What is Capacity Planning?

What is Capacity Planning?

Capacity planning is the process of determining the amount of work that a team can handle based on its available resources. It involves analyzing the team's workload, identifying potential bottlenecks, and calculating the team's available capacity. By conducting capacity planning, teams can ensure they have the necessary resources to meet their commitments and deliver value to their stakeholders.


Kanban Capacity Planning

Kanban is a popular method of capacity planning that can help teams manage their workloads and maximize productivity. It uses visual cues to identify where work is being done and how much work can be done in a given time frame. Capacity planning in Kanban helps teams identify when they are over or under-utilizing their resources, allowing them to better manage their workflow and prioritize tasks. Additionally, it helps teams understand the impact of changes on the overall process, enabling them to make informed decisions about how best to allocate resources. By understanding capacity planning in Kanban, teams can ensure they are making the most of their time and resources.


Factors to Consider in Kanban Capacity Planning

MSPs usually ask if it’s possible to start on new projects without jeopardizing the completion of existing ones. The answer- yes, but only if you consider the following factors in optimizing capacity planning: 

  • Roles

How teams are structured plays an important part in capacity planning. Two members will hold key roles when it comes to capacity planning in Kanban- a Service Request Manager (SRM) and a Service Delivery Manager (SDM). An SRM is responsible for managing tickets, and tasks queued up for the team, which also entails ensuring all the necessary details are available in order to carry them out. The SDM, on the other hand, will focus on tickets and tasks as it flows through the pipeline up to its completion. They are also responsible for setting the WIP limit and making sure the team is working within it.

  • Bandwidth

Team bandwidth plays a critical role in Kanban capacity planning, as it refers to the amount of work that a team can handle based on their available resources and their current workload. Bandwidth could be measured in time periods like hours per week, but the best practice for Kanban is to focus on work items (cards, tasks, or tickets) per week. If a team's workload is above their available bandwidth, they may experience burnout, decreased productivity, and poor quality work. On the other hand, if the team's bandwidth is not fully utilized, there may be unused resources and wasted capacity. Your team’s bandwidth will also help in determining the next factor, which is- WIP Limits. 

  • WIP Limits

WIP limits represent the maximum amount of work that can be in progress at any given time and this can be set both on a project or individual ticket level. This helps to prevent the team from overloading and ensures that they can deliver work in a sustainable way. By setting WIP limits, Kanban teams can avoid overburdening themselves with too much work, which can lead to bottlenecks, decreased productivity, and poor quality work. WIP limits also help to identify inefficiencies and improve the team's workflow by highlighting areas where work is getting stuck and needs attention.

  • Priority Levels

Priority levels represent the relative importance of each work item and help the team to focus on the most valuable work first. By setting priority levels, Kanban teams can ensure that they are delivering the most valuable work to their stakeholders first, which can increase customer satisfaction and overall business value. Priority management also help to ensure that the team is not overloading themselves with low-priority work, which can lead to decreased productivity and missed deadlines for higher-priority work.


How to Manage Capacity Planning in Kanban

Capacity planning in Kanban can vary from team to team, but it is grounded in these five core steps: 

1. Utilize existing data to forecast demand

Historical data is an important aspect of Kanban capacity planning, as it helps the team to make data-driven decisions and improve their forecasting accuracy. By analyzing historical data, the team can gain insights into their past performance, identify patterns and trends, and make informed decisions about their future capacity and workload.


2. Measure the capacity gap

Measuring the capacity gap is an important aspect of capacity planning, as it helps the team to identify whether they have enough capacity to meet the demand for their products or services. The capacity gap represents the difference between the team's available capacity and the demand for their work, and can be used to identify potential bottlenecks or areas where the team may need to adjust their capacity or prioritize their work differently.


3. Create swimlanes

Swimlanes are a powerful tool in Kanban capacity planning, allowing teams to visualize their workflow and identify potential capacity constraints or bottlenecks. Swimlanes can help teams identify and manage potential bottlenecks, as seen in the example of Brent in the Phoenix Project book, where his reactive problem-solving approach and resistance to change created a bottleneck in the team's ability to deliver new features and improvements. By allocating specific capacity per swimlane, teams can manage their bandwidth and adjust their capacity or prioritize their work to maximize available resources and deliver value to their stakeholders.


4. Increase and improve

The great thing about capacity planning is it provides teams an avenue to drive continuous improvement. The visibility that Kanban offers can help teams experiment with different strategies and approaches from adjusting their WIP limits to changing their swimlanes. 



Kanban capacity planning is an effective tool for managing and optimizing workflow in any organization. It helps to ensure that resources are used efficiently and that tasks are completed on time. By providing visibility into the progress of tasks, it can help to reduce bottlenecks and improve overall productivity. Kanban capacity planning can also be used to identify areas where additional training or resources may be needed, allowing organizations to make the most of their resources.

If you still find capacity planning overwhelming, TopLeft offers trial periods that will allow you to explore the features and advantages of Kanban. You can also book a demo or register on our weekly open-format training sessions for free.