Solving the Resource Puzzle

The Next Level of Capacity and Demand Planning


Lefsky Strategic
Initiatives, Inc.

Project, program, and portfolio management (PPPM) often focuses on how and when things get done, without substantial emphasis on the resources needed to accomplish these activities. Improving the Capacity and Demand Planning capabilities of a team or organization can have a tremendous positive impact on results, even when no other changes are implemented and staffing and funding levels remain constant. This session will introduce scalable, real-world methods of capturing, tracking, and managing the next-level of Capacity and Demand Planning to help enable improved efficiencies and PPPM results.

Keywords: human resource management, capacity and demand planning, project time management


Developing tools and processes for Capacity and Demand Planning can benefit small businesses with a handful of employees in one location and large, multinationals with tens of thousands of employees around the world. With the right information and business drivers, project delivery organizations can be structured to run more efficiently and to maximize the value created. These steps can be applied to matrix and projectized teams in order to put the right resource on the right task at the right time, and for the right cost.

Tools and processes are available to manage the most complex resourcing scenarios, but many organizations have not taken the first steps to be able to deploy productive and cost-effective teams to projects and programs. There are simple and effective steps that can get any team started. These can be built upon to create more advanced analytics and information systems to help drive better business decisions.

According to the study, Implementing the Project Portfolio: A Vital C-Suite Focus, “On average, survey respondents report that one-fifth of current projects should be terminated and that nearly one-half aren't resourced properly, with 29 percent receiving too few resources and 19 percent, too many” (PMI, 2015, p.4).

The problem goes deeper than just over- or under-staffing of a project, but also assigning the most cost-appropriate resource and prioritizing the work to complete the highest value initiatives. In other words, even if the staffing levels are correct, the resources might still be working on the wrong project.


Among the first steps in any process in development of capacity and demand planning is to create an enterprise resource pool. The enterprise resource pool is a listing of all the named individuals who may be allocated to project work in the organization. For a large company, the pool may be 10,000-plus people. For a small company, the pool could be two cofounders. The idea is to delineate pertinent information about the skills and abilities of team members in order to deploy the most appropriate resource for a task.

According to A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Fifth Edition:

“Selection criteria are often used as a part of acquiring the project team. By use of a multi-criteria decision analysis tool, criteria are developed and used to rate or score potential team members. The criteria are weighted according to the relative importance of the needs within the team. Some examples of selection criteria that can be used to score team members are shown as follows:

  • Availability. Identify whether the team member is available to work on the project within the time period needed when there are any concerns for availability during the project timeline.
  • Cost. Verify if the cost of adding the team member is within the prescribed budget.
  • Experience. Verify that the team member has the relevant experience that will contribute to the project success.
  • Ability. Verify that the team member has the competencies needed by the project” (PMI, 2013, p. 270).

This is a good starting point for an enterprise resource pool. More detail is used to designate resource skills and capabilities for complex organizations with information that includes languages, geographic location, technology or subject matter expertise, years in a specific domain, and so forth. This data can be used to allocate resources either individually, or through data models that can recommend teams. As with anything, human oversight and common sense is important in taking resource data and applying it to decisions or individuals on the team.


Generic resources are the key to capacity and demand planning models. They help identify common resourcing needs and allow for allocation to be completed by internal resources, through hiring, or through staff augmentation. For instance, if a program has ten active project managers and approves projects that require fifteen, there are a number of available options:

1) Hire five new project managers, which may be difficult if long-term budget or demand does not justify new staff

2) Bring on staff augmentation resources to meet the needs of the specific project demand, and who will roll off at the completion of the project

3) Delay project start dates until project managers become available

4) Reprioritize the portfolio based on the ranking of projects to cancel or put on hold existing work in favor of a higher-ranked new project

The generic roles allow you to see what the needs are and how the team will be able to meet those need over time.


The next step is to look at the activities over time that are being performed. Depending on the maturity of the organization and the level of scheduling, this may be names or projects, or it could be detailed, task-level information.

In small businesses, the tools and requirements to manage the resource pool are different than in a large organization. In large organizations, shared resources can be strategically deployed across teams to ensure the flow of resources aligns with the direction of the business. For instance, a developer might be able to work on projects for several teams concurrently with the primary goal of maximum available utilization while developing quality outputs. In small businesses, the resource pool is generally more static, and the focus is on accomplishing many different types of activities with the set pool of resources. In some companies, the CEO is also the lead developer and sales person. Bringing on and rolling off resources in that space comprises a much larger percentage of overall budget and business overhead.

