Do you struggle to figure out how many resources you need to get your projects done, or forecast how many people you need to hire over the coming months?
You’re not alone. Figuring out the optimal level of resources and the mix of skills you need to get your projects delivered is hard work. Really hard. But it’s also critical to get it right as it can make or break your organization’s ability to deliver your projects.
Enter resource capacity planning software (confusingly also known as resource forecasting software).
There are lots of resource management tools out there, but the fact is most focus on the day to day scheduling of resources. They don’t let you take a longer range and higher level view of your resource needs. And this is what resource capacity planning software gives you.
If you’re looking at resource capacity planning software for the first time, choosing a tool can feel pretty overwhelming. That’s why we at Kelloo wrote this guide.
What is resource capacity planning software?
Resource capacity planning software is used to help organizations ensure they have the right number of people to staff the projects they want to run.
Unlike resource planning software which is used to make decisions about who is working on what over the next few weeks, resource capacity planning software takes a longer range viewpoint – typically forecasting months out into the future.
What does resource capacity planning software do?
Resource capacity planning software has 5 main capabilities:
- To help you compare the current supply of your resources against the resource needs of your projects and spot shortfalls.
- Show where you have gaps in your skill levels vs the skills your projects need.
- Help you shape future hiring decisions based on required resource levels.
- Show you which projects you can realistically take on given the resources you have.
- Let you model how things like hiring more resource, delaying projects etc. can affect your project timelines.
With the use of resource capacity planning software you will be able to identify resource shortfalls, make decisions about which projects you can do and how best to allocate your resources to projects.
Features of resource capacity planning software?
Ok, let’s step down into the details and look at the specific features you need to look for when evaluating resource capacity planning software.
1. Easy to manage resource inventory
The first feature to look for in a resource capacity planning solution is an easy to set up resource inventory. This is used to record the resources you have, their skills and their supply (how much labor time they provide you).
You want to make sure this is easy to set up and maintain and that it also lets you record things like vacation time, time off and different working patterns as these factors will affect the level of resource supply available to you.
2. Simple way to record resource demand
In capacity planning, all the things your resources are being asked to do (projects, support etc.) is called demand. So you want a tool that has a simple way to record:
- What projects you are doing and when.
- What resources or skills the projects need.
- Estimates for the work.
- The relative priority of the projects.
3. Spot gaps between supply and demand
You want a tool that gives you an easy way to spot a mismatch between the resource levels you have and the resource levels your projects need.
A common way to deliver this is using a utilization heatmap. This uses a combination of numbers and color coding to help you zero in on resource hotspots and constraints.
Did you know? The Kelloo planner lets you build resource forecasts, set priorities and spot resource and skill hotspots.
4. Scenario planning
There is no right answer when doing capacity planning. Instead, there are competing resource and project options that need to be evaluated against each other to strike the best balance.
This is called scenario planning or what if modelling.
This lets you see how approving a new project, hiring more resource or delaying a project would impact your current schedule and resource utilization.
So ensure any resource capacity planning software you are evaluating lets you create different planning scenarios.
Did you know? You can create multiple scenarios in Kelloo so you can evaluate different resource and project options.
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5. Flexible reporting
Most resource capacity planning solutions just include a range of canned reports. But what you really need is the ability to build your own reports and analysis.
Trying to predict what reports you will need to manage your resources is near impossible. So you need the flexibility to build your own reports and analysis. So look for tools with a report builder built in.
Tip Look for tools like Kelloo that include report builders.
6. Role and team based planning
This one may seem a little counterintuitive, but bear with us.
When resource capacity planning, the temptation is to focus on individual resources. But the truth is, as your resource pool size grows – individual resources become less important.
Instead you start managing resources at the role or skill level. Which means you compare the skill needs of your projects vs the overall skill levels available to you.
Don’t choose resource management software that forces you to do your planning and analysis at the individual resource level.
7. Plan using placeholders
Sometimes you don’t know who is going to be working on what projects. So it is useful if you can just assign a placeholder (sometimes called a generic resource) to work.
Most resource management tools don’t have this feature – they require you to always plan individual resources. So look for capacity planning tools that let you use placeholders when planning and forecasting.
8. Project prioritization
The truth is, you will always be asked to do more work than you have resources for (or the capability to hire). So tough decisions will need to be made about what projects you can take on.
When resource capacity planning, it is key that you prioritize your projects.
Why? Because you should be allocating resources to the highest value projects first.
Tools like Kelloo take this a step further and let you analyze which projects are likely to run into resource difficulty first based on your strategic priorities.
Did you know? When you prioritize your projects in Kelloo you can see straight away which projects you can commit to and which are likely to run short of resources first.
Spreadsheets for resource capacity planning
A spreadsheet is normally the first tool that organizations turn to when trying to run their resource capacity planning.
Spreadsheets are easy to use and most organizations have a copy of Excel, Google sheets or some other spreadsheet tool.
If you are planning a handful of resources and one or two projects you may just get away with using a spreadsheet.
But as the number of projects and resources increases you should look at dedicated resource capacity software.
Here are some of the reasons using a spreadsheet for resource capacity planning may not be the best way to run things:
1. Spreadsheets are cell based.
Moving or reallocating a project in your capacity plan will require editing lots of cells.
Which is time consuming and error prone.
2. Lack of reporting.
Spreadsheets do not include any standard reporting capability and reporting is a major need in resource capacity planning software.
3. Error prone.
One big downside of using a spreadsheet for resource capacity planning is that it is too easy for errors and bugs to creep in.
Make a single error in a formulae and your resource plan could be way off track.
Errors often creep in when copying formulae forward – which is something you will need to do a lot to model timescales in a spreadsheet.
4. Spreadsheets do not include standard resource capacity planning features.
Using a spreadsheet will mean developing the solution from scratch and trying to implement features that are standard in resource capacity planning software.
Things like scenario modelling and capacity vs demand analysis will have to be designed and built into the spreadsheet.