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How to Write a Capacity Management Plan

By: Ivan Walsh

Writing a Capacity Management Plan is not as difficult as you’d think. Most people get terrified at the ideal of writing a Capacity Plan and always leave it to last.

The problem for most technical writers is where to start. Here’s how I do it.

It also falls under the ITIL umbrella which has a reputation for being difficult and heavy on paperwork and endless status reports. It doesn’t have to be this way.

It’s one of those documents that nobody wants to write, but once you get into it, it’s fine.

Use the following 7 steps to develop an effective Capacity Management Plan.

1. Identify Business Functions Within Your Organization

Business functions include are the main user groups across your organization. Depending on how your organization chart is organized, these may differ in name but you get the idea.

All of these have an input into your plan. So, get out Excel and create a table listing all the business functions in your organization.

Business functions may include:

Then choose on business function, preferably, the one that has been identified as the most important.

2. Identify Key Services

Setup a meeting with the IT Department and identify the services that the offer this business function.

Not sure?

Check the Service Level Agreement. If something has already been identified, it will be covered here.

  • Finance Dept – relies on Oracle to process the payroll
  • HR Dept – relies on Lotus Notes to manage employee records
  • Development– relies on WebSphere for the development environment
  • Technical Writing Dept – relies on Microsoft Sharepoint for writing, testing and publishing.

Let’s go a bit deeper.

The Finance Dept relies on Oracle 11i to process the payroll. It also users another server as backup, another for Disaster Recovery, Microsoft Office, various finance tools, communication tools, and secure VPNs.

Enter this information into your spreadsheet and identify the relationships between the business functions, technical services, and. if appropriate, Customers.

3. Create a Workload Catalog

You now have a list of the main IT services.

Use this list to prepare ‘forecasts’ from the IT Dept and Customers. Forecasts are estimates of the amount of resources (size, type, volume, numbers etc) that these departments believe they will need over the next 1,2 or 3 years. It’s hard to estimate much further than this.

What do I capture?

  • Identify the number of HR staff use Oracle 11i
  • Identify the number of HR staff use Oracle 8 (there’s always some that need support on legacy systems )
  • Identify the Developers who need [Software Development application]
  • Identify the number of transactions they perform per day/week/month
  • Identify time when application are most and least used
  • Identify peak periods and down-times

Depending on the scope of your Capacity Plan, populate this as best you can. The important thing is that you capture what’s necessary so that the IT Dept can support the business functions.

The IT Dept

is not telepathic. Your CIO is not clairvoyant. Tell him/her what is needed by these functions.

4. Find Data That Shows Trends & Changes

Next up, find data sources for selected configuration items, such as log files, network management platforms, and sys admin reports. Use these utilization trends to determine the main drivers of Capacity Management.

Remove configuration items you can’t monitor from the Excel spreadsheet and highlight this as a risk/known issue in the Capacity Plan.

5. Record Data in Excel / Access

Once you have identified the configuration items (CIs) add this utilization data in a Capacity Database, which can be an Excel or Access file. The tool is unimportant – just make sure you capture the information and can sort through it where necessary.

I prefer Excel as I know it so well.

Every day/week check this file so you can ‘forecast’ when more capacity will be required or when it is about to exceed the current capacity.

Monitor the requirements in the Service Level Agreement to see that the system is performing as per the agreement. Flag issues as they arise.

6. Write your Capacity Plan

Once you have this information at hand, and are confident with its accuracy, start writing up a formal Capacity Plan.

This document identifies the:

  • Current level of resource utilization
  • Service performance based on current performance
  • Future requirements based on forecast

This is a working document in that it changes as the landscape of your IT Dept changes. You can’t write a Capacity Plan, lock it away, and then hope for the best.

Make sure it is made available to the appropriate parties and that it is version controlled.

It is suggested that you review this document at least every quarter.

7. Make Recommendations

As appropriate, make recommendations to the project board for new hardware, software, and other equipment that improves the IT system’s performance.

You need to be exact with these recommendations and include the price, license agreements, total cost of ownership, and also demonstrate how this investment is justified.

Prove that this new equipment will provide value for money. If necessary, break this out over 3 years and show the returns by year.

Final Points

Use these seven steps to kick-start your Capacity Management process and start working on your Capacity Plan. Once you have the material at hand, put aside time to update it as best you can, preferably every week or two.

If you fall behind too far, it’s hard to catch up.

Your Thoughts

Those are some of the ways I approach writing a Capacity Management plans.

What have I missed here? Another area we didn’t cover here is Capacity Planning outside the IT world, for example, in the healthcare industry. How does this differ? What would you need to cover or what different approaches would you take?

I always want to learn. Let me know what you think.

PS - Click here to download this 40 page MS Word template instantly.

Category: Bank

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