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Agile resource management

Ultimate Guide to Resource Management – Chapter 8

Do we need resource management in an agile environment? 

Many proponents of agile say no because agile teams are focused on one product and are self organizing. However this ignores the wider needs of the organization and makes decisions about the required future resource levels needed for the organization difficult.

First let us understand why organizations running agile teams still need to keep tabs on their resource management.

We don’t operate in a perfect world

In an ideal agile world teams would be dedicated to working on thing at a time. They would not be working on multiple initiatives at the same time, working on support or have other activities they needed to deal with. However, we don’t live in an ideal world and the reality is that often agile teams are working on multiple things at the same time.

Projects often need agile and traditional planning techniques

Agile is certainly a dominant force within the realms of software development. However often the software development component of a project is just one small part of the overall work involved.

For example, launching a new product may involve folks from other departments such as marketing, engineering and product support who may still plan their work using a traditional waterfall technique. In this instance the organization is running a hybrid approach where agile and non-agile methods work together.

The waterfall approach to project planning works well when the project is reasonably understood. When a process is too complicated for this defined approach, a hybrid approach, which combines the Waterfall and Agile frameworks, is often more effective.

Organizations operate on longer planning cycles

No matter how you plan (waterfall, agile or hybrid) there is still a need to make longer range forecasts, commitments and plans. While agile looks sometimes no further than the next sprint, organizations look many months and even years into the future. Recruiting resources can take months, budgets are typically agreed annually and commitments to projects can be made way into the future.

What does this mean for agile resource planning?

First let’s be clear about something. Agile resource planning is not about planning low level day to day activities for agile teams. That defeats the object of agile.

Rather, the focus shifts to a high level vision. What are you going to be working on over the next quarter, 6 months or even year? How do you want to allocate your resources – working on new products or upgrading existing products? Looking at the upcoming work and projects do you have the right mix or skills and the appropriate level of skills

These are still questions that need answering however you choose to plan or execute your projects.

A further need is aligning demand and capacity over upcoming sprints. Agile teams tend to run with fixed sprint durations and relatively stable team sizes which means sprint planning moves to planning around resources capacities. 

Traditional resource planning often adjusts the resource levels to meet the work, whereas agile switches this model around and adjusts the work to the available capacity.

Agile resource planning tools enable you to look at resource capacities over the forthcoming period incorporate this knowledge into sprint planning.