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Nov 07

Jira capacity planning: plan your team’s work more effectively

Two people trying to measure the giant half-full glass of water.

Knowing how much work you can assign to your resources is crucial for project success. However, managing several project teams and sharing resources with other projects could become challenging. As a result, you might assign too much (or too little) work to a team or an individual. Therefore, you need to be able to track your resources’ workload to balance their capacity. And whenever necessary, make changes to ensure you fully utilize but do not overburden your people. Today, you will learn how to make Jira capacity planning more informed and efficient.

What is capacity planning?

Capacity planning is the process where you essentially determine the number of hours your project or task will require for completion. Then, the number of resources you will need to execute the work. This process aims to allocate resources for optimal performance and ensure that a project receives the resources it requires for execution and completion.

When planning the capacity of your resources in Jira, you need to find two pieces of information first. One, how many hours your team or individual can work in a certain period (e.g., a week). And two, how to allocate your resources to their respective tasks for maximum efficiency. It means you need to assign them to work so that none of your resources works too much or too little.

Therefore, the process of Jira capacity planning boils down to two parts: capacity and planning.

Resource capacity

Resource means a group of people (a team), an individual, or a non-human asset such as a machine or building. Each resource works according to its workload plan, which depends on two main factors.

First is the maximum amount of hours one resource or a team can work. And two, the number of hours those resources will not work resulting from their absences, such as holidays, sick leaves, force majeure, etc. Those factors apply to individual and group resources, including those who work on projects other than yours.

The availability of resources is especially important when you need to allocate skills that only one or very few people in your organization have; or resources that you and other projects will share.

Moreover, depending on the management approach you follow, you can express the capacity of your resources in hours, man-days, or with unitless values such as story points. But no matter which one you decide to use, in each case, an absence (unavailability) means 0 (zero) capacity for a given day or period.

Resource planning

Once you know how much each person and a team can work, you can move on and start planning their work. At this point, you estimate and prioritize project tasks and assign them to the respective resources to ensure they complete their work on time.

Basic capacity planning (without Jira or plugins)

Planning a capacity is not guesswork but rather an informed activity for which you need historical data and your team’s honest weekly reports on their work. Let’s assume you manage a team of 6 people. Each of them has a certain role to perform, and their typical workday is 8 hours, 5 days a week.

In short, you have a finite number of people who work a certain amount of hours over a certain number of days. So you need to plan their work by assigning them enough tasks to keep them busy. At the same time, you also consider their days off and other events that will impact their capacity. Those could be bug fixes, Scrum ceremonies, regular meetings with clients, etc. In other words, you do not want to fully “book” their available hours with project tasks.

Capacity planning spreadsheet template

Please take a look at the example below.

A sample spreadsheet table listing all the team members, their availability throughout the 2-week iteration, additional commitments, and individual and team capacities.\

The top table represents one Sprint of two weeks. It lists all the team members, their roles, and their allocation to a project. The bottom one lists all the events that reduce the hours of an individual’s day on each consecutive day. For simplicity, we listed only the Scrum events, but there could be other regular commitments your team could report.

Planning for team capacity: example columns

Starting with Day 1, we can see that Sprint Planning will take about 2 hours, which reduces everyone’s capacity for project tasks by 2. Subsequently, all the members have 6 hours left to focus on their tasks. The exception is the capacity of the Product Owner (2 hrs) because he spends 50% of his weekly time on this particular project. Similarly, we reduced hours for each person on every consecutive day.

Day 6, on the other hand, is zero for everyone due to the public holiday happening on that day. So since nobody is going to work, their capacities equal zero. Furthermore, on Day 9, you can also see that Sven, one of the Developers, has zero capacity because he will be absent.

Values for the total hours, utilization percentage, and capacity in hours for one Sprint.

There are three more columns that might require some explanation.

First, let’s focus on the Total (hrs) column. This column tells us how many hours we have at our disposal after subtracting the “side” events (bottom table). Second, the Utilization % column says how much of a given resource we want to utilize out of their available capacity. And the last one is the Capacity (hrs). It shows the number of hours available for each person (after completing the substractions and applying the utilization factor).

In total, we have 297.7 hrs to plan for tasks. So the next question is: How can Jira help you ensure that you plan your team’s workload according to their capacity? This means that you should plan for around 298 hours, not more.

Jira capacity planning in practice

Jira does not offer comprehensive resource management features out of the box. Especially for Hybrid, let alone Classic projects, Jira will not be much of a help. But—it can help you in another way. It is a fantastic platform that you can customize in nearly any way with the help of robust solutions you can find on the Atlassian marketplace. The BigPicture resource management software brings all the necessary features you need for efficient Jira capacity planning.

Not a BigPicture user yet? Start your 30-day trial today. Or visit our demo page to follow the absence planning steps in your browser (no installation or account required.)

How to do capacity planning in Jira? (with BigPicture)

With the BigPicture PPM solution, you can conduct Jira resource capacity planning and track your resources at every iteration or stage of your project. It brings more visibility into your Jira workflow with Roadmaps, Calendar, Gantt charts, Kanban boards, as well as resource availability and capacity views.

So let’s go ahead and walk through the Jira capacity planning and see how BigPicture can help you in this process.

Assign workload

The workload of each individual resource depends on their Workload plan. It is a calendar-style view that gives you all the information you need on a given person, including working days and hours. You can customize and assign several Workload plans to one person to account for their irregular schedule or part-time employment. You might find it useful if you manage a Classic or Hybrid project where you need certain people for only certain phases.

Workload plan of a resource whose maximum weekly workload is 15 hours.

The individual Workload plan is extremely important as it serves as a basis for calculating each person’s capacity. However, the Workload plan alone is insufficient for getting a full picture of the resource capacity in a given period. We still need to consider the resource’s absence and holidays. For that, BigPicture has a separate feature called a Holiday plan.

