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Revisiting capacity planning



Stuart Higgins reports on the results of a recent survey among ITSMF UK members, which underlines the importance of capacity management in meeting corporate availability and strategic marketing objectives.


The IT industry is heading for significant growth in 2016, with the pace of technological change continuing to intensify and an ever increasing deluge of data. As organisations look for ways to transform their ITSM capabilities to deliver against ever-increasing service level expectations in this landscape, capacity planning is re-emerging as an important tool.


To provide us with a sense check on the changing role of capacity planning in the IT service management landscape and to help us fully understand how organisations are using this discipline today, Sumerian recently worked with ITSMF UK to conduct some research amongst its members.


The ITSMF survey complements research undertaken with Populus during August and September to uncover the key trends shaping the current and future capacity planning landscape and attitudes towards IT capacity planning within large enterprises. Within the Populus survey, the overriding conclusion was that many organisations are still not placing capacity planning high enough on their agendas and as a result are planning for IT change blindfolded.


For example, of the 94% planning an upcoming change to their IT infrastructure in the next 12 months, 34% admit they find it difficult accessing the necessary capacity data required to support major IT changes and reduce their risk exposure. As a result, UK enterprises are putting their IT service capability at significant risk, with 29% acknowledging that capacity issues still account for a sizable proportion of their critical outages.


The ITSMF survey supports these findings, and of the five questions that were put to itSMF members, the answers identify some compelling trends.


The results here show there is a clear and established role for capacity management insight to support major change initiatives, and so reduce risk exposure.


At 67 per cent, identifying the root cause of capacity problems was cited as the second most common application of capacity management information, signifying that the majority of organisations are encountering capacity related issues, and addressing them reactively. This is something we see all too often, with many businesses still seeing capacity management as a largely reactive rather than proactive discipline.


Having easily accessible information that is straightforward and intuitive to use dramatically improves its applicability and usefulness. The survey results clearly show, however, that accessibility to good quality capacity information remains a huge barrier. With less than a quarter of respondents noting that their organisations are able to deliver easy to understand and up-to-date capacity information, that leaves over 75% having to rely on information that is either out-of-date, difficult to access or difficult for them to understand.


One of the standout results from the survey is that two thirds of organisations still rely on spreadsheets to carry out their capacity planning activities. Using spreadsheets for capacity planning involves a lot of time and energy, and leaves a wide margin for human error.


While spreadsheets have a very special place in the history of capacity planning and offer huge flexibility, given the complexity of today’s IT environments and the new tools and technologies now available, they really belong to a by-gone era. Large organisations with high availability requirements in particular need to adapt quickly to minimise risk and plan for business continuity. An outage could mean anything from bad press to millions in lost revenue and disappointed and frustrated customers. This dependence on spreadsheets is certainly a cause for concern, and we expect to see this ratio decrease over the coming year as more organisations move to adopt the latest capacity planning techniques and tools.


Having the information to hand is one thing. Being able to understand, communicate and apply it in a successful and beneficial way is a completely different story. The survey found that almost two thirds of organisations’ IT development teams are unable to clearly articulate their capacity requirements.


Having the information to hand is one thing. Being able to understand, communicate and apply it in a successful and beneficial way is a completely different story. The survey found that almost two thirds of organisations’ IT development teams are unable to clearly articulate their capacity requirements. As the crossover between IT and marketing continues to gain pace, clear communication between teams and team members is vital if an organisation is to successfully transform or maintain its IT landscape, and ensure that its infrastructure is able to cope with the inevitable peaks and troughs in demand. 

Proper capacity management and planning, combined with clarity of communication, can allow a business to truly work back from the customer experience, and ensure that its IT infrastructure can cope with the ongoing changes made from a business perspective. It will ensure the efficient alignment of IT resources to meet the needs of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and at the same time deliver the transparency and understanding for the CIO and CMO to successfully realise their joint ambitions.


All IT managers at large organisations must have a Disaster Recovery (DR) plan in place, and generally they do. But with the fast-paced nature of technological evolution, the typical corporate IT infrastructure is constantly changing. When it comes to DR, the majority of organisations in the survey review their DR plans once every 12 months. At 60 per cent, this traditional cycle can catch some organisations out. On the other hand, with almost 30 per cent reviewing their DR plans every half-year or more frequently, this is a positive sign that organisations are taking the potential for capacity outages seriously. Overall, both our research studies reaffirmed what we already suspected; that many organisations still have a way to go in establishing and maturing an effective capacity management capability. To meet ever increasing expectations from the business, capacity planning needs to re-emerge as a key priority for 2016, and its value should not be underestimated.



Stuart Higgins is Technical Evangelist at capacity management specialists Sumerian



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