Most learning and development professionals will have tales of training project nightmares. Whether it’s due to missed deadlines, a team that’s constantly overworked and under pressure, or struggling to say “no” to training projects for which there simply aren’t enough resources.
When your team is constantly working well beyond capacity, it slows down all projects and results in lower quality outputs. The training team suffers and so do the learners.
The cause of these project malfunctions can range from demanding executives to strained budgets. But one factor that is common to nearly all of them is poor (or non-existent) capacity planning and resource management.
These two project management terms are often poorly understood and used interchangeably. But they are two separate concepts that lead to different processes and outcomes. And understanding the role of each one is a critical factor in maintaining a training team that runs smoothly, correctly prioritizes projects, and manages workload efficiently.
What Is Capacity Planning?
Capacity planning is the process of weighing supply (availability and skillsets of project contributors) against demand (how many projects you plan to undertake in a given timeframe).
Capacity planning is a higher level task that assesses demand and helps you understand how much work your team should be taking on over a given time period. It’s sometimes referred to as resource forecasting or demand planning.
During the capacity planning process, you’ll be analyzing the available resources which include:
- Team availability (by hours)
- Budget availability for those hours
- The availability of specific skillsets at the team level
Once you have a clear picture of the team capacity, perform the same analysis in relation to the demands on your team. It helps to determine if your training team has the necessary resources and skills to execute the projects they are being asked to complete.
The gap between the capacity you have and the capacity you need helps with high level decision-making. Therefore, the result of your capacity planning exercise may be:
- Deferring certain projects
- Approving or cancelling planned projects
- Hiring extra resources
- Providing training to close skills gaps
For those who know their teams inside out and have an innate understanding of their capacity, this may seem like an unnecessary exercise. But the benefit of proper capacity planning is the ability to articulate and communicate your team’s capacity to others in concrete numbers. In a perfect world, you may even discover extra team capacity.
What is Resource Planning?
Resource planning comes further down the line at the operational level. It’s about coordinating resources and allocating them in the most efficient way possible between projects. Another term for this process is resource allocation.
At this point, you’ll be allocating specific team members to different projects based on the skills and resource requirements of each project.
Proper resource planning helps your team make the most of personnel hours, skill sets, and budgets to avoid the underutilization or overutilization of resources. It’s also about developing optimal timelines for different projects based on efficient resource allocation.
Capacity Planning Vs Resource Planning
While the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, they are not the same. The processes, timing, and outcomes are different.
Generally, senior L&D management are the ones who undertake the capacity planning process. It may be reported to and discussed by executive management during organizational resource planning and budgetary discussions.
Resource planning is a top-down process and discussion between L&D management, line managers, and project managers.
While capacity planning helps with departmental decision making and impacts overall personnel and budget, resource planning helps to divide those resources into individual training projects. It provides a plan for project managers and lets them know which resources will be available to them and when.
There are several different methods of capacity planning. Some are more flexible and can help organizations remain agile in response to market demands. More traditional styles of capacity planning often take place on an annual basis to feed into overall organizational strategic planning.
Resource planning may also occur annually, but it involves breaking down resources on a far more granular level. So, as unexpected projects arise, resource planning may need to be examined on a continuous basis.
Why Capacity Planning is Crucial for L&D Teams
Training programs have more of a spotlight on them now than ever before. A successful training program impacts how appealing your organization is to prospective talent, job performance and satisfaction, and overall organizational performance.
Capacity planning and resource planning are critical to ensuring your L&D team is not taking on too much or too little and is making the most of available resources so these expectations can be met.
Until you can communicate the capacity of your team and current workload in concrete numbers, your training team will continue to have more work than it can handle. Executive management speaks in numbers, and capacity planning gives you the numbers to communicate your team’s needs and the demands placed on them in a clear and concise manner.
Getting what you need
Having those hard and fast numbers also helps to:
- Irrefutably prove that you cannot make space for a new project
- Show the precise resource constraints your team is currently under
- Show exact figures for extra resources needed
When it comes time to request extra resources, you have already argued your case with your capacity planning figures.
If it’s the case that extra resources will not be available, capacity planning can help management decide which projects to prioritize and which ones the organization can afford to shelve.
Resource planning helps L&D management assess how to most efficiently prioritize projects based on resource availability.
If you’re struggling to justify extra resources to executives or are finding resource waste amongst your team’s activities, taking a closer look at capacity planning and resource planning can help.
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