Capacity planning in portfolio management

Capacity planning and portfolio management

Like most organizations, you probably have more projects than you have people to do the work.

This is pretty normal in a project based environment. In fact it is desirable as it shows a willingness to innovate, ship new products and deliver more projects. But the trick is working out which projects from the endless project to do list you are able to do and when.

Most organizations are resource constrained and don’t have an unlimited pool of resources to call on. So the available capacity of your resources becomes a key factor when deciding what projects you can run and when.

Unfortunately, many organizations select and start up projects without considering their availability of resources. And resourcing projects becomes more about luck than judgement.

Read on for a primer on how to get resource capacity planning and portfolio management working together to help you figure out what projects you can do when and the resources you will need.

Create a list of your projects

The first step is to gather up information on all your current and planned projects and the number and type of resources they will require. 

This should be a relatively simple process if you have a PMO keeping track of things. 

If not then a bit of “digging around” will be required to gather this information. 

For each project assign an approval status i.e. requested, under consideration, approved, rejected, started and completed.

That bit was easy!

Evaluate and grade your projects

The next steps involve taking the list of projects and vetting the projects to filter out any that have questionable value, are too vague or do not have sufficient detail behind the proposals. 

At this stage you should also identify any projects that have to be done for perhaps regulatory compliance reasons.

When evaluating projects the review should also attempt to identify projects that overlap or projects that naturally would fit together.


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Prioritize your projects

After the evaluation stage, most organizations will still end up with more projects than they can actually fund. So the next step is to take your list of projects and prioritize them.

Before we go any further I need to tell you something.

This is probably one of the most important processes in portfolio management but the one most often neglected.

There are many different approaches to project prioritization and explaining the different methods in detail is outside the scope of this article. 

You can use easy relatively simple metrics like CD3 or more encompassing methods which score projects on a number of criteria such as strategic alignment, cost reduction, regulatory compliance etc. 

However, whatever method is chosen it should be easy for people to understand and use – and be fair and transparent.

Using your project prioritization criteria and your list of projects (current and planned), now prioritize your projects. The output of this process should be a clear list of prioritized work.


Prioritize project portfolio

Tip – Tools like Kelloo combine portfolio prioritization and resource management in one solution.

Perform resource capacity planning

Now you have your list of prioritized work, the next step is to compare this to your resource capacity.

Resources should be assigned to the highest priority projects first before assigning remaining resources to the lower priority projects. 

Eventually as each project in turn is allocated resource you will get to a point where you can no longer fit in any project work. 

It is that simple!

Essentially a line has been drawn between the projects we can do and those we cannot based on resource capacity.

Optimize your resource plan

At this stage the power of resource planning tools like Kelloo really come to the fore. 

The truth is, trying to optimize your resource plan without software is pretty tough if not impossible.

Your initial resource capacity plan ranked by priority will probably not be particularly well optimized in terms of resources.

There will be resource roles who are under-utilized and those which are over-utilized.

And shifting work between them or changing the resource levels within roles can make a drastic impact on your plan. 

Simple changes like changing the sequencing of projects can also make a big impact. 

So at this point you want to model changes to your plan to improve utilization, shorten delivery dates and reduce costs. It may even be possible to squeeze in additional projects.

Decisions that can be made at this stage include:

  • Should you hire more resources?
  • Can you move underutilized resources onto other projects?
  • Can you change the sequence or timing of projects to improve things?
Prioritize projects

Tip – Tools like Kelloo combine portfolio prioritization and resource management in one solution.

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