Resource Capacity Planning For Agile Teams

Eating multiple small meals throughout the day instead of the customary ‘three square meals’ is believed to keep metabolism at its peak. Built on a similar principle, agile is an iterative development methodology that divides complicated tasks into smaller chunks so as to bring down development time and keep up the quality. Originally conceived to make software development lean and quick, agile is now widely used across numerous industries and team sizes.

Resource capacity management refers to planning your workforce and building a skill inventory in exact proportion to the demand you foresee. It lets you optimise productivity and as a concept perfectly complements the agile methodology.

Further, given how agile is built as a meticulous process driven by a stringent workflow, planning capacity becomes integral to agile’s success. Thus let us then see how a capacity planning strategy maybe built to capitalise on agile’s benefits.

Understanding The Focus Factor

Since agile breaks tasks down to sprint cycles, your capacity planning strategy too must be built for your sprint teams. Let us then give it the full-time equivalent (FTE) spin and understand how this shapes up in a sprint team.

FTE, as you know is the straightforward measurement of work hours. If you have a full-time developer, his or her FTE output for the week will be 40 hours (8 hours a day, 5 days a week).

If you have 12 such developers in the team, you will then have 480 hours’ worth of FTE potential for the week.

However, not all these hours are likely to be spent solely on the sprint milestones. Planning with such ambition is likely to make your agile cycle counterproductive by forcing the team to work overtime and undermine quality, just so they meet deadlines.

Focus factor, therefore, is the ideal formula to get a realistic measure of the hours of your existing capacity, that is likely to be spent on the sprint tasks. This capacity is generally measured by keeping in mind the velocity with which the team functions, or the other projects/tasks they are currently on.

Generally, focus factor ranges between 0.6-.0.8. In order to measure your focus factor FTE, you can now multiply it with the actual FTE. In this case, let’s say we have a Focus Factor of 0.6. Given how our FTE is 480 hours, once multiplied by .6 it will be 288 hours.

So realistically, your team can dedicate 288 hours on the sprint. Further, the priority list for these hours can be determined by the set of stories that absolutely need to be completed before an upcoming launch/end of sprint cycle.

Tips for strategic agile capacity management with focus factor

Keep your forecasts extensive, especially when it is an early one and you do not have a lot of data on the success of previous sprint cycles. Break the list of tasks that are on priority into minuscule portions in order to reach your goals. Given how 20% of organisations (on this survey) cited that fragmented tooling, data, and measurements as one of the key challenges to implementing and scaling with agile, the following points are important to build a strong capacity strategy.

  • Always keep your capacity estimate and your task list estimate on the same terms (FTE, hours etc).
  • Compare your priority list commitment hours with that of your capacity and make sure that they match.
  • Although juggling multiple projects is quite common, refraining from such a situation helps keep the schedules moving and the forecasts accurate.
  • While estimate task durations, try limiting to only required hours as the focus factor generally takes care of the buffering hours.

Resource capacity planning for agile teams relies on accurate demand forecasting. This process can be tied to the PMO with scientific resource management. Resource management tools let you map current as well as pipeline projects and their hourly requirements such that, much before the time you are aware of the requirements that are coming your team’s way.

When analysed against a report that maps the capacity you have, you will be able to place teams on tasks with as much detail as you would like to. In addition, you can track utilisation in terms of FTE and decimals of FTE, thereby giving your reports and your strategies both precision and perfection.

Agile projects make room for innovation, velocity and unparalleled levels of productivity. Tie it in with resource management and you will find yourself with a dream team!

Aakash Gupta

Aakash Gupta

Resource management subject matter expert at Saviom Software with over 7 years’ experience, Aakash Gupta champions for scientific resource management with publications on best practices and tools. You can reach him through LinkedIn

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