Kanban Capacity Planning Visualization

kanban capacity planning featured image

Capacity planning and visualization are key for successful project management, as they allow the team to stay in control of the capacity and keep the operations at an optimal level.

It can be challenging to oversee all aspects of the project, but tapping into the power of visualization tools and using Kanban swimlanes will help you stay one step ahead.

Visualization of Capacity Planning

Capacity planning is one critical aspect of project planning. It requires fine-tuning many project aspects to meet the objectives with the available resources.

Visualizing capacity allows a better overview and facilitates capacity planning. Understanding complex data is much easier with visual representations, such as Kanban swimlanes, that allow everyone on the team to get all the information about the capacity with a single glance at the Kanban board.

Using Swimlanes for Capacity Planning

Using a Kanban board allows project managers and teams to oversee the progress made on the project. Vertical columns in Kanban divide the project into different stages. Three columns usually achieve this: to do, doing, and done.

In the to-do column, the team places all the tasks they plan to do in a certain project or during a time period.

Tasks in progress are placed in the doing column, which is gradually filled with completed tasks. Depending on the project’s complexity and nature, other vertical columns can be added to facilitate the process and allow a clear, visual representation of the project.

Horizontal columns are added to Kanban’s vertical columns to break down a project’s production process further and make it more transparent. Horizontal columns, also known as swimlanes, can show certain aspects of the project, teams, or resources. Separating aspects of the project in swimlanes allows an easier overview and facilitates understanding.

Visualizing a project with the help of swimlanes makes it more manageable, especially when planning and working on more complex projects. It allows the project manager and the team to organize their work better and ensure that the workload doesn’t overstep the team’s capacity.

Using Kanban allows the project manager and the team to plan the workload and control the team’s capacity. Even though Kanban columns already provide a great insight into the team’s capacity, it’s even easier to control and manage capacity using Kanban swimlanes. Dividing the project into various aspects, such as different parts of the project or team members, facilitates the control over capacity and enables better capacity planning.

Setting up Kanban Board with swimlanes

A Kanban board should be displayed somewhere everyone can see and contribute to it.

If the Kanban board is set up in a physical space, it should be an area where team members can easily access it. Set all the important props nearby, such as post-it notes or markers and magnets that will allow the team members to change the board on the go.

If the Kanban board is set in a virtual space, such as an app or software, ensure that everyone who needs access to it can freely access it and make necessary changes. The Kanban board is divided into vertical columns that portray different stages in the progress of a project, and setting up a Kanban with swimlanes requires adding horizontal columns that will portray different capacity-related factors.

How to set up swimlanes based on different capacity-related factors?

Swimlanes can show different factors based on different capacity-related factors. They can represent different team members, showing individual capacity; they can show different types of tasks and assignments or different priorities in the project.

How to use WIP limits within swimlanes for better capacity planning?

Controlling capacity and setting a work-in-progress WIP limit allows teams to increase their productivity. This is essential for the team to achieve its project goals and successfully plan, execute, and finish it. The team’s capacity is how many tasks it can take on and successfully complete, allowing project managers to set a limit to work-in-progress tasks.

With swimlanes, the team and the project managers have complete insight into various aspects and parts of the project’s production process. This allows them to pinpoint exactly where bottlenecks are created and where different obstacles might pop up to prevent progress.

By visualizing the project’s progress and separating it into different aspects, the team prevents overstepping its capacity and accepts only the workload that can be finished successfully.

As mentioned, horizontal columns, or swimlanes, further break down the production process. Kanban swimlanes can be used to organize workflow further and control the workload by limiting the number of tasks currently in progress. This gives the team a complete overview of the project and a better understanding of the production process.

Project managers need a Kanban board with swimlanes and clearly defined WIP limits to implement Kanban with control capacity. To create such a board, it is necessary to consider and have a thorough insight into the team’s capacity and availability.

Benefits of Using Kanban Swimlanes for Capacity Planning

Using Kanban swimlanes for capacity planning has numerous benefits, such as visibility, better resource allocation, better capacity planning, avoidance of burnout, and the creation of a positive working environment.

Capacity planning with Kanban improves the visibility of tasks and workload, allowing the project managers to adequately distribute workload and oversee progress made on the project. It also allows better resource allocation.

Finding available team members and distributing the workload properly helps the team to work together towards successfully finishing the project. As a result of using Kanban swimlanes for capacity planning, the team is less likely to experience team burnout. Preventing team burnout helps create a positive and inspiring working environment where the team works at its optimal capacity towards achieving its objectives and goals and finally completing projects.

Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

When using Kanban swimlanes, some common mistakes can be easily avoided once the team and project managers know them. Being aware of the common pitfalls will help teams prevent them.

  • First, try to make the Kanban board with swimlanes easy to understand. Overcomplicating the board will not be useful for the team and might put them off from using it and making the most of it. A Kanban board should facilitate project monitoring and allow the team to get all the important information with a single glance.
  • Furthermore, a Kanban board with swimlanes should allow project managers to maximize their team’s capacity. Ignoring WIP limits could be detrimental to the project and overburden the team, creating a hectic working environment and causing burnout. Using a Kanban board with swimlanes is only beneficial if the board is regularly updated.
  • Another common pitfall is not regularly updating the board, which deprives the board of its primary purpose of showing transparently the project’s progress and the team’s capacity.

Kanban and Capacity Control

Capacity control allows the team to work on the project at a steady pace and finish it by the agreed due date. Gaining a deeper insight into the team’s capacity is important to achieve capacity control. The capacity is the total workload that the team can accomplish over a period of time. Figuring out the team’s capacity as a whole starts with establishing each team member's individual capacity.

Unlike velocity, capacity doesn’t measure the speed at which the team can finish assignments. It measures how much work they can accomplish over a time period, for example, a week.

To calculate the team’s capacity, availability and unavailability must be considered. Each team member’s availability in hours over the course of a week is added and then multiplied by the utilization rate. To calculate the utilization rate, the team members’ billable hours are divided by availability hours. Multiplying it by 100 gives the percentage of the utilization.

Here’s an example: A team of four developers is available for 160 hours per week, and they have tracked a total of 144 billable hours. Dividing 144 by 160 gives us the team’s utilization rate of 0.9, which, when multiplied by 100, gives a 90% utilization rate. The team’s availability of 160 is then multiplied by 0.9, which puts the team’s capacity at 144. If any of the developers in the team were unavailable, it would change the entire team’s capacity and affect their productivity. Tracking capacity is useful when a project manager must explain to stakeholders why certain tasks were done before, or some parts are not yet finished.

Therefore, insight into billable and availability hours is important for the project's success.

ActiveCollab is project management software that allows team members to track their billable hours and availability. A project manager or team leader can use this information in ActiveCollab to get an overview of the team’s entire capacity and workload using the Workload feature, ensuring no one burns out and the team keeps a steady pace as they work towards wrapping up a project.

Once a project manager knows the team’s capacity, they can plan the project, ensuring the workload will remain within the team’s capacity and not overstep it. Overstepping the team’s capacity leads to consistently increased workload, causing the team to burn out. In contrast, the team can become bored and less inspired if their workload exceeds capacity.

Visualizing Capacity with Charts and Graphs

Visual representation of the team’s capacity allows a better understanding of the team’s capacity. Visualizations are easy to understand with a single look at the chart or a graph, facilitating the data exchange in and across teams. Using visualization tools will allow the team to keep important data in sight and easily communicate results using visual representations.

Burn-up and burn-down charts

One of the best ways to show how much work has been done over time is to use burn-up and burn-down charts. A burn-down chart starts with the total amount of work and shows how it diminishes over time, whereas a burn-up chart adds the work as it is completed until it reaches the final amount. Burn-up and burn-down charts are a great way to maintain control over your work.

Cumulative flow diagrams

A cumulative flow diagram can also view the team’s capacity. It can be useful to see the distribution of resources and learn how to manage the team’s capacity better. A sudden increase in the cumulative flow diagram shows an increased workload that could create a bottleneck in the production process. Learning to predict and anticipate bottlenecks early on helps teams prevent them by distributing their resources better.

Gantt charts

Gantt charts are also a great way to visually represent a project and track the team’s capacity. With the help of a Gantt chart, the team can see the project’s tasks and progress and how much workload has yet to be finished.

In ActiveCollab, the Timeline view lets teams view the project’s tasks in a Gantt chart and create dependencies between tasks. This allows teams to view the order in which tasks should be finished and which tasks need to be finished first so that the team members can work on tasks that depend on them. Regarding capacity, the Gantt chart can show the workload that has been finished over time, setting the foundation for better capacity planning in the future.

Resource allocation heatmaps

Heatmaps use color to represent various values visually at a glance. Creating a resource allocation heatmap can help project managers understand and pinpoint which resources are overloaded and which are not being used enough. For capacity planning, it will be easier to visualize trends and patterns and make necessary changes.

ActiveCollab's Workload feature allows the team to track time and availability. It shows their capacity in color so that the changes in workload can be made, allowing the team to meet their goals and obtain their objectives.