The most complex scenarios can help to manage thousands of resources at the task level, giving leadership actionable information with which to help with key decisions for the business.


In order to find a model that best suits the needs of the business, analysis begins with initial questions to help size the team and to determine the most appropriate solution:

  • How many people are needed?
  • When are they needed?
  • What specific skills are required?
  • Where geographically must they be located?
  • What is the cost of filling the need, both internally and externally?
  • Is there already enough bandwidth in the current resource pool to cover our needs?

With this information, a lot can be done to move resources to the right activities. As is the case in any solution, the lightest weight and easiest to maintain options can speed the implementation to achieve value.

In computing, resources are constantly being optimized through automation. Computers optimize resource allocation whenever an application runs. Modern wireless phones also determine how much memory or processing power is available to spread over any of a number of applications, including essential operating functions. If an application no longer requires the allocated resources, it is closed either manually or through automatic processes. The most critical functions are often guaranteed resources as needed. In cloud computing, we take it a few steps further: we optimize the use of the server farm. We set business rules on which traffic and processing is prioritized. And we create parameters upon which the processing will operate—for instance, that 32GB of memory is permanently dedicated and 10 i7 processors are available at all times. These rules dictate how the flow of information and the processing of data takes place.

Similar processes are available for the management of Human Resources in the PMO. But to implement such optimization requires a deliberate approach to develop the business rules that govern the resource optimization algorithm. By implementing sets of rules for automation, redundancy and inefficiencies can be reduced as program visibility and actionable information can be increased. This approach also requires a more holistic approach to resource management than most organizations adopt currently.

The most successful deployments of Capacity and Demand Planning models often have the following attributes:

  • Reduced redundancy and administrative overhead where possible, for the PMO and for the team members
  • Consideration of the human element without relying solely on metrics and number
  • Checking to see if the model makes sense
  • Reviewing results to see if results match expectations
  • Adjusting to changes in the organization or the market
  • Continuously improving the model
  • Soliciting feedback from stakeholders at all levels

We should note that there are also significant differences in how resources can be managed across various countries. The labor laws in the United States are vastly different from those in France or in Spain, India, Guinea, or China. The optimization of work operates within the regional and national models. There are differences between types of industries, including those that are highly regulated, such as pharmaceutical and banking. Laws and compliance guidelines may determine the tools used and the flexibility teams have to change process.

These solutions will help assess and manage Capacity and Demand within most environments, but the resultant business actions will differ. This is true with organizational philosophy and structure as well. All large companies are not built the same and all small companies are not built the same. BMW operates vastly differently than Google does in the way that it manages its human resources and deploys project teams.

By implementing a few steps, organizations of any size can begin to improve the value being generated by the team. As the model becomes more mature, better alignment with the portfolio and the strategic needs of the business can continue to enhance the capabilities of the organization as a whole.



Dan Lefsky is the President of Lefsky Strategic Initiatives, Inc. and has been building state-of-the-art solutions for major global corporations for 20 years. This past year, he moved from New Jersey to Paris to grow his business and be able to help organizations around the world improve their project, program, and portfolio management capabilities. He has been active with PMI since 2005 and this is his eighth PMI® Global Congress. He is a member of the American Chamber of Commerce in France, active on the Digital Economy, Training and Education, and Green Growth Committees. In 2015, he participated in COP21 Climate events and the OECD Forum, engaging with global governmental and business leaders. He was named Citizen of the Year for his hometown of Denville, NJ, USA in 2014. When not optimizing PMOs, he runs marathons and competes in triathlons.


img    Dan Lefsky        |  img  @danlefsky            | img Username

                                             Email: [email protected]

Project Management Institute. (2013). A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK® guide) – Fifth edition. Newtown Square, PA: Author.

Project Management Institute & The Economist Intelligence Unit. (2015, November). PMI thought leadership series report: Implementing the project portfolio: A vital C-suite focus. Newtown Square, PA: Author.

Manas, J. (2014). The resource management and capacity planning handbook: A guide to maximizing the value of your limited people resources. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.

© 2016, Dan Lefsky
Originally published as part of the 2016 PMI® Global Congress Proceedings – Barcelona, Spain



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