IT resource planning managing workload supply and demand

Are you unable to make informed and confident decisions about whether or not you can commit to support new business projects simply because you have insufficient data about your IT team’s workload?

Do your IT team managers keep telling you they need more headcount because they’re totally overloaded, even though they have no data to articulate that request?

Would it take you days of chasing around to work out which projects would be impacted by a headcount reduction in your IT team?

A lot of IT leaders would say yes to at least one of these. Some would say yes to all three.


Because IT team leaders are often too busy to plan. They can’t find the time to do it. (Do they really mean they have no desire to do it?)

Because the business demand is so volatile. When they’ve tried to plan in the past, it’s turned out to be a waste of time (in their eyes) as new high priority JFDI demands came in and wrecked their plan.

Because some of the workload is so unpredictable. The team deals with IT incidents and you can’t predict how many of those are going to happen, nor how long each will take to resolve. Every incident is different.

What’s the up side?

Greater control. OK, I accept that you can’t have total control because the business will throw curve balls. But you can get more control. After all, it’s your IT team. They’re your resources. You ought to be managing them.

Greater understanding. You know what you can commit to. You have the information to argue your position. It becomes an advantage – you can show that you need extra resource to be able to deliver the additional demand. You can evaluate your options and present them with supporting evidence.

Greater protection. You are in a much better position to protect your team from being deluged. You are allowed to say “no”, especially if you can offer an alternative start date. Your overworked technicians will thank you for it.

What I recommend you do

1. Start simple. It can get complicated if you let it – that’s when you’ll drown in the swamp. Don’t overdo the granularity. More detail only means having to spend more time updating it.
2. Don’t be frightened to estimate. It’s not a criminal offence to get an estimate wrong. Use the experience and information to make the estimate better next time. Then repeat the cycle.
3. Find ways to make the unpredictable predictable. How many incidents has the team dealt with on average during the last 6 months? (that ought to be in your incident ticketing system!) How much time on average is spent per incident? At this point you should refer back to the point above concerning estimates. Remember, all you’re looking for is a budgeting number.
4. Don’t try to be clever with priorities in the early stages. It’s a minefield and every project sponsor will start shouting that theirs is the number 1 priority. Strange that so many companies have umpteen number 1 priority projects.
5. Don’t be too granular about your team’s supply. I recommend you use a base number of 20 man-days per month per person, then subtract significant holidays and training. Don’t get hung up about some months having more working days. Remember, you’re just doing a budgeting estimate. And besides, your work effort estimates aren’t going to be correct to 3 decimal places. (If they are, you’re doing it wrong)

Best of luck. And don’t get too bogged down in ExCel algorithms.

Brian Lancaster is a Director of BLMS Consulting