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5 steps to create innovation capacity

(Image credit: Image Credit: Igorstevanovic / Shutterstock)

It is a truism that innovation is at the top of the agenda for all businesses. Innovation is an important element to staying competitive, bringing new products to the market and creating new revenue streams. However, companies must be able to deliver on that innovation, bringing such ideas to market. Behind every great idea are the resources utilised to develop it, meaning that capacity planning and resource management must too be at the top of every company’s agenda.   

We all love great ideas, but the problem is not in generating innovative concepts for product development. It is in knowing which ones are right to take further and ensuring that the correct resources are available to deliver them. Most organisations constantly battle with the following decision: either let a great idea sit on the shelf until the resources become available, or push the idea into an already crowded funnel and start squeezing resources to fit into schedules. Yet, with the right technology processes put in place and a cultural change within organisations, resourcing will allow innovation to thrive, relieving the all too familiar pain points of business executives.   

1. Create visibility into pipeline demand 

Unplanned projects have a huge impact on resource utilisation and product launch timelines. Not only do they create delays and backlogs within the company, they also incite a lack of confidence. In fast-paced sectors such as technology, where change is constant and innovation is key, work must be moved forward to meet such demands. If this does not occur, a business will lose its competitive edge and stakeholders will no longer see the benefits of investment. Indeed, having a clear knowledge and visibility into what work is in the pipeline will prevent such challenges occurring. Project prioritisation and capacity planning enables project managers to have a real-time, on demand view of current work, therefore reducing the amount of ‘zombie projects’ – those projects that take up resources and yet never come into fruition. Up-to-date capacity systems help to deliver the highest value and bring the highest priority products to market.   

2. Understand resource capacity   

Once there is a clear understanding of work that is in the pipeline, companies must then be able to efficiently translate the data that is available in order to ensure that employees are not over-servicing and projects are resourced efficiently. A recent study (opens in new tab) into resource management showed that 59% of organisations surveyed believe their top risk of not improving on capacity planning is the inability to complete projects on time. It is clear that organisations know the importance of effective resourcing, however, not all are aware of the additional benefits new systems can have. Internal silos within companies can be bridged as there will be a greater ability to manage shared resources. Not only does this utilise each department efficiently, but it also creates a holistic approach when trying to resource for each new project.   

3. Gain a comprehensive view of resource capacity and pipeline demand

Business executives are all too familiar with company processes that are inefficient and as a result thwart an increase in revenue. Gone are the days when executives need to painstakingly trudge through endless spreadsheets detailing capacity for each team. New software that can be implemented company-wide is a huge asset not only to the day-to-day work of project leads, but also means that they have a single source of truth when other senior members of staff and stakeholders ask for a breakdown of ongoing work and the resources attributed to each project. Such technology, therefore, will help project leads meet the demands of stakeholders and executives, making sure that up-to-date and factual data is shared. Once this accurate information is shared, project leads know they have full confidence from their seniors in making resourcing decisions going forward. Indeed, this will ensure that employees have the capacity to bring innovative ideas to the table, but will also improve the time-to-market of converting such ideas into tangible projects.  

4. Conduct continuous prioritisation and planning for greater agility    

As this new technology provides real time updates for capacity in each team, project managers no longer have to worry about this being done sporadically after long intervals of time. A great deal of companies run capacity plans at a monthly or annual rate, posing a significant challenge to project prioritisation. A portfolio analysis that runs constantly will approve each process through real time information. One of the biggest advantages of this is that resource management begins to become engrained into the culture of an organisation, with a much more streamlined process. Such technology now reduces what can be a long and complicated system into a single automated process, freeing up employee’s time to concreate on developing new revenue streams.   

5. Run and analyse “what if” scenarios  

Perhaps the main reason why resource management is so key to allow for innovation to flourish is due to its value in allowing companies to have the capability to respond to innovation opportunities in minutes, hours or days, rather than weeks or months. The time it takes to evaluate whether or not a company has the resource capacity to take a new, unplanned project is vital for a business to survive. Each senior manager should have the confidence to back their decision to develop an innovative idea into a new project through using facts that are generated by capacity planning software. Business executives are primarily concerned with achieving revenue targets and new business that can accomplish this and such software allows for the evaluation of capacity to take on new projects which then allows for innovation.  

Capacity planning is precise, but as is with anything, practice makes perfect. Implementing best practices will allow the process to become repeatable and scalable as the company grows. It will become embedded into the culture of an organisation rather than be a disconnected process. When it comes to project prioritisation, there must be a process in place that doesn’t allow for the loudest voice to win as factual data will back up the reasoning behind each project going forward. As such, effective capacity planning is instrumental in creating an innovative culture as employees have the resources to go beyond their own remits, creating new ideas to benefit the company as a whole. As the study has shown, 48% of organisations are concerned about their inability to innovate fast enough. Yet, with a full understanding of resource capacity, businesses will have the correct structures to allow innovation to flourish.    

Capacity planning is a key part of work and resource management, an approach that enables companies to integrate strategy and execution across all their work and resources, with the capacity and financial resources required to accomplish their objectives. Work and resource management solutions uniquely encompass all the different ways companies are working. Learn more here (opens in new tab)

David Stevens, VP EMEA and APAC Sales, Planview (opens in new tab)

Image Credit: Igorstevanovic / Shutterstock

David Stevens has 25 years’ experience in helping organisations solve business issues related to portfolio, resource and project management across EMEA. David has worked with a range of industries and stakeholders, helping organisations at varying levels of portfolio management maturity address their business challenges.