What is Capacity Planning?

The Capacity planning definition is the process of determining what professional service resources and skills will be required to complete current and future projects to meet changing customer demand.

How Does Capacity Planning Impact Customer Service?

For professional services organizations, capacity planning and customer success are tied at the hip. Exceptional customer service is vital for organizations that want to ensure sustainable growth, create brand affinity, and maintain healthy customer relationships.

There is a reason why Amazon Prime retains over 90% of customers year over year. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos once said, “We are never competitor based or obsessed. We are always customer based and obsessed.” Amazon’s guaranteed fast delivery on select products is one reason the company has more than 112 million loyal customers across the United States.

capacity planning in professional services

The company’s ability to optimize shipping and delivery (supply/demand capacity planning) makes them accountable and consistent. Customers know they can rely on Prime for the goods they need – on time, (almost) every time. However, Amazon wouldn’t be able to guarantee this level of reliability without a system in place to understand the amount of goods they are able to sell and how quickly they can get those goods into the hands of trusting customers. 

Demand and Resource Capacity Planning for Professional Services Organizations

This relationship between supply and demand is similar for professional services organizations. But an effective demand and capacity planning process for services team members is significantly more complex.

We all know that a project delivered on time, on budget, at high quality doesn’t just happen. It requires intentional project planning and disciplined resource management. And while reliable delivery is essential for projects under management, it also allows an organization to understand when and how they can staff and start new projects.

The ability to project future demand and understand the capacity to sell and start new projects will unlock meaningful growth for a services organization. More importantly, it will keep its customers happy. Professional services teams know this and prioritize the customer experience —  and the rewards are tangible. Increasing customer retention by just 5% can boost profits anywhere from 25%-95%.

Demand planners and services leaders around the world agree that on time, on time, on budget project delivery is of paramount importance. To start a project off on the right foot, a resource allocation and capacity planning process is critical. Teams who fail to understand the gap between available resources and forecasted demand will suffer from lost revenue and wasted hours. Prior to starting a project, managers need to develop a match strategy between the skills needed to deliver the work and the available resources with those skills. 

Bonus: Download a FREE guide to discover how professional services capacity planning can unlock talent in your organization while driving revenue. Includes strategies for delivery success.

Use Resource-Driven Forecasts for Creating Capacity Plans

Resource-driven forecasts are one way for an organization to ensure they are meeting demand. Also known as bottom-up forecasts, this approach allows teams to schedule all of their planned work and match the right resources to projects accordingly.

Planned work includes both projects in the sales and marketing pipeline and also projects currently underway. Then, an organization can translate the scheduled work into accurate, time-phased revenue forecasts. This provides insight into an organization’s capacity to successfully deliver the work within the estimated time of completion.

The real benefit to customers is a promise kept throughout the entire lifecycle, from the time a project is sold all the way to its completion. This includes: effective project planning, strong project management, an understanding of resource capacity throughout the project schedule, discipline around agreed upon budget parameters, and ultimately a fulfillment on punctual (and high quality) delivery. 

Ace Your Customer Experience with Capacity Plans and Resource Management

If an organization wants to provide excellent customer service, it is critical for them to strike a balance between capacity planning and resource management. Harmony between the two functions, aligned with trustworthy data, provides teams with visibility and predictability into their business. Beyond facilitating stronger capacity plans, this balance will keep a sales team well-informed of what they are able to sell.

The key is to have reliable underlying data to inform the capacity planning process. With access to real-time data around resource bandwidth and production capacity, sales reps can keep a pulse on what types of services they can sell over a specific period of time, and when those projects can begin. The resulting clarity helps everyone deliver with confidence and ace the customer experience. 

To gain competitive advantage, services leaders must invest in structured capacity management tools and methodical demand management. A combination of the two will lead to the one thing that can make or break a business: a remarkable (maybe even obsessed) customer experience. 

Learn more about capacity planning and how it can become a key differentiator for your professional services organization.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Capacity Planning

What is capacity planning?

Capacity planning is the process of determining what professional service resources and skills will be required to complete current and future projects to meet changing customer demand.

What is capacity planning in customer success?

If a services organization wants to provide successful customer service, it is essential that the company finds a balance between capacity planning and resource management. That balance, combined with trustworthy data, provides service teams with visibility and predictability. The resulting clarity helps teams delivery with confidence and ace the customer experience.

How can capacity planning provide competitive advantage?

To gain a competitive advantage in professional services, services leaders must invest in structured capacity planning and methodical demand management. This combination, when done well, can provide insight into an organization’s capacity to successfully deliver work within an estimated time of completion, resulting in a remarkable customer experience.