It’s time for capacity planning – and honestly, this is my favorite resource in a creative project management role. Capacity reports are one of the most useful tools you can implement for managing your projects in the monitoring phase.
What is a Capacity Report?
A capacity report provides an overview of the available resources and their utilization within a department or function. Said another way – it’s a document or tool (in your project management software) that tracks your resources (i.e. copywriting, designing, animating, etc.) against project needs. Done well and it will offer insights into your team’s bandwidth and utilization. And while we call them “resources,” it’s important to remember they’re human beings at the end of the day.
Hint: capacity reports can also serve as a substitute for time tracking, when in a pinch.
Why Is It Important?
A capacity report typically includes information about the current status of resources, allocations to specific tasks or projects, and future resource needs. When your Creative Director asks you who can jump in on a copywriting project, you will have the answer at your fingertips. Conversely, if there is too much work to get done in the week and not enough resources, you will have the support to say more resources are needed, timelines need to shift out, or project scope (either deliverables or expectations) need to be managed. It will also give you a read into those team members who are overloaded or underutilized and can provide the case for reassigning projects or justifying headcount (up or down).
Additionally, you can also start to get a sense of those folks on your team who get sh*t done (if you haven’t already) versus those that need more time (aka performance analysis).
Digging in further, the critical reasons why you should implement a capacity report are:
How to Implement a Capacity Report
OK, so what the heck does this thing look like and how do you do it? If you don’t have project management software that you leverage in your role, that’s perfectly fine. I am going to take you through how to do this manually, because once you get the concept, you can easily apply it to any PM software.
I would suggest using Google Sheets because having a browser-based, shared doc is the best way to ensure you have the most up-to-date allocations (and so does your team). Let’s start by setting up your doc:
Along the top, going from left to right, list your teammates who actively take on projects. I usually group my Copy folks together and then my Designers together, but if you utilize teams (i.e. a copywriter and designer pair), then you should list them by these groupings.
On the left side now, going down, you’ll want to list all of your active projects.
Now, each member of your team will have 40 available hours in the workweek. We don’t want to book anyone solid for 40 hours. That’s unsustainable, and frankly, impossible with all the meetings we have these days. And just a reminder, these people are human, they need bio breaks and screen breaks. A good rule of thumb is to aim for 85-90% capacity. The remaining 10-15% will fill itself in during the workweek.
If your team is consistently around 65% capacity, that’s a clue there is not enough work to justify all your roles. On the flip side, if your team is consistently over 100% capacity, that’s a red flag that there is too much work for the number of roles. While it is fine once in a while, we shouldn’t be overloading the team week after week (see also Managing Your Team for other tips).
OK, let’s do some project management math:
It’s important that you’re comfortable with the above because it’s going to give you an easy rollup formula in your spreadsheet.
Lastly, create a summation formula for each person which will total up the percentages for each person.
Now, you are ready to start reporting! Input the estimated time required from each person for the week across each project. For example, if Project A will require two days’ time from your Creative Director, a Copywriter and a Designer, then put 40% for each of those people across Project A. Continue down your list of projects to meet project needs.
Once you’ve gone through each project, you’ll see where your team members are landing for their capacity for the week in order to meet all project needs. In the image example here on the page, you’ll see that:
Sidebar: As you may have noticed, I allocate 10% of any manager’s time for administrative work, which can be anything from 1:1 meetings with their reports, reporting to leadership, writing performance reviews, etc. It’s a necessary function of a manager’s role that won’t be considered active work against a specific project.
Tip: Don't forget to add in your team's upcoming out of office. It's incredibly important for your projects to plan around this non-work time.
If you don’t know how much time someone will need against a project – ask! It’s always great to get a gut-check from the person doing the work to confirm how much time is needed to hit deadlines and expectations. This will only continue to help you estimate projects better.
I usually create my capacity reports on the Thursday or Friday preceding the upcoming week. In some cases, it’s useful to plan a few weeks ahead, though you can do this as far in advance as needed.
Capacity reports are a surefire way of planning how the work is going to get done, who is going to do it, and ensuring there’s enough time in the day to meet project milestones. It’s a great way to always know who is available to take on more work so when your CD asks you, you look on top of the team’s workload (because you are).
Find out why this final project phase is important and what’s involved in accurately closing a project.
What are creative briefs?
Learn why these will make or break
The most critical stage of a project and where a creative project manager is needed most. Get the deets.