Capacity Management | ITIL Version 2

ITIL offers a framework of structured, scalable, best practices and processes that organizations can adopt and adapt to fit their own operations. 

What is Capacity Management in ITIL?

Capacity management is the practice of right-sizing IT resources to meet current and future needs. It’s also one of five areas of ITIL Service Delivery.

Effective capacity management is proactive, not reactive. Those doing well at capacity management make sure that business and service needs are met with a minimum of IT resources.


What Things Are Included in Capacity Management?

There are plenty of IT tasks that fall under the umbrella of capacity management.

Here are some of them:

  • Monitor, analyze, and optimize IT resource utilization
  • Manage demand for computing resources (this requires an understanding of business priorities)
  • Create a model of infrastructure performance to understand future resource needs
  • Right-size applications to make sure service levels can be met (without overdoing it)
  • Store capacity data
  • Produce a capacity plan that covers current use, forecasted needs, and support costs for new applications/releases
  • Build the annual infrastructure growth plan with input from other teams

Why Should I Implement Capacity Management?

Capacity management is critical to keeping IT costs down and quality of service up.

Most organizations use it to:

  • Get more out of existing IT resources
  • Improve IT cost per service unit positions
  • Fine-tune applications and infrastructure components
  • Improve performance, reduce consumption, and delay upgrades
  • Eliminate redundant work
  • Ensure consistent reporting
  • Provision capacity efficiently
  • Make informed business decisions using timely capacity and related cost information
  • Provide insight into total cost of ownership (TCO) of IT upgrades and initiatives
  • Predict future use based on growth levels
  • Uncover bottlenecks with enough time to stop them before service is affected

Capacity management teams also have close ties to ITIL service level management and financial management areas.

In fact, capacity management processes lead to more thorough service level and associated financial information for the business. And this helps business leaders make more informed decisions.


Where Do I Start?

Capacity management is often the starting point for an ITIL Service Delivery initiative.

Here’s why. It offers quick, early wins. And these typically create enough cost savings to fund the remainder of your ITIL project. In our experience, such savings are typically in the millions of dollars.

Plus, recovering implementation costs and showing success keeps the project afloat. (This also encourages upper management to stay the course and reduces resistance in your organization.)


5 Steps to Successful Capacity Management

As with all major projects, proper planning is key. If you’re looking to get your project off the ground, here are the five steps you should take.

1. Gather the Data

To plan for where your capacity is going, you need to know where you’re at. That’s why it’s important to identify a capacity manager and form a capacity management team.

This team can then:

  • Develop a mission, including desired end-state goals, processes and responsibilities
  • Assess the current state of capacity management
  • Evaluate existing capacity management skills of the IT staff
  • Take inventory of tools and software currently used for monitoring, capacity planning, performance management, and chargeback
  • Collect budget details for capacity management work
  • Perform a gap analysis to reveal areas that require process improvements, training, or software

2. Build the Plan

Next, you’ll need a plan for implementing capacity management.

Typically, your plan should:

  • Establish the three major components of capacity management (people, processes, and tools)
  • Outline the necessary costs and build a preliminary budget.
  • Determine where capacity management should be placed in the organization
  • Decide on either a formal, centralized capacity management team OR a matrixed organization
  • Establish workflow, including data inputs, information outputs, and work processes
  • Allocate sufficient time for training
  • Identify any necessary work to acquire, consolidate, and/or implement capacity and performance tools

Once you have your plan (and budget) in place, you can submit it for approval.

3. Execute the Plan

Ready to act on your capacity management plan? Here’s what you’ll need to do.

Your first step in executing the plan is to build the team. This includes determining the size of the team and writing job descriptions complete with position names, salary grades, and skill requirements.

Next, you’ll need to document and publish the processes. This is usually a lot of work. But it is important minimize the impact of a disruption on day-to-day activities.

Processes usually cover:

Then you’ll need to acquire and implement the appropriate tools.

These tools can usually do the following:

  • Infrastructure monitoring
  • Data collection
  • Automated reporting
  • Analytics
  • Modeling

Your next task is to implement metrics for success. But be sure to tie your metrics to business value (not just technical measures). That’s what your upper management team wants to see.

Finally, you must build the training materials and execute the training plan. The better your staff understands the work and the processes, the greater your chances for success.

4. Open for Business

Once you’ve executed on your plan, you’ll want to focus on managing performance. And a key part of managing is measuring.

For starters, choose a visible (but not so complex) area to measure. Typically, this will be a low-risk problem with wide visibility and significant benefit to the company.

Plan to gather at least 30 days of historical performance data before developing any trends or models. Start with simple, platform-specific capacity planning. Then work your way to end-to-end application transaction and business processes.

5. Review After Implementation

After capacity management is going full steam at your organization, it’s time to take a step back and assess.

List the lessons you’ve learned. And identify any changes that should be made to the process in the future.

We recommend performing a post-implementation audit after 6–12 months. This should give you plenty of time and data to determine what’s working and if there’s anything you can improve.

Need more help along the way? Check out Getting Started: A Manager’s Guide to Implementing Capacity Management.


Start implementing ITIL with capacity management

Learn what you need to get started with a capacity management practice and how to choose tools to support this aspect of ITIL. 

Or learn more about Vityl Capacity Management