The challenges of resource management in our Agile team

Over the last year, as we’ve been formally trying to work in a more agile way, one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced as a project manager is resource management. In other words,

  1. How do we know how much time each team member has to work on projects?
  2. When we’re planning the next sprint, how do we track how much work has been assigned to a team member, so that they have neither too little nor too much work.

Agile planning in theory

In theory, Agile planning should be pretty straight forward.

Imagine we have a team of five developers, each with 6 hours available for work each day. That gives us 30 hours per day, and assuming 9 days of project work (with one full day set aside for retrospective and planning) then within each two weeks sprint we should be able to dedicate 270 hours to development work.

During the planning session then, with the business having prioritised the work to be done next, it’s up to the development team to estimate the size of tasks and stack these up in a backlog. We know that we should aim for around 270 hours of work (or perhaps a little less, maybe 265 hours, to create some slack — breathing room to make provision for some tasks running on a bit longer than anticipated).

Moving through the sprint, developers pull work to themselves and gradually over the fortnight all 265 hours of work is completed.

Within a few sprints the team begins to establish a velocity—the average amount of work that can be comfortably completed. This really helps to plan further ahead as the team becomes both more predictable and reliable.

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