If you’ve ever worked with IU Comm, you’ve probably heard one of our project managers say, “okay, let me get with our capacity planner to put a schedule together and I’ll get back to you with a timeline.”
We know you’d rather hear that we’ll get started on it right away.
But here’s the thing. At any given time, we have between 300 and 400 jobs in our queue. Some of them are small, like a signature or a postcard, and can be knocked out quickly. But many are much larger in scale. These projects require huge teams of people and can take months to complete (think big websites, like the College of Arts and Sciences).
It’s up to our capacity planner to make sure everything moves through the agency as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
I sat down with Tim Vinson-Chastain (or TVC, as he’s known around here), our assistant director for operations and capacity planning, to learn more about how capacity planning works and what we can all do to keep things running smoothly.
Explain to me what capacity planning is.
Well, when a job comes in, I look at what resources are needed to get it done and then I pull together teams based on their skill sets and availability.
What I wish people understood is that it’s more a matter of math than anything else. There are a finite number of people at IU Comm, and there is a finite number of hours they can work. So if, for instance, you want a new website but the people needed to make that happen are already booked for the next three months, I can’t get your project on the schedule until they’re free.
You can’t make two plus two equal six. And there’s no way to squeeze more work into an already full workday.
Is there anything clients can do to get their project done faster?
Get started quickly and stay engaged.
We put together our timelines based on what we’ve learned from previous projects that were similar. So we know how long it’s going to take to get things done. Every project has milestones put in place to catch problems early and keep things moving.
When we hit those milestones, we’ll reach out to you for your input. At those points, we really want to know what you think. So don’t be shy—tell us! The faster we get your feedback, the faster we can implement it and move on to the next stage.
You’re not just our client—you’re our partner. When we work together, everyone’s happier with the results.
But why do you have to be so precise about your scheduling? Can’t you just tell your teams when things are due and let them figure it out?
Not if we want to be able to keep up with our workload and keep our teams sane.
It’s like this. Say you have a to-do list, and you need to get five things done this week. You could make them all due on Friday, but if you do that, you won’t do much on Monday and Tuesday because why would you? You’ve got all kinds of time.
So you really get started on Wednesday and then you spend all day Thursday and Friday freaking out because you have too much to do. It’ll all get done, but probably not as well as it could be, and not without a great deal of angst.
But if you organize your list so that one thing is due each day, you move smoothly through it with a minimum of teeth gnashing.
IU Comm works the same way. Capacity planning helps us do a better job because we know exactly what we have to do and when we have to do it. Everything just works better.
Is there anything clients can do to get moved to the front of the line?
No. Absolutely not.
The good thing about our financial model is that everyone has to pay to get their work done—and everybody pays the same amount. That means nobody gets priority. It doesn’t matter if you’re a small department or a large school. The moment that MOU is signed, I start putting together your team. And we’ll start your project as soon as they’re available.
Why can’t you “rush” projects?
It’s really inefficient. When we try to rush, teams actually end up spending more hours on the project and doing more work—which makes the job more expensive overall. And the quality suffers. No one wants that.
What can clients do to make sure their projects stay on schedule?
There are two things. The first is to meet your deadlines—your team needs you to supply information and give feedback in a timely manner to keep things on track.
The second and most important thing is to make sure we have a clear point of contact. One person who’s in charge of collecting information, consolidating and prioritizing feedback, and ensuring we have clear direction at all times. That way we don’t spin our wheels trying to figure out who we need to listen to and what really needs to happen.
So there you have it. The basics of capacity planning at IU Comm. Hopefully you have a little more insight into how we work and why.
If you have any other questions, let us know in the comments below!