Manage absences and holidays

A Holiday plan is similar to a Workload plan as it also displays holidays and absences in the form of a calendar. Furthermore, each resource can have several Holiday plans assigned depending on their geographical location (different public holidays), extra working days, or regular annual leaves.

A default Holiday plan in BigPicture. Users can easily customize it to suit their needs.

Leave and absence planning is very easy since you can assign an individual Holiday plan to every resource. On top of that, each person has the possibility to register their absences themselves which, in turn, you can automatically approve.

Once your resources have their time off and workload in place, BigPicture will determine whether the tasks you have allocated are within the capacity threshold of your resources. Therefore, checking and balancing your resource’s capacity is the next step.

Track resource capacity status

Capacity thresholds in BigPicture are very easy to observe. First, the three color codes will tell you whether somebody’s capacity is below 75% (green – underallocation); between 75% and 100% (orange – moderate allocation); above 100% (red – overallocation); absence (gray – 0 hours available). This way, you will immediately know whose workload is not too healthy or to whom you can still assign some work.

Workload details for Erik Smith. His workload is orange, therefore, it is within his capacity limits.

And second, the numbers on each bar indicate how much work you have already assigned (Total workload) against the remaining capacity. Let’s take a look at Erick’s case. His capacity is 40 hours per week. We assigned him a PP-52 task we estimated for 30 hours. That gives us a threshold above 75% (hence the orange color) and the Remaining capacity of 10 hours.

But if you look at the screenshot again, you will notice that some people have red bars (with negative numbers) and others green with 0 (zero) work to do. What now? How can you allocate more tasks or reduce the existing workload?

Balance resource workload: underallocation

Let’s sort out the underallocation among your team members or teams. There could be two reasons for some of your people to have their capacity below 75%. First, they have no tasks at all like Oleg Medvedev (screenshot below).

An individual’s capacity. Their capacity bars are green, meaning that this person is underallocated.

In his case, you can assign him tasks in three different ways. However, since you are already in this view, the best would be to drag and drop him some of the tasks. Or—click on the individual task and select Oleg from the drop-down list (the Assignee field). Those two methods work for tasks you have already assigned to someone and tasks that have no assignee yet. (You will find all the unassigned tasks at the top of the page.)

Inline task assignment in BigPicture.

The second reason could be the missing Original estimate in the issue. In other words, you have assigned a task but have not estimated it. Therefore, the task is worth 0 effort, which means it does not consume any capacity. In our example, this is the case of Ralph Cannon. You can easily fix it on the fly too.

Click on one of Ralph’s tasks and add the estimate using the effort mode of your choice.

Inline editing of the estimated effort values.

In this example, we express the effort in hours. But you can also use man-days or story points for your project issues. You “troubleshoot” the medium capacity (orange) the same way.

Important: Click on the upper right icon to switch between the Individual and the Team views.

The icon in the upper left corner of the screen will let you switch between the resource views.

Balance resource workload: overallocation

The opposite side of the capacity extreme is the resource overallocation. The negative number on the bottom color bar (Remaining capacity) will tell you how much you have exceeded somebody’s weekly workload. If you click on either bar (top or bottom), the Workload Details dialog will also return a list of all the tasks you have assigned to that person. The list also includes estimates.

Let’s return to Erick’s case, who has way too much on his plate, and make his life more bearable.

Workload details showing Erick’s Total workload, Remaining capacity, and tasks.

We can see that task PP-16 takes a ridiculous amount of time, and we expect Erick to complete it in 3 consecutive weeks. Furthermore, his remaining capacity is negative 26.7 hours which means you need to reduce all those hours from his workload each Week (32, 33, and 34). There are a few ways to tackle this problem.

First, PP-16 is huge and begs for refinement. So you can split it and assign the smaller tasks one by one until his capacity is full. Second, if for some reason you do not want to (or cannot) split it, then consider stretching it to the following weeks. Additionally, you could extend it to the preceding week too. This way, you will distribute the workload over a longer period, turning red capacity into orange.

Hint: Fiddling with tasks on a real project plan to try out different solutions can be risky. Consider creating what-if scenarios for balancing your resources in a safe way.

Track the capacity of skills

Additionally to tracking individual people’s or team’s capacity, you can do the same for all the skills you have assigned to your project. Turn on the Skill panel to check the status of your project Manager, Architect, and whoever else is on your team.

The lower part of the resource capacity view is for the skills.

Similarly to previous examples, the same capacity thresholds apply. The only difference is that you cannot click the capacity bars to look up where the Skill’s capacity goes. To learn more about skills management with BigPicture, please visit the following article: Skills management in Jira: assigning and tracking project roles.

Visualize teams

If you prefer something even more visual than the resource view we presented earlier, you can switch to the Kanban board. The board shows the teams you have assigned to the project, their current tasks, and the backlog. You can create task dependencies within one or several teams and even mark cross-project dependencies.

BigPicture’s Board Capacity planning feature.

The Board Module becomes very helpful during the Iteration or Program Increment planning as it supports capacity planning across different teams.

Capacity reporting: individual, team, skill, and total

BigPicture offers 4 different capacity reports that will give you an overview of the capacity of a resource, team, skill, or total capacity of everything. With the date picker, you customize the date range for your reports.

A screenshot featuring three different capacity reports.

A set of 3 reports: team capacity for Team Alfa, user capacity for Erick Smith, and skill capacity for Project Manager.

About The Author

Content writer at BigPicture. Previously, Aggie worked for SaaS companies writing specifically about eCommerce and marketing. As a continuous learner and advocate for knowledge-sharing, she creates content for beginners as well as more advanced readers. She loves clean plant-based food and morning workouts.