How to do Effective Capacity Planning in Scrum?

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Scrum is the most widely used Agile framework. In Scrum, the work is divided into smaller goals which can be completed within time-boxed iterations called sprints. The length of each sprint is fixed and is normally between one week and one month, with two weeks being the most common. 

Unfortunately, many scrum projects are not successful as teams ignore or miscalculate their capacity to do the work in sprints. They either under-commit or over-commit the work.

Team’s capacity varies from sprint to sprint, depending on holidays, personal leaves and other commitments. Therefore, capacity planning is very important in sprint planning. 

What is Capacity Planning?

Capacity planning is to estimate the Scrum team’s capacity for the work which can be accomplished in the next sprint. It provides a clear picture of how much work the team can do without stressing out or reducing quality and efficiency.

Generally, there are two ways of sprint planning.

  • Velocity-based sprint planning – It is based on the the actual story points completed in a closed sprint
  • Capacity-based sprint planning – It is based on the team’s estimated future availability for the next sprint.

Velocity helps to determine the number of product backlog items which can be taken up for the next sprint. Capacity helps in understanding the team’s availability to actually complete those backlog items. Both velocity and capacity have their own importance in sprint planning.

Why to do Capacity Planning?

Capacity planning helps in anticipating challenges with regards to resource availability. It helps to

  • Understand available bandwidth.
  • Do better planning of sprint goal.
  • Have realistic commitment for sprint.
  • Do better task allocation without task overload.

Is Capacity Planning needed for the entire Scrum Team?

Capacity planning is done primarily for the Developers of Scrum Team so that there is an estimate as to how many stories can be taken up in the next sprint.

However, we should plan capacity for the entire scrum team including Scrum Master (SM) and Product Owner (PO). It is important to know everyone’s available bandwidth, to take pro-active actions for resolving dependencies and getting clarifications as needed before/during sprint.

How to do Capacity Planning?

You can do the capacity planning in MS Excel or use any of the Project Management tools which support such calculation.

Kindly consider the following factors for planning: 

  • Duration of the Sprint 
  • Number of Team Members and their Percentage Allocation in the project
  • Standard Working Hours per day
  • Holidays and Planned Leaves/Time Off of team members
  • Time spent in Sprint Ceremonies and Other Meetings/Activities during Sprint.
  • Focus Factor

Factor-1 : Duration of the Sprint –  For calculating the duration of Sprint, please identify the start day and end day of the Sprint and exclude weekends. E.g 2-weeks sprint will have 10 working days. Duration of the sprint is 10 days in this case. For 3-weeks sprint, duration will be 15 days.

Factor-2 : Team availability & percentage allocation – List down names of all the team members along with their roles. Add another column for percentage allocation. Please mention exact percentage allocation for all team members in the project e.g. one team member may be 75% in team-A and 25% in team-B.

Factor-3 : Standard work hours – Mention standard work hours per day e.g 8 hours , 9 hours as per the organisation’s work policy.

Factor-4 : Holidays and planned leaves/time-off – While calculating capacity, please include any national holidays or planned leaves/time-off of team members.

Factor-5 : Scrum ceremonies time, other meetings/activities – Please consider the time which goes in Scrum ceremonies e.g Daily Stand Up, Sprint Planning, Sprint Review/Demo. Also, do include the time which goes in additional training/meetings/brainstorming sessions etc.

Factor-6 : Focus Factor – Focus factor is the team’s ability to remain focussed on the sprint goals without any impediments and distractions. We can get the ‘real capacity’ when we multiply total available capacity with a focus factor. The focus factor is usually in the range of 60% to 80%. 

Sample Capacity Planning Calculation

Below is the sample calculation done in Excel using above mentioned factors. For effective capacity planning, please consider all the activities where team is expected to spend time during the sprint even if not listed in this sample.

In this sample, there are 4 Developers, 3 QA members in the team and other inputs for planning are as below:

  • Public Holiday on Day 4 of the Sprint – therefore 0 hours for all team for D-4.
  • Asha will be on leave on Day 3 of the Sprint – therefore 0 hours for her for D-3.
  • Gagan will be on leave on Day 6 of the Sprint – therefore 0 hours for him for D-6.
  • Ankit’s allocation is 50%. He will be taking half-time off on Day 8 – therefore 2 hours for him for D-8.

Written by 

Pooja Chawla is a Project Manager in Knoldus Inc. with more than 15 years of experience in various industry domains. She is passionate about diving deep into Agile techniques and exploring different frameworks. Her hobbies include travelling and exploring different cultures.

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