Doing capacity planning for business stakeholders?

If your business stakeholders not used to estimate the effort for a task, but you still need to do capacity planning: This post is for you!

On this post I give you examples of:

  • How I do capacity planning for my business stakeholders
  • How I use MS Project as support for this task.

You will find here:

  1. Some reflections about how to do business stakeholders capacity planning
  2. Pragmatic assumptions that will help you to do your capacity planning
  3. How I use MS project to do capacity planning for business stakeholders
  4. How I use MS project to create capacity reports to communicate with business stakeholders

1. Few words about managing business stakeholders’ capacity

Capacity planning is something natural for people who works in projects.

However, capacity planning is not always what our business stakeholders do, as they work in “business as usual” mode.

Most of the time, business stakeholders’ drivers to complete tasks are urgency and deadlines, the effort needed.

Your business stakeholder cannot give you an estimation of the effort she needs for a task?

No problem! you can still do some things to do proper capacity planning:

  • Estimate the minimum effort you need to ensure the team doesn’t get block
  • Create awareness about the impact on the planning given the estimated business commitment
  • Use this first estimation to create a baseline to show how the real time invested impacts the planning

In most of the cases, business stakeholders don’t register their time, so the “real time” they invest must be “estimated” by the people in the team who are interacting with the stakeholders.

It is not a problem if the “real time” is not 100% accurate.

Our goal is to have an idea about the time spent by the business stakeholder and how this is impacting the activities of the team.

This information will allow you to negotiate a different investment of time, if needed.

2. Defining pragmatic estimations, assumptions and agreements

When my stakeholder is not able to give me estimations of the amount of effort for her tasks, this is what I do:

  • Base my planning on a product oriented work breakdown structure
  • Decomponse each project deliverable in priorities, use cases and tasks
  • Consider that each task has a duration of one week
  • Estimate the business effort to two hours per week and per task
  • Create the first planning with no parallelization of the tasks at priority level
Work breakdown to do business capacity planning
Work breakdown structure for business capacity planning

Why two hours per week and per task for business?

I consider this to be the minimum commitment from the business stakeholder an analyst needs to be able to work.

Doesn’t matter if your business stakeholders consumes these two hours in a one single meeting or in several small calls during the week.

What is important here is to have the commitment of these two hours.

If the business stakeholder spends more time during the week, doesn’t matter for the moment. It will matter when the new effort becomes stable on time.

3. Managing business capacity using MS project

Let’s start using MS project to make all this more concrete:

3.1. Assign 2 hours of business effort for tasks with 5 working days of duration

As you can see in the image below, I use the split view Gantt Chart / Task Form. To know the steps on MS project for the view below, read this article.

For all the tasks with 5 days of duration I assign 2 hours of work to my business stakeholder.

business stakeholders capacity planning effort estimation

For the development tasks for the use case, with a duration of 10 days, I keep the estimation of work for my business stakeholder to 2 hours.

business stakeholders capacity planning ms project usecase estimations

3.2 Sequence the tasks needed for different use cases and priorities

My goal here is to create a view that shows to my business stakeholder how the planning will looks like if:

  • The business effort for each task needed for each use case is estimated to 2 hours
  • We start the identification of use case for each priorities sequentially
business stakeholders capacity planning sequence use cases identification
  • Additional business activities for another use case inside the same priority don’t start until the development activities of the use case has started
business stakeholders capacity planning tasks sequence

4. Reporting capacity planning for business stakeholders

The goal of these reports is to be in conditions to tell to your business stakeholders the following:

This is the current planning given the number of hours per week (or month) that you are considering to invest in the project.”

To create these reports I just use some available views on MS Project that use the data introduced in the preview step.

  • Monthly capacity planning: “To keep the planning, this are the monthly hours I need from you”
business stakeholders capacity planning monthly view
  • Weekly capacity planning: “To keep the planning, this are number of hours I need from you”
business stakeholders capacity planning weekly view
  • Weekly effort histogram: It gives you the same information that the weekly capacity, but I prefer this due to the visual effect that facilitate the communication
business stakeholders capacity planning weekly work histogram


  • To do capacity planning for business stakeholders is not always easy, specially when they are used to work in that way
  • The goal is not to get the exactly number of hours your stakeholder must invest, but to create awareness about how the planning is impacted with the hours she will invest
  • Still, if your business stakeholder can’t give you an idea of effort, ask for the minimum amount of time she invest per week, and use this as the estimation

Please, leave me a comment if you need more details or you have a different way to do capacity planning for business stakeholders that are not used to work with estimations and do not time-sheet in your project.