Agile sprint capacity planning

Sprint capacity planning

All too often agile teams over-commit to the amount of work they can do in a sprint. They neglect to account for things like time off, meetings and other project work which reduces the amount of time they have available to work on the sprint.

Enter sprint capacity planning –  a technique that helps teams understand how much work they can accomplish in a forthcoming sprint.

A nice analogy is filling a glass. Your glass has a fixed capacity. You add water until it is full. In sprint capacity planning, replace the capacity of the glass for the capacity of your team throughout the sprint. And the liquid you are adding are the things you want to work on. Simply add work to the sprint until it is full.

There are two ways to plan a sprint: velocity-driven sprint planning and capacity-driven sprint planning. This article provides a great summary of both approaches and why capacity-driven sprint planning may be the best approach.

Table of contents

How to do agile sprint capacity planning

The step-by-step guide to agile sprint capacity planning outlined below is easily done in an Excel spreadsheet. For those seeking an alternative, stay tuned, as later in this article, we’ll walk you through harnessing Kelloo for streamlined sprint capacity planning.

In our example, we’ve focused on planning a two-week period. However, if your planning horizon extends over several weeks or even months, simply extend the spreadsheet by adding additional columns for the upcoming weeks. Customization made simple.

Step 1: Calculate the availability of your people

First work out the normal availability of each of your people. This would be how many hours they normally work each week before taking vacations or time off.

In this example, we are only doing this for two team members to keep things simple. But you would repeat this until you’ve recorded all team members in your table. And in this example, we are planning in weeks as our sprints run week to week.

Calculate normal capacity

Step 2: Reduce availability by time off

Now for each team member find out how much time off they have planned and reduce their availability accordingly.

Calculate time off

Step 3: Account for other work, activities and distractions

Now think about all the other things that eat up your team’s time. Some of this may be obvious like support, other projects, and meetings. But dig a little deeper and try and uncover as much as you can.

Now reduce their availability further taking into account all the other activities and distractions. 

You will end up with something like this. In our example, the capacity in hours we have available over the two week sprint period is 70 hrs.

Step 4: Add work to the sprint

Now take work from your backlog (highest priority first) and assign it to your sprint. Keep going until the sprint is full. As you add work, compare the total sprint capacity to the total estimates for the work.

Any work that does not fit, either move it into the next sprint or back into the backlog.

remaining sprint capacity

How many sprints to plan?

There is no hard and fast rule here. To some extent, it depends on the volatility of your backlog and how often priorities change.

There is a temptation to plan a series of sprints out into the future, allocating backlog items into each. The problem you have is that all your future sprints have essentially become separate backlogs.

Given a sprint in progress now, we would certainly have the next sprint planned. And maybe the one after that as re-organizing a couple of sprints is not going to be a major headache and lets the team get a heads up as to what is coming down the line.

Sprint capacity forecasting

If you do want to plan sprints out into the future, perhaps to get a heads up on resource needs or to estimate when work is likely to happen we suggest a slightly different approach.

Just enter an estimate of how much time the team will spend on each sprint without tying this back to specific backlog items. This helps you get a view of your potential work going forward and how many sprints it may take to clear the backlog.

This is sometimes called resource forecasting or capacity planning. Agile Resource Planning: The Definitive Guide explains how to build forecasts and capacity plans in an agile environment.

Kelloo's agile resource management tools

Resource planning, forecasting and reporting in one place. We help you get the most from your projects and people.

Sprint capacity planning in Kelloo

Now let’s show you how you can perform sprint capacity planning directly in Kelloo.

Step 1: Set up your resources

Start by listing your resources. It can also help to organize them into teams and roles. This is how the resource pool looks in Kelloo.

resource capacity planning resource pool

For each person, you can set working patterns, vacation periods and time off. Once Kelloo has this information it can automatically calculate the capacity of your people.

Working Times

Step 2: Create your sprints

Create your sprints and assign people or teams. Kelloo will then calculate the available capacity of your resources through the sprint period.

Create sprint

You can also schedule when your sprints are happening if you want to provide a roadmap of future work. If you’re interested in exploring this further, jump into our comprehensive roadmap guide.


Step 3: Add work to your sprints

Move work from your backlog into the required sprint. Kelloo has its own backlog or you can keep your backlog in a spreadsheet or whatever tool you use.

Product backlog

Step 4: Check your sprint capacity

As you add work to the sprint, the total sprint work is compared to the sprint capacity. The sprint capacity indicator shows you how full the sprint it.

Sprint capacity indicator

Step 5: Check your utilization

You can also check resource utilization, availability and capacity on a heatmap. This is useful if your resources also have to work on other projects or activities alongside their sprint work. The heatmap consolidates all work and checks for any utilization issues across your people or teams.

sprint capacity planning heat map

Our latest articles and tips straight to your inbox

If you liked it then share it

Other things you may like

What if scenario analysis

What if scenario analysis in project management

The new what if planning features in Kelloo give you a crystal ball at your fingertips so you can see the future. What if planning shows what will happen if you change project timings, delay projects, hire or fire resources or cancel or commit to new projects.