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Capacity management: What is it, and why do you need it?

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/everything possible)

Well-implemented capacity management processes can allow your organisation to mitigate the risks of change and growth, while controlling and optimising the costs of running the IT environment. We often find that many organisations are unsure of how best to approach capacity management, with some managers left scratching their heads and wondering how best to implement this into the ITIL framework.

The truth, however, is that capacity management is often done naturally as part of any business’ normal working practices. If there are no formal processes in place, then capacity management will tend to be more ad-hoc and reactive, only rearing its head when there are performance issues – and this can unfortunately lead to massive unforeseen costs. We believe that capacity management should be a proactive process, which applies the level of effort and resource required to achieve an environment where there are no unforeseen performance issues and all systems run smoothly.  

Once this has been achieved, it’s important to implement a regular reporting effort, which highlights the benefits of capacity management, and shows how these processes are enabling the business to function effectively. If your organisation is running smoothly thanks to a robust capacity management plan, the last thing you want is for management to forget its benefits, cut back on its resources, and you find yourself back at square one with the same performance problems and extortionate outgoings to fix them!

So, why do you need capacity management?

In smaller organisations, IT systems are usually well understood and it is relatively easy to “buy” your way out of trouble by purchasing additional hardware at a low cost. However, as businesses grow, two things tend to happen; firstly, the IT systems start to get much larger and it is no longer “cheap” or easy to add new hardware, and secondly, the IT systems become much more complicated and inter-connected making it far more difficult to understand and predict the impact that a change to one system will have on other systems.

Essentially, if you are a relatively large organisation and/or one that is heavily reliant on IT, then you’re likely to find that you need well-defined capacity management processes.

When considering implementing capacity management into your organisation, it’s important to have an overall understanding of the different focus areas, before delving into the specific methodologies. Often, this implementation is modular in approach, and covers the following:

Capacity management consultancy

This will often encapsulate the processes and procedures required to successfully implement capacity management within any IT infrastructure; the best methods are technology independent and enable the quickest possible development of end-to-end performance and capacity management, tailored to meet each organisation’s requirements.

Performance management

Incorporating performance management into your organisation’s IT operations is often a tactical process, which enables you to manage workloads or applications on day to day basis, ultimately allowing you to achieve service and throughput requirements in a timely and cost-effective manner.

Application Management

This is the process of profiling applications throughout the development lifecycle, from design through to production. By testing, this provides insight into both actual and potential capacity requirements and performance, identifying any bottlenecks and recommending remedial action to meet design criteria and minimise cost.

These three processes are closely related, and in implementation they may actually share procedures.

When honing in on capacity management, if you are dealing with any of the following, you will definitely need to proactively manage the capacity of your IT systems:

 – Technological change

– Critical customer facing IT systems

– Regular changes or updates to applications

– Implementation of new applications

– Significant growth

Capacity management will primarily allow your organisation are to mitigate risks and control or reduce costs, however, there are also many other areas which will be positively affected:

–       Reduction in unforeseen performance related incidents

–       Avoiding reputational damage

–       Understanding how “close to edge” your systems are

–       Discovering latent bottlenecks and relieving them

–       Better understanding of complex infrastructures and how they interact

–       Making sure your IT assets are not underutilised

–       Being able to cope with unexpected or extraordinary demand

–       Helping Mergers and Acquisitions to go smoothly

This understanding of capacity management and its benefits should now allow us to focus on what actually constitutes capacity management. The term covers a number of different activities that provide your organisation with a credible and effective capacity management function. These can include:

-        Performance Engineering

-        Performance Testing

-        Capacity Planning

-        Data Collection

-        Monitoring & Alerting

How does it all fit together?

In combining all these activities in such a way to provide and effective capacity management function or service for your organisation, your business can benefit from:

Integration with the Application Development Lifecycle

This can be anything from a traditional development process taking months or even years to complete, to an Agile or Rapid process taking weeks or days.

Business and Technological Change

The capacity management process has to be able to deal with the change being generated by business in terms of changes such as new applications, changes to existing applications, business growth and mergers or acquisitions.

Collecting Data and Reporting

Underpinning the whole Capacity Management process is data collection and reporting. All statistics that are pertinent to the performance of systems or applications should be stored in a Capacity Data Base (CDB).

A strong capacity management consulting process will take all of these sub-processes (and more) into consideration, and will expand them into the individual procedures needed to run a successful capacity management function within your organisation. We specialise in helping organisations to implement and improve their capacity management processes and take great satisfaction in doing so effectively.

If you’re ready to take your organisation’s capacity management to the next level, I have a quick and efficient Capacity Management Audit (opens in new tab) service that will identify where you are doing the right things, where there and any gaps and what can be done to improve the way capacity management is delivered at your organisation. You can also find out more about what capacity management is, and more on why you need it in our whitepaper (opens in new tab).

Leon Levy, Founder, Capacity Management Consultancy (opens in new tab)
Image source: Shutterstock/everything possible

Leon Levy is an expert in capacity management, having started work in the IT industry in 1983 and setting up Capacity Management Consultancy 16 years ago, in 2002.