Capacity Planning and Project Management

Capacity Planning and Project Management

 Author by Chris Greco, MS, PMP, CISSP

“Infinity and Beyond!”

Buzz Lightyear, Toy Story


“I’m so tired…I was up all night trying to round off infinity.”

Steven Wright (Goodreads, 2015)


Everything is finite.

If there is nothing that you learn from this article, remember that everything is finite.

There are many project managers that, in my opinion, have not come to this epiphany during their career.  You have heard them in meetings.

“Nothing is impossible.”

“We can do anything.”

“The sky’s the limit.”

Well, I am here to tell you that anything is possible in a project.  But what the project manager will not tell you is that anything is possible as long as you have an unlimited amount of cash and/or people.  In other words, anything is possible if you have an infinite amount of resources.

Everything is finite.

This brings us to the purpose of this article – capacity planning.

“Wait a minute, Chris,” I hear you saying. “You just said that everything is finite and now you are going to talk about capacity planning?”

Yes, because everything is finite, that means that those concepts introduced in project management must also be finite.  First, a quick explanation of how capacity planning relates to project management is necessary.

Project Management, according to some teaching texts, is composed of three major elements.  These elements are cost, time, and performance/technology (Kerzner, 2009).  Some texts replace “performance/technology” with “scope” or “quality.” (Project Management Institute, 2008)

Now that we have a very general view of the project management elements, the next step is to compare them with capacity planning.



Everything has a capacity, which means that everything is finite.  This means, logically, that everything has a finite capacity.  This means, by extension, that the three elements of project management also have finite capacity, which can be proven element by element.

First, let’s discuss the element of cost.  Cost, by its very nature, has a capacity.  If one goes to buy a car and does not have the requisite amount of money (beyond its capacity, so to speak), then the cost of the car is beyond your capacity.  If one cannot afford the car, then the car’s cost is more capacity than you have in your pocket.

How would you use capacity planning to prevent this?  You would save or get a credit loan, or some other way of affording the car (being within the cost capacity).  The same is true when planning a project.  A project has a cost and the project manager must plan for that cost, ensuring that the budget does not outspend the cost of the project.  Hence, cost is finite, and capacity planning can help plan for that capacity.

Second, we move to the element of time.  Except on science fiction movies, relative time is finite, even though people would contend that time is infinite.  If one is talking about all time, there are some that say that time is infinite, while others say it has a beginning and end (Dr. Tejman Chaim, 2009).  In any situation, when joining time with a specific project, the idea of infinite time to do a project is only for procrastinators.  Therefore, in the case of time and project management, we are talking about a finite object.  How do we capacity plan for time factors?  We use a calendar, or other project planning tool to ensure we are on time (and schedule) to complete the project.  In actuality, tracking time is relatively straightforward since all time is regulated by the 24-hour day.

Finally, there is project performance.  Project performance is something that is regulated by the requirements levied by the business customer (or other user customer) (Kerzner, 2009).  Requirements, again by their very nature, are finite.  For instance, if you want to build a deck for the back of your house and you decide that you want to make it two-story, composed of synthetic wood and add a canopy and a variety of other options, you are adding requirements.  At some point, those requirements have to stop and therefore are finite in nature.  Capacity planning for requirements is as simple as a list of “must haves” from the customer (even if it is you) and then sticking to those requirements.  The more requirements you have, the more the performance of that project may degrade.  For instance, by adding a canopy to the deck, the deck may become weaker in a wind storm since the wind will produce more torque on the deck than without a canopy.  In other words, by making the deck “better” you have made it weaker.  So, capacity planning is necessary to prevent this “over requirement.”



What have we shown?  We have the three main elements of project management – cost, time, and performance – and have used the concept of capacity planning to show that none of these are infinite (in relation to projects).  By exercising capacity planning, the project manager can prevent many problems with cost overruns, timeframes, and performance. All you have to remember is: Everything is finite.



Dr. Tejman Chaim, H. (2009, November). Time Continuum. Retrieved May 12, 2015, from Theory of Everything:

Goodreads. (2015). Retrieved from Goodreads:

Kerzner, H. P. (2009). Project Management. New York: Wiley and Sons.

Project Management Institute. (2008). Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide), Fourth Edition. Newtown Square: Project Management Institute.