Capacity management is rarely easy.
There’s always a new challenge or curveball. Your technology will definitely change over the years. The size of your organization might change. And your environment might even change, if you migrate to the cloud.
Whether you’ve been doing capacity management for years or you’re just getting started, there are best practices you should keep in mind.
That’s why independent capacity specialist Keith Bulpitt recently joined us for a two-part webinar series, Ask a Capacity Management Expert. He’s helped organizations around the world stand up capacity management disciplines from scratch and refine their existing initiatives. Now he’s ready to share his capacity management best practices with you.
Check out the recordings of those sessions—or read our recap of the hottest capacity management questions—below.
Watch Ask a Capacity Management Expert, Part One >
Watch Ask a Capacity Management Expert, Part Two >
How to Get Started with Capacity Management
“How long would it take a company to stand up a capacity management discipline from scratch?”
Standing up a capacity management discipline takes some work. There’s no denying that. It might take six months for you to see results.
So start now and consider today your day zero.
Your goal is to take yourself out of a reactive capacity space and into a proactive capacity space. What will it take to get there? Come up with your requirements first. Then get buy-in from senior executives.
“I’m about to stand up a capacity management discipline from scratch in my organization. What are a few key factors for success?”
When it comes to making capacity management a success, it’s about more than just the technology. It’s about the people and the processes, too.
People’s buy-in is the key component. Processes support the people. And technology supports the processes.
So, first thing’s first—get the people on board.
Before you get a capacity management discipline off the ground, you need three to six months of visibility of upcoming demand. And to get that, you need people from across the business participating in a monthly discussion with the capacity manager.
You also need to get executives on board with the capacity management discipline. They’ll open the doors and help in the transition. Get involved in any operational meetings currently in play. Ask for the last five to ten minutes for capacity management. That’s how you get buy-in. Then schedule a meeting with your CIO and executive board.
Next, it’s time to tackle your processes.
Before you start, you need to know where you are at now. Use the capacity management maturity model to benchmark where you’re at now. Do a gap analysis to understand what you have and what you need to do to go to the next level. Make sure your service level agreements (SLAs) are documented. And create a demand calendar to understand what’s coming next in the business.
You need people supporting the processes, or there will be a lack of accountability. Get buy-in from the subject matter experts and the executive team here.
Finally, you can address the technology component.
Find a toolset that works for your company—and that suits your company’s budget. At minimum, you need real-time monitoring, forecasting, daily updates, and capacity alerts.
There’s no one-size-fits-all for capacity management. As you mature in this journey, you’ll refine your requirements.
“Do I need to be an expert in all these disciplines and technologies to fulfill my role as a capacity manager?”
Most capacity managers start as a subject matter expert in something. But you don’t need to be an expert in everything.
What you do need is to understand your company’s goals—and translate them into what they mean for capacity management. If your company’s goal is to grow by 8.7 percent, then you need to make sure you have the resources to ensure delivery of 8.7 percent.
There will probably be gaps you’ll need to fill in. Spend time with other subject matter experts. Get the information you need on activity to determine how it impacts demand over the next three months, six months, and one year.
From there, you can create a report and present it to the subject matter expert. Say, “This is what I think you are saying—are we aligned?”
That shows understanding and trust. As soon as you get them to participate, they’ll be collaborating with you.
“What are the additional benefits of capacity management, beyond just making sure you have capacity?”
Capacity management isn’t just about having enough capacity and planning for the future.
The biggest benefit of capacity management is business value. When you’re doing capacity management, you can show the organization where the money comes from.
Do monthly reporting on capacity management and capacity management-related incidents. Compare historical data—from before you started doing capacity management—to the current state. Uptime equals money—especially if you’re a bank or financial services group.
How to Improve Capacity Management
“I’ve heard you say capacity management should focus on strategic, not operational, matters. Can you please elaborate?”
There’s a difference between capacity management focused on operations versus strategy.
An operational focus to capacity management means day-to-day activities like real-time monitoring and application sizing. Basically, it’s firefighting.
A strategic focus means proactive actions like replacement strategy and lifecycle management. You can’t do these things if you’re busy fighting fires.
