Checklist for capacity management

Checklists are a very effective way to improve a manual process. When an enterprise realizes they have a resource that should be better managed, they consider capacity management, in its general form if not specifically in the context of IT. The first step is to determine your best answers to the following questions, being sure to estimate the reliability of your answers as well.

  • What is the resource that should be managed? Clearly identify the resource that needs to be managed, as crisply as possible. Define any boundaries to connected and related resources. If it is a pool of servers, how many, where are they located, which are included or excluded from the pool, and what resources on the servers are important enough to be managed?
  • Who owns that resource and its capacity? For the sake of action and accountability, identify the owner or owning organization responsible for the capacity of the resources. It is key to identify the owner, and that owner must be able to control the resource’s capacities.  If this responsibility is somehow shared, then either divide the resource into two pools to avoid the conflict, or clearly define the nature of this shared responsibility so that there is no ambiguity for who must do what.
  • How do they know how much capacity they own? If you can simply go and count those resources, maybe that is enough. But most resources in need of management will need some sort of inventory management capability.
  • How do they know how much capacity they need? If change is rapid, then the information must be even more rapid.  Rapid data collection usually requires automated data collection. And in any case the information must be reliable, but should otherwise be as inexpensive as can be while still meeting the requirements.
  • How do they know how much capacity they will need? Either an analyst will need to do this work, or perhaps share the effort with an analytics engine.  The reliability of the demand forecast is critical. Low reliability of the forecast leads to larger amounts of spare capacity, so we have a cost tradeoff to consider.
  • How does the organization add or subtract capacity? Processes must be known, and effective, for changing capacity. Procurement processes play a key role usually, so supply chain management becomes important.

The first step of any capacity management project is to answer those questions above, then to check how adequate the answers are, such as described by the questions below. If the answers are not adequate, then it is time to consider increasing the enterprise’s capability maturity.

  • Is the resource and responsibilities ill defined? Then some process improvement work may be in order to clarify the roles and responsibilities.
  • Is the monitoring insufficient? Then perhaps it is time to invest in tools, or improve the tools you have, or improve the use of the tools you have.
  • Is the information inadequate? If there is information missing or incorrect, then work on filling those gaps.  IT systems experts, systems engineers, or data analysts may need to complete the effort here.
  • Is the funding insufficient? Balance budgets to be service oriented, or consider adding pressure for technology improvements to reduce costs.
  • Is the procurement process insufficient? Increase the spare capacity in the supply chain to ease the pain, but look at supply chain optimization to rebalance the solution effectively and efficiently.
  • Do the teams lack coordination? Much like the first problem in this list, perhaps we need more clarity of roles and responsibilities, but deeper in the organization. Clarify and get agreement on responsibilities, accountabilities, controls (establish or improve your RASIC or RACI), and operational level agreements (OLA) so there is no lack of clarity.

There is a lot more to capacity management than just getting a good tool to provide nice graphs. Much more. There is a responsibility that comes with ownership, and tools and techniques and agreements do not remove that responsibility. They can only help you be a more effective owner.

About Rupe

Dr. Jason Rupe wants to make the world more reliable, even though he likes to break things. He received his BS (1989), and MS (1991) degrees in Industrial Engineering from Iowa State University; and his Ph.D. (1995) from Texas A&M University. He worked on research contracts at Iowa State University for CECOM on the Command & Control Communication and Information Network Analysis Tool, and conducted research on large scale systems and network modeling for Reliability, Availability, Maintainability, and Survivability (RAMS) at Texas A&M University. He has taught quality and reliability at these universities, published several papers in respected technical journals, reviewed books, and refereed publications and conference proceedings. He is a Senior Member of IEEE and of IIE. He has served as Associate Editor for IEEE Transactions on Reliability, and currently works as its Managing Editor. He has served as Vice-Chair'n for RAMS, on the program committee for DRCN, and on the committees of several other reliability conferences because free labor is always welcome. He has also served on the advisory board for IIE Solutions magazine, as an officer for IIE Quality and Reliability division, and various local chapter positions for IEEE and IIE. Jason has worked at USWEST Advanced Technologies, and has held various titles at Qwest Communications Intl., Inc, most recently as Director of the Technology Modeling Team, Qwest's Network Modeling and Operations Research group for the CTO. He has always been those companies' reliability lead. Occasionally, he can be found teaching as an Adjunct Professor at Metro State College of Denver. Jason is the Director of Operational Modeling (DOM) at Polar Star Consulting where he helps government and private industry to plan and build highly performing and reliable networks and services. He holds two patents. If you read this far, congratulations for making it to the end!
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