Capacity management was an important driver for the development of ITIL®. The original team writing the ITIL books back in the 1980s evolved from an earlier team dealing specifically with capacity management and performance measurement.
Initially, capacity management was almost completely technically focused, reflecting the expensive hardware and storage days of the 1980s, where efforts were rightly focused on getting the best possible performance – and maximizing the capacity – of the hardware available, to secure the best possible value for the considerable quantity of money typically spent on that hardware.
Since those days, the scope of ITIL capacity management has evolved and expanded to reflect changing times:
More significantly, ITIL now sets out a capacity management scope that is much wider than operational infrastructure. That scope stretches from business capacity, through service capacity, and then down into the traditional focus area of component capacity. But, for many, this wide spectrum is neither well understood, nor well practiced.
The sheer scale of this range makes it difficult to appreciate, especially when viewed from an IT service management (ITSM) perspective. Not least, this is because the wide range of experience, knowledge, and skills required is unlikely to be found in one individual, making successful ITSM capacity management very much a team game, requiring empowerment by managers for those with specific expertise