be complicated.

Here are 10 simple actionable principles and techniques you can adopt now to get started with or improve your agile resource planning.

1. Don’t spend time on unnecessary levels of estimation or planning.

2. Plan at the team level not the individual resource level.

3. Use different techniques for resource planning near and long term work.

4. Near term resource capacity is fixed, longer term resource capacity is not.

5. Plan near term work in more detail than longer term work.

6. Let your teams self organize and level the work assigned to them.

7. Compare your team capacity to your demands.

8. Prioritize and queue your work – you can’t do everything.

9. Accept things will change.

10. Operate on just good enough data.

Carry on reading and learn how to apply these fundamental principles to your agile resource planning.

Resource planning and agile

Ok, let’s get started – how does resource planning work in an agile environment?

Quite simply, agile resource planning is a question of balancing the demands on your resources against the capacity they have for work.

Then adjusting the amount of work you do to fit the capacity of your team.

Confused?

Don’t be – let’s step through some examples to show you how this works.

Agile resource planning process

Agile resource planning vs capacity planning vs resource management

Let’s start by clearing up something which confuses a lot of folks.

When talking about agile resource management the terms resource planning and capacity planning get used a lot.

While they sound like they are the same thing they are not. And how you handle them is different.

Let me explain why…

There are two types of work you need to resource plan.

#1. The work you need to do over the next month or so

The challenge is to ensure you get done what you committed to while ensuring your teams are not over-utilized.

This is resource planning.

As the capacity of your resources over the next few months is reasonably fixed you do this by limiting the amount of work allocated to your teams by queuing work up or delaying work.

#2. The work you need to do further down the line

For work which is starting in the future (perhaps anywhere from 3 months out) your planning takes a different approach.

This is capacity planning.

You will have a backlog of projects and work. Some of this you have to do (perhaps due to regulatory reasons etc.) And some of it will be discretionary i.e. you want to do it if possible.

The big difference now is that your resource capacity is flexible and can adjust based on the needs of your projects.

And you also have other factors you can adjust:

1. Priority of work (as resources should be assigned to highest priority work first).

2. The skills mix within your teams.

3. The timing of work.

The aim of capacity planning is to decide which projects to initiate, their rough timings and what resource levels you need to support them.

Agile resource planning process

Ok, now let’s get under the hood of the agile resource planning process.

The agile resource planning template we explain below is something you can build in an Excel spreadsheet.

And a little further down this post we show you how you can use Kelloo for your agile resource planning.

#1 Organize your resources into teams

Agile resource planning should be done at the level of teams and not individual resources.

Why?

Each team comprises many resources so instantly you have less resources to plan.

It is easier to plan 10 teams of 10 people than 100 individuals.

But if you want to plan by individual person the steps in this guide still work.

Agile teams are self-organizing, so planning individual resources adds nothing but complexity.

And the next point is really important.

Resource planning at the team level means you don’t need to worry who is doing the work.

The team allocates and levels work internally within their capacity.

Assign your resources into teams and calculate the headcount in each team.

Teams

#2 Work out the capacity of your teams per period

Now work out the capacity of your teams. Capacity is another name for how much work they can provide you over a period.

You can think of your capacity in terms of days or points – whatever works for you.

But remember.

People don’t work all the time.

They chat around the coffee machine, take vacations, have meetings and have un-planned absence.

So remember to reduce the capacity of the team by a % to account for this.

Calculate the capacity per period for each team.

Capacity

#3 Resource plan near term work

You should already know what work you need to do over the next few months.

What you don’t know is when it can happen.

To answer this question you need to know three things:

  1. Which team needs to do the work?
  2. What is the capacity of the team?
  3. An estimate of how much work needs to be done.

First break up the planning problem into manageable chunks (if you run Scrum these will probably be sprints).

Perhaps two weeks long (10 days) or whatever works for you.

You can now do a simple calculation to work out how much work the team should get done.

 

Assuming a team of 5 people and that each person can complete 6 hours of work per day, the capacity over 10 days is 300 hours.
If there was 900 hours of work to complete, the work should be done in 3 chunks of 10 days.

One more thing.

Sometimes teams work on more than one project at the same time.

We know this goes against the basic principles of agile.

But it happens in the real world.

So check the amount of work allocated to each team (across all of their projects) does not exceed their capacity for the week.

If it does reduce the amount of work being done each week which means the work will take longer to do.

Allocate work to your teams and check remaining capacity per week.

In the example above, the Mobile Team is over-allocated in Week 4 so we need to reduce the work allocated by 5 days.

#4 Resource plan your longer term work in less detail

When it comes to resource planning longer term work, it works in a similar way.

But with a few tweaks.

The main difference is you plan in less detail.

