In contrast to traditional project planning where teams commit to a detailed plan laid out at the start of a project, Agile planning allows for and anticipates requirement changes in response to changing conditions and discovering customer needs through iterative feedback loops. How is that executed in practice? While it is impossible to optimally be ready for anything, team needs require forward-looking projections to procure and onboard the resources necessary to achieve their business objectives.
At the Enterprise level, Resource Management involves determining resource needs across multiple Agile teams. In addition to planning for Agile Product Development teams, support work is also needed to keep the business running. Organizations are complex adaptive systems with both Agile and non-Agile work being done across the enterprise and they rely on Portfolio Management for funding and resource allocation.
At the Portfolio level, Low-Resolution Planning is done months in advance with the goal of having the resources in place to support business objectives, improve productivity and reduce roadblocks. At this level, Capacity Planning determines budgeting needs and helps create a roadmap for the portfolio.
At the Team Level, High-Resolution Planning is done in program increments prior to Sprints. User stories are developed that are decomposed into story points that are used to estimate and refine a Team’s Velocity through multiple Sprints.
Portfolio-level Capacity Planning works with Team Level Velocity Planning. Capacity Planning is used to provide estimates to prepare for the expected future work and Velocity uses past iterations to predict future performance to allow for stability in product delivery.
Capacity Planning ensures there are enough resources (people and funding) to do the required work as efficiently and effectively as possible. It includes contingencies for potential risk and considers project delivery work and its impact on other operational areas. Capacity Planning gives Agile teams an understanding of the resources available to them in each Sprint.
To calculate a team’s capacity, you start with each team member’s availability minus any time off for vacations or other purposes. That gives your overall team capacity. You also must consider the duration of the Sprint, standard workhours per day and non-project work to accurately assess capacity. Effective Capacity Planning allows teams to commit to product work within each Sprint.
Agile teams plan their Sprints based on estimating the amount of effort required in contrast to time-based estimates of traditional planning. They do this using story points derived from user stories. A user story is a short, written explanation of a user’s need and how it can be fulfilled that identifies a unit of work to be completed in one iteration or Sprint. User stories are decomposed into story points that estimate the complexity of the user story and the effort required to complete it.
Agile teams work with Product Owners to write user stories and collaborate to determine story points by team consensus using a relative estimating event such as T-Shirt Sizing or Planning Poker. Each Sprint is assigned a prioritized number of story points and the number of story points per Sprint determines the team Velocity.
Optimally Allocating Resources for Agile Teams
Low Resolution Portfolio-level Capacity Planning works in conjunction with High Resolution Team-Level Story Point Estimation and Sprint Velocity Planning to ensure you have a comprehensive picture of resources needed at the Portfolio level and that your teams have the resources needed to achieve their objectives at the Team level. It’s a planning approach that gives your teams the flexibility to adapt to unexpected change and new opportunities while providing a level of stability through refined Velocity estimations that help you make better resource allocation decisions.
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