How to Go from Simple to Strategic Capacity Management
by Bob Torz
If IT Was Like a Restaurant…
Then capacity management should be like the restaurant manager (aka Maître D’).
Unfortunately, too many organizations are using capacity management as the clean-up department. When something goes wrong, capacity management fixes it. And while that used to work, that’s not the best practice to follow today.
A Brief History of Capacity Management
Capacity management used to be simple (or at least, simpler). There was a big box in a big room and when it filled up, it was replaced with another big box.
Then came virtualization, the cloud, and software as a service (SaaS). But capacity management practices stayed the same, even as the environment got more complex. And following the old process of replacing the box with a bigger box stopped working.
So, IT is now stuck between a rock and a hard place. IT wants to use capacity management to drive business value. But, many businesses have tried to push IT as far away as possible.
What Capacity Management is Today
Today, many IT departments are still doing capacity management at a basic level. They clean up messes—like server sprawl, VM sprawl, and cloud and container sprawl.
That happens when IT is low in capacity management maturity. They react (by cleaning up messes) instead of taking measures to avoid those situations in the first place.
There are five levels of capacity management maturity: chaotic, reactive, proactive, service, and value. A recent survey from Kelton found that most companies are stuck between chaotic and reactive. Doing capacity management this way used to be enough.
But many IT teams are under pressure to be more proactive with capacity management—especially in the financial sector. Auditors want costs avoided—not just risks mitigated.
Plus, there’s the downtime factor to consider. IT teams are accustomed to cleaning up ticketing systems, websites, and ATM failures after problems happen. But if your IT team is proactive in capacity management, your organization can avoid that downtime in the first place.
What Capacity Management Should (and Could) Be
Capacity management should be proactive and add value to the business. You should be able to effectively plan your technology and service so that downtime isn’t a problem.
(And if you’re reacting to situations and cleaning up messes, you already have the skills and tools to do capacity management proactively.)
For capacity management to be what it should be, you need a capacity manager.
Think of IT like a nice restaurant.
Both IT and a restaurant operate on a simple premise. For IT, it’s to keep systems up and running. For a restaurant, it’s to provide food. And both IT and a restaurant aim to deliver outstanding service along the way.
Though both operate on a simple premise, it’s often a lot more complicated under the covers. IT needs to manage every bit of infrastructure and technology—and service to employees and customers. A restaurant needs to manage the kitchen and staff, while keeping service times short for customers.
But a nice restaurant has what IT doesn’t: a Maître D’ who can keep everything on track.
The Maître D’ works with every part of the restaurant to keep it running smoothly. That means knowing the status of the kitchen and staff—and what that means for the customer. So, s/he can tell the customer if there is a wait and how long it will be. And s/he can decide if the restaurant needs more staff, equipment, or furnishings to meet market demands.
This is useful when a customer comes in at 6:30 p.m. with tickets to the theatre at 8:00 p.m. The customer needs to know if s/he will make it to the performance on time. The Maître D’ can assure the customer—and make sure the kitchen and staff keep up.
For IT, the equivalent should be a capacity manager. This person can make sure there’s enough infrastructure (but not too much) and make sure the systems always stay up and running.
How to Get to Strategic Capacity Management
Doing capacity management strategically can be hard. It means being proactive instead of reactive. And it means doing more than just replacing a box with a bigger box.
To do strategic capacity management, you’ll need buy-in from the business—and that means getting the C-suite on board.
Companies who’ve successfully gone from simple to strategic capacity management have one thing in common. They’ve typically had a capacity management success on one highly visible event. That could be successfully launching a product (without breaking anything), or it could be avoiding downtime during a peak transaction day.
Here’s how to do it:
- Understand business goals (and how IT can support them)
- Use advanced predictive analytics to test changes to the systems
- Predict if any hardware is needed to process those changes (and how much)
Need help with predictive analytics? Get the software >
Making a product launch or peak transaction day run smoothly can be difficult. But when you do it successfully, you’ll have a strong proof point for your business. And that’s what the C-level executives need to see to recognize IT as a source of business value.
Ready to do strategic capacity management? Read our Guide to IT Service Optimization Maturity