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Using A Capacity Plan To Support Your Small Business Expansion

by Sylvia Miller

It's time to move your operations out of the back of the warehouse and into a larger space and hire more staff. As your business expands, so do your computing needs. Capacity planning allows you to forecast the resources you'll need as the company grows. Here is the information your plan needs and how it uses it to support your growth.

The Value of Outside Resources

You'll find that using IT consulting to develop the plan gives you an unbiased perspective on the future resources needed. Tap into a group that specializes in your industry to take advantage of their experience with trends. Using an outside resource allows people to focus on your plan and not be distracted by operational duties, such as would happen if you assigned the planning project to your staff.

The Critical Inputs

There are three sets of information that are used in capacity planning. They often take time to extrapolate from your business, which is another reason to use consulting resources. You'll keep staff tied up gathering data otherwise.

Workloads

Every user role has a specific workload. The workload can differ based on the timing. For instance, your accounting staff is much busier at month end than at other times. Documenting the amount of work done by different roles at different times is the first input to your capacity plan.

Service Level Obligations

This is a measure of how much of the workload can be expected to get done in a given amount of time. For example, you may establish a service level of three days to complete the month end close for the accounting team. The capacity plan will indicate the resources you'll need to maintain this service level as your business and workload grow.

Current System Capacity

This is a measure of how many users your current system can support doing their jobs, how fast they can do their jobs and how much work can be done simultaneously. This gets used in capacity planning to determine the computing resources you'll need when increasing the number of users or tasks that must be done.

How Your Plan Uses These Inputs

With these three measurements, the planner can now adjust one or more values to see the impact on the other measurements. For example, if you increase the number of users and maintain the same service level, you'll need more computing capacity. If your budget doesn't allow for more computing horsepower, you'll have to adjust the service level down to accommodate more users.

The capacity plan is a complicated document to produce. It's also critical for success when expanding your business. Don't tie up your staff with a capacity planning project. Rely on an outside consulting group experienced with your industry to give you the best analysis of your future needs.

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