So rather than break work down into short chunks, you can just have a chunk for the whole project.

Then come up with an estimate for the work on the project and spread this through the duration of the project.

You still need to check the amount of work allocated does not exceed the capacity of the resources.

 

Allocate longer term work in a single block for each project and check remaining capacity per month. If it works better for you, you can assign work to roles instead of teams.

Long Term

In the example above, the Mobile Team is over-allocated September thru November.

#5 Adjust your resources, projects, priorities and timings to get an achievable plan

 

Now for the cool stuff.

Longer term resource planning is also known as resource capacity planning.

Because that is what you are doing.

Making decisions about what projects you can do and the resource levels needed to support them.

Why?

The wish list for projects will always exceed the resources you have or can hire.

Longer term capacity planning involves prioritizing your work, plugging any resource shortfalls (by hiring or re-allocating resources from lower priority work) and adjusting the timing of work to come up with a meaningful plan.

Make adjustments to your resource capacity, project timings and cancel or defer lower priority work to bring your demand in line with your capacity.

To do this it is essential that your work is in priority sequence.

Why?

Because it is the lower priority work that should be getting deferred, pushed out or resources re-assigned from.

Capacity Plan

In the example above we cancel the lower priority work assigned to the Mobile Team to release capacity for high priority projects.

Agile resource planning in Kelloo

Now let me show you a much easier way to run your agile resource planning using Kelloo. If you like what you see, there is a 30 day free trial available.

We are not trying to replicate the Excel example data above as we want to show you a few other features in Kelloo.

# Step 1 - Set up your resource pool

Here is the Kelloo resource pool. 

We have just defined teams, but you can also define individual people if you want.

Kelloo resources pool

# Step 2 - Set your resource capacity

This is really easy to do in Kelloo – in fact we hardly have to do anything.

For each team we just enter the date it started supplying capacity and Kelloo uses the working pattern for the team and team size to work out the capacity for the team.

Working Times

A nice feature is that as resource levels change over time (new hires etc.) we just input new employment periods for the resources and Kelloo does all the hard work of working out new resource and team capacities.

Working Times List

Nice job – that only took a couple of minutes.

P.S. you can import your teams and resources if you want to.

# Step 3 - Enter your work in points, days or FTE

Kelloo supports planning agile and non-agile, so if you have different teams working in different ways we have that covered.

PS. You can import you work from tools like Jira if you want to.

Here is our work in Kelloo.

We have organized some of it into sprints and some into longer term blocks of work. It is up to you how you split your work up – everything still works out!

You can enter estimates in days, story points or FTE. 

If you choose to estimate in story points, Kelloo will work out for you how many days the work should take based on your teams typical work throughput / velocity.

Work entry

Let us just focus on a couple of areas of the plan in a little more detail.

Here are two sprints both with a two week duration. The first sprint has an estimate of 200pts and the second sprint is estimated at 30 days.

Sprints

And here is some non-sprint work.

The work has been broken up into three chunks. Some estimated in days and some in FTE.

Estimating in FTE is a nice feature. It means we just need to estimate how many people will be working on it and not how many days or points.

No Sprint

The nice thing about planning in Kelloo is that all your work (both near term and longer term) is in the same plan. Which makes planning really straightforward.

# Step 4 - Check your remaining resource capacity

Pop open the status panel at the bottom of the planner and Kelloo shows us any teams or resources that have too much work.

It uses a color coded heat map so we can zero straight in on the resources in trouble.

Resource utilization

And here is a slightly different view which shows us the capacity vs the allocated work.

In the example below, the Kelloo Team has a capacity of 40 days week commencing 25th October and allocated work of 15d.

Whereas they are over-allocated week commencing 8th October by 5 days.

Status panel Availability

Understand which projects will be impacted by capacity issues

But capacity issues cannot be viewed using just resources in isolation.

So usefully Kelloo also shows us which work the capacity issues will impact and when.

In this instance Project Icarus and the Kelloo Release project will both be impacted by the capacity issues.

Over allocated projects

# Step 5 - Adjust your plan to resolve issues

This is where Kelloo really stands out compared to planning in spreadsheets or other tools.

As you make adjustments to your plan you instantly see the impact on your resource in the heat-map.

In the short example below we make three changes to try to resolve the over allocation issue on the Kelloo Team:

1. Extend the work duration (so less work per day).

2. Move the work.

3. Model adding an extra 1 FTE into the Kelloo Team.

Wrap up

So that’s  for our guide to agile resource planning. 

Whether you are new to agile, or ready to scale agile across your organization, getting your agile resource planning working is a must.

By all means, try and put a resource planning solution together using spreadsheets, templates, Google Sheets or Excel.

But if it doesn’t work out remember to take a look at Kelloo.

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