Most capacity managers don’t necessarily have the right insights to escalate issues and start strategic discussions. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day, but that means you won’t stop firefighting.
If you want to get to strategic capacity management, you need to add benefits realization.
The CEO is thinking company-wise. So you need to elevate capacity management to what it means for the business.
“No matter how skilled or experienced you are in doing predictions, it’s obviously important to plan for the right scenarios. How do you make sure the demand forecast that you get from the business is realistic (and not wishful thinking)?”
To make sure the forecast is realistic, you need a demand calendar.
You can use Microsoft Excel to create a basic demand calendar. A demand calendar is a forecast of what you will need to maintain capacity over the next period of time.
Don’t worry about the next five years—or even three years. Technology is making things happen too quickly to plan that far ahead.
Start off with a realistic short-term goal: the next three months.
You can do this by sitting down with a subject matter expert from each business unit. Ask them what they think will happen in the next three months. Then translate that activity to what it means for demand. Present this information in a monthly report—and present it to the executives.
If you can stay six months ahead of the curve, you’ll be in a proactive state. And if you get one year ahead, that’s as good as it gets.
“We have found forecasting is critical. And input from customers is a key part of the forecast. What tools or practices are recommended to make sure capacity planners receive that critical input?”
You need a good toolset to capture business unit demand.
If you don’t have the budget for capacity management, you can still do capacity management. This could be as simple as using a spreadsheet to create your demand calendar.
If you do have the budget for capacity management, there are plenty of technology options. Get help choosing >
“Why do large companies struggle with capacity management?”
The biggest reason large companies struggle with capacity management is they don’t have executive buy-in. And without executive buy-in, capacity management can’t progress past the operational stage.
It can be hard to get executive buy-in if you don’t have a capacity manager. Or if you have someone who is doing capacity management as a part-time job.
There are silos to navigate. Large companies have different lines of business or business units that are all doing different things. And everyone is using their own tools to get the information required. If you don’t have a capacity manager to pull it together, each silo will just keep doing what they’re doing (without overall visibility).
Within each silo, there’s a lot of demand. And users usually don’t understand the cost of applications. The only way to change demand is to associate a cost with it.
To make capacity management a success at your large company, you need to demonstrate the value. And for that, you need a capacity manager to bring everything together.
How to Manage Capacity in the Cloud
“What is the difference between traditional versus hybrid cloud capacity management?”
Traditional capacity management relies on some traditional ITIL disciplines. But when it comes to capacity management for cloud resources, some of these disciplines will be bypassed. That’s because the cloud allows for agile movement.
The cloud takes care of performance, but there are other areas of capacity management to cover. Focus on cost avoidance. Make sure you have a charge-back model (or at least do a show-back to tie capacity management to business value). And create initiatives for uptime and mobility.
There are benefits to moving things into the cloud, but there are also concerns. Cloud infrastructure can be like having a credit card. If you don’t see the spend upfront, you don’t have control over it. So be careful about allowing everyone access to the cloud—or you’ll be in for surprise at the end of the month.
If your organization is moving from on-premises to a hybrid infrastructure, here’s what you need to do.
Get involved in the higher-level discussions before your organization moves. Decide which applications and environments should go into the cloud. Do a lot of investigating and speak to different service providers. After all, you don’t buy the first car you see. You buy after testing a few cars. The cloud should be the same way.
Remember: you can’t stop the company from evolving. But you can be more agile in the approach. And you can be seen as a partner to the company—rather than a hindrance.
“Do you have any tips for managing capacity in the cloud?”
The key thing is to be involved upfront. If you can’t see it, you can’t manage it. So be proactive about the cloud—not reactive.
Think about all the options you have before moving to the cloud. There are benefits, like flexibility, reduced maintenance cost, recovery, and software updates. But there are challenges do. So be careful.
In the webinar, Keith gave the example of a large company who was going into the cloud. But capacity management wasn’t involved. How could such a big company not include a capacity manager? The capacity manager didn’t have enough visibility, so he was excluded from the meeting. Make sure you get involved right away.
Get Started with Capacity Management
Capacity management doesn't need to be hard. Take the easy way. Download Getting Started: A Manager's Guide to Implementing Capacity Management.