How Resource Planning Complements Agile

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Some people wonder if and how resource planning applies in an Agile world. There should be no question. The chassis may change from traditional to iterative, but the drivetrain always remains resource planning. In essence, the question is, regardless of delivery approach: How do we make sure we have the capacity to deliver on our strategies at the right time? 

In fact, resource planning not only applies to Agile; it turbo-charges it.

Aakash Gupta puts it succinctly in his article on Project-Management.com titled "Resource Capacity Planning for Agile Teams":

Given how agile is built as a meticulous process driven by a stringent workflow, planning capacity becomes integral to agile’s success... 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!"

Indeed, Agile brings a lean, adaptive mindset and a continuous flow of value. Planning adds alignment with strategy, funding, and resources. These are not mutually exclusive concepts and, in fact, complement one another.

There's an old Arabian story about two men on a long trek across the dessert. They wake up one morning and one asks in a panic, "Where are the camels!?" The other man says, "You told me to trust in Allah so I didn't tie them up." The first man replies, "Let me correct my advice. Trust in Allah, but tether your camels!" There've been many variations of this advice since, but the same concept applies to Agile and planning. Allow the empowerment and freedom that Agile brings, but also plan in order to ensure alignment and feasibility.

Back to Gupta's article, which is well worth reading. In it, he introduces the concept of the "focus factor." In other words, when assigning people to teams, it's important to understand how much they are, in fact, available to focus on the actual Agile activity. It's rare when a person can focus 100% on any given activity. There are disruptions, administration, company meetings, emergencies, and so on, and that's not including planned downtime like vacations. The focus factor accounts for this by offsetting their allocation to the team by the desired FTE amount (e.g., Jim can focus 70 percent of his time to the team).

As an aside, PDWare addresses this in their software by allowing people to be allocated to teams by percentage, and then assigning teams to projects. Both numbers are considered in the individual's allocation forecast, along with any other work activities they're assigned to. This allows the automatic creation of a combined resource forecast across Agile and non-Agile work.

Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), created by Dean Leffingwell, bridges planning and Agile on an enterprise scale, aligning portfolio, program, and team activities, and is rapidly gaining popularity. A quote cited on the Scaled Agile website puts it perfectly:

"The more alignment you have, the more autonomy you can grant. The one enables the other."

 —Stephen Bungay, Author and Strategy Consultant


Stay tuned for a future post where I'll talk more about resource planning as it relates to SAFe.

If you’re new to Agile, or even if you're experienced but are finding it difficult to make it work in your organization, I'll be presenting a free webinar Wednesday, March 27 at 11am EST titled "Agile 101 for Resource Managers." It'll offer a complete overview of the basics of Agile, as well as an explanation of how resource planning can boost Agile performance. Click here to register.


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Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn.