Making sure that a company has enough resources to complete its projects successfully is one of the primary objectives of a resource manager’s work.

However, it can be rather difficult to predict how many employees they will require to staff projects. What is more, in a multi-project environment, where you have to balance out the increasing number of project tasks and available employees, this challenge becomes even more significant and problematic.

One of the means that makes it possible to cope with these concerns and ensure sufficient and proper project staffing is resource capacity planning. Let’s explore this process in more detail.

What is Resource Capacity Planning?

Effective project resource management and capacity planning go hand in hand. To ensure timely and successful delivery of projects running in an organization, you have to understand and plan your resources’ capacity. So, before diving into explaining the term “resource capacity planning”, let’s answer the question: What is resource capacity in project management? This refers to the maximum amount of work a resource (e.g., a team member, equipment, department, etc.) can complete within the given time.

Resource capacity planning is the process of determining the number of resources you’re expected to require to meet future projects’ needs. In other words, it’s about forecasting the gap between available resources and the required ones. This will give grounds for informed decision-making: e.g., whether you will need more employees to complete the current and upcoming projects, or maybe postpone a new project for later.

Let’s now explore the difference between capacity planning and resource planning. 

Resource capacity planning vs. resource planning

Resource capacity planning and resource planning are often confused. In fact, these concepts are closely related in project management, but they refer to different aspects of resource management. Here are the main differences between them.

Resource capacity planning

  • Resource capacity planning assesses the capacity of resources within an organization.
  • It determines the number/amount of resources required to staff projects based on the maximum amount of work that team members can handle within a given period with regard to their skill levels, availability, and working hours.
  • Resource capacity planning helps identify potential overloads or underutilization of resources, which allows resource managers to adjust resource allocations to optimize their utilization.
  • The goal of resource capacity planning is to make sure that a company has the resources required to meet project needs without exceeding resource constraints.

Resource planning

  • Resource planning involves identifying, acquiring, and allocating resources needed to complete project tasks.
  • It aims to determine the types and number/amount of resources required for each project activity, including both human and material resources (materials, equipment, and facilities).
  • Resource planning takes into account resource availability, competences, costs, and dependencies and ensures that the right resources are available at the right time for proper project execution.
  • The purpose of resource planning is to ensure that projects will be staffed with the necessary resources to complete project tasks.

Therefore, resource capacity planning deals with assessing the overall capacity and availability of resources within an organization, while resource planning involves allocating specific resources to projects.

Benefits of resource capacity planning

Effective resource capacity planning provides organizations with the following benefits. 

  1. It prevents unexpected resource shortages.
  2. It helps avoid cost overrun – when you analyze the anticipated demand for resources and plan their capacity beforehand, there will be little chance for resource shortages and unbudgeted expenditures.
  3. It optimizes employees’ workload (prevents them from being overloaded) and improves resource utilization.
  4. It contributes to more reasonable utilization of available resources, which is a top-priority task for a multi-project environment with a shared resource pool.
  5. It makes it possible to forecast skill gaps; having identified one, a project/resource manager can take corresponding measures to solve the problem (reskilling, upskilling).
  6. It prevents project delays resulting from employees’ unavailability.

Finally, if we talk about a multi-project environment or project portfolio management, the need for forecasting the resource demand and capacity becomes even more urgent. Assigning resources in a multi-project environment is rather challenging, because:

  • available employees are required for several projects at the same time;
  • projects have resource dependencies – e.g., if an employee takes a sick leave, it will affect more than one project;
  • the impact of external factors: e.g. office politics or management by decibels – when a critical employee is assigned to the project that has lower priority, but serves someone’s interests.

One of the ways to eliminate the negative impact of these factors is to plan resources’ capacity in advance, which will become the basis for making reasonable decisions.

Capacity planning steps

The main landmarks in the resource capacity planning process are as follows:

  1. Determine your workforce’s actual capacity (all the available employees you have and the number of hours they work; take into account public holidays, vacations, sick leaves, training, etc.).
  2. Gain insight into all the current projects along with the upcoming ones and understand project requirements.
  3. Forecast resource demand for these projects.
  4. Determine the highest priority projects.
  5. Identify the gap between resource demand and capacity.
  6. Plan how you are going to bridge this gap between required and available resources (hire new employees, retrain the existing ones, apply resource management techniques, etc.).

Read more: Hiring Extra Employees vs. Adopting a Resource Management Solution: Сhoosing the Right Investment

Capacity planning strategies

The choice of a capacity planning strategy will depend on the size of an organization as well as the number of projects and resources in it.

Lead strategy

This strategy aims to meet the forecasted resource demand, e.g. hiring more employees to staff the anticipated increasing number of projects.

Lag strategy

It’s about having enough resources to meet the actual demand. This strategy is beneficial for projects with limited budgets or for small companies. However, it may cause bottlenecks in case the resource demand grows.

Match strategy

This strategy is a combination of the two previous approaches. It involves more frequent monitoring of the demand along with external factors (e.g. changes in the industry or market trends) with subsequent capacity planning. The match strategy requires more effort, but it’s the most flexible approach.

Let’s now explore some recommendations on how to do capacity planning with ease.

Tips on Effective Resource Capacity Planning 

recource capacity planning 2

Determine the right priorities

As a rule, resource capacity planning is performed in multi-project environments with a shared resource pool, which means that organizations are always resource-constrained. So, to be able to complete the required scope of work under conditions of resource constraints, it’s essential to prioritize work. When managing multiple projects, you should determine project priorities based on their feasibility, business value, or a company’s strategic goals and base your capacity planning on this information.

Have access to relevant resource-related data

Along with project prioritization, having resource-related data (their skill sets, availability, capacity) at hand is the other important component of resource capacity planning. When there are thousands of employees working on projects, having quick access to this information is crucial for effective capacity planning and resource management in general. For example, it can provide a resource manager with options on how to solve the problem of insufficient project staffing.

Take care of team members’ workload

When planning resource capacity, you should bear in mind that people cannot devote 100% of their capacity to project work — they also have non-project activities like meetings, paperwork, etc. Assigning tasks filling 100% of team members’ capacity will inevitably lead to their overload, which in turn will result in bottlenecks that will lead to delays, cost overrun, and after all put the whole project environment in jeopardy.  

Read more: 5 Signs That Your Workload Management Process Is Wrong

Prepare for risks and uncertainty 

Unexpected events can lead to a significant disruption of project workflow, which can among other things result in unforeseen demand for additional resources. How can you get ready for contingencies?

  • First, create a risk management plan to be ready to respond to any hazard and avoid its negative effects.
  • Second, you can prepare for uncertainty by adding time, budget, and capacity buffers to project estimates. So, if something goes wrong, your projects are more likely to stay on track.

Read more: Managing Risks and Controlling Projects: Crucial Role of Data in Single- and Multi-Project Environments

Use scenario analysis to bridge the gap between resource demand and capacity

Having determined resource demand and available capacity, you may find out that there’s a gap between them. Finding an optimum way of bridging this gap can be rather challenging, as this decision will affect the success of further work and project profitability. The most reasonable way to address this challenge is to perform scenario analysis — it will show you the consequences of the actions taken and help you select the most reasonable option. It’s a good idea to leverage a software solution with scenario planning capabilities to run these simulations.

Monitor resource capacity and demand regularly

Resource demand and capacity are constantly changing as a result of changes in employees’ availability (vacations, sick leaves, other absences) and incoming projects. For this reason, a resource/portfolio manager should regularly monitor these indicators to be able to timely react to all these changes and ensure staffing projects with required people.

Now, it’s time to dwell on leveraging project/resource management software. Read the next section to learn how it can help with resource capacity planning.

Resource Capacity Planning Tool: Epicflow Example

Of course, it’s extremely difficult to do the capacity planning manually. For example, you cannot bear in mind the information on each employee’s competences; and requesting information on resources’ days off or sick leaves is really time-consuming. That’s why, leveraging resource management software is a great solution to simplify the resource capacity planning process.

As we know, performing resource capacity planning in a multi-project environment is twice as difficult. For this reason, let’s consider resource management tools’ contribution to capacity planning through the example of Epicflow, which is a multi-project resource management solution. Below are some of Epicflow’s key features that can be helpful for planning resource capacity.  

Providing insight into team members’ current and future capacity

In a multi-project environment, it’s impossible to keep in mind each employee’s capacity. For this reason, Epicflow provides a resource manager with the data on current resource capacity based on team members’ involvement in projects. In addition to understanding the current capacity, you can use Epicflow’s Future Load Graph to forecast it — this will help you create a robust resource capacity plan with regard to team members’ workload and capacity and in such a way avoid future resource bottlenecks.

Keeping capacity data relevant

To plan resource capacity, you’ll need information on employees’ vacations/days off, sick leaves, or training. As long as Epicflow integrates with human resource management systems, all the changes in an employee’s availability and capacity will be automatically reflected in the system. Such a solution significantly simplifies both resource allocation and resource capacity planning.

Performing scenario analysis

In addition to forecasting potential bottlenecks, you can run and analyze scenarios in Epicflow’s AI-driven What-if Analysis — it will show you the future consequences of changes you make to the project environment. You can run simulations to spot potential issues in the workflow, test different ways to address bottlenecks, analyze a project’s feasibility, and more. For example, you can see how the project landscape will react upon hiring new employees to staff a project that falls short of human resources.

Balancing employees’ workload

Planning resources’ capacity, you shouldn’t forget about their balanced workload. Otherwise, the work on projects won’t be efficient and there will be a high probability of bottlenecks and problems in the workflow. Epicflow has a variety of capabilities preventing employees from having imbalanced workloads:

  • Its Future Load Graph forecasts not only capacity but also future workload; tracking it allows you to prevent team members from overload and idleness;
  • Epicflow’s Load Analysis feature shows what projects and tasks overload your resource groups or a project team, you can perform it upon detecting a bottleneck;
  • Our AI assistant Epica can warn you of improper workload giving an opportunity for timely fixing the situation.

Therefore, a resource capacity planning software like Epicflow can assist you in resource capacity planning by giving insight into resources’ current and future capacity, forecasting resource bottlenecks, and providing an opportunity to run scenarios for making reasonable management decisions. In fact, it offers much more opportunities for effective and efficient resource management and streamlined management of multiple projects. Feel free to book a call with Epicflow experts if you want to explore more of its capabilities.


Let’s summarize the main facts about resource capacity planning in project management.

  1. Resource capacity planning involves determining the amount of resources required to meet project needs based on the amount of work resources can handle.
  2. Proper resource capacity planning ensures that all required projects will be staffed with resources; it eliminates the probability of resource shortages, unplanned hiring and unplanned expenditures as well as prevents people from overwork.
  3. There are three capacity planning strategies: lead strategy aims to meet the forecasted resource demand, lag strategy aims to meet the actual demand for resources, and match strategy combines both previous ones.
  4. To plan resource capacity effectively, you need to determine project priorities, have access to relevant resource-related data (competences, capacity, availability), take into account possible risks and uncertainty (determining time and capacity buffer).
  5. Resource management software with AI-driven capabilities like Epicflow provides a great assistance in successful resource capacity planning across multiple projects.