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Searching for a "capacity awareness" app that monitors/juggles hours...

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Scott Wilkinson
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Joined: 22 Jan 2018
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 Hello All—I'm a marketing and communications professional, but not a PMI-certified project management expert. Obviously, though, PM is a big part of my work, and I've managed countless projects over 3 decades in the industry. Recently our organization has struggled with capacity issues—the usual: too few staff, too much work. Prioritization based on our mission and strategic plan are, of course, important. But I'm finding that capacity—as expressed in how many hours are assigned/available to each person on a weekly basis—is at the core of our difficulties. What I'm looking for may already be a part of many PM systems and apps, but let me describe it briefly and see if anyone has a recommendation. This is my idea of how an app like this might work: • The app starts with 40hrs/week for a single individual • Estimated project hours are entered into the app, which automatically applies them to the weekly schedule—not to specific days or times, just as a bulk quantity of hours—which are then subtracted from the starting 40hrs/week. • As the step above is repeated, the app keeps track of the total hours (either estimated or committed) applied to work weeks in the future; the app would also retain info about which project the hours are associated with. (But keep reading—I'm not just talking about a simple time tracking app...) • If a new project is entered with no deadline, the app simply adds those hours to the running total (after all previously-entered hours)—and shows how many full weeks you already have (e.g. without a deadline, the app just assigns your project to the next available hours—which could be a month from now). • (Here's the really useful function): If a project is entered and has a deadline prior to the next available free hours, then the app alerts you with a message like "Something has to give! You have already committed 40hrs to other projects this week. Please choose the project (or projects) you'd like to take hours from this week for this new project." • Finally, in the case of the above step, the app would then bump (or juggle, or cascade) all the other project hours further down the calendar. The idea behind this app is that it's not a full PM app, but rather simply just a capacity-awareness app; a way for you to see, at a glance, how booked you are (for the next X weeks or X months), and it does the "hour juggling" for you when you try to force more than 40hrs/week into the schedule. I realize that this can probably be done using traditional task- and project-based PM apps; but it would be more difficult. What's different about my envisioned app is that its "basic unit of currency" would not be tasks, to-do's, or projects—but hours, plain and simple. (One could continue using another PM app for all the tasks and projects—informed by the underlying capacity awareness this app would provide.) What I'm envisioning might be accomplished with a cleverly-designed Excel spreadsheet—but I have no clue how you would build the functionality of cascading all hours forward on the calendar when additional hours (beyond 40) are added? Finally, what motivates me to try to find (or build) an app like this is that no matter how well-managed projects are in a given environment or organization, PM systems invariably fail to take overall capacity into the equation (presumably because this is assumed to be somerthing you manage "intrinsically" in the process). Most PM apps (I'm talking about apps like Asana or Basecamp) let you keep track of projects, tasks, and deadlines...but they don't address overall capacity. And the only way I know of to address overall capacity is using hours—because we all have a finite number of hours to work in every week. And in my own prioritization, I often find that not having an aggregate  "total committed hours" for a given week or month in the future makes knowing what my capacity is very difficult (often leading to over-committing). So if I had something that would "babysit" the hours for me and tell me at a glance how many hours are already committed for this week or next week (or 6 weeks from now), it would be very easy for me to say "if I move this project up the priority list, it will push my schedule out X days or X weeks for all these other projects." Some might say "this is what task dependencies are for." While similar, what I'm talking about is a more overarching accounting of all committed hours in the future—and a way to easily shuffle them around as priorities change. (I can easily estimate hours for an upcoming task or project; juggling all those estimated (committed) hours is much harder!) I hope this makes sense. And I'm hoping someone will say "Sure, you need [insert app name here]; it does exactly what you're looking for. LOL Thanks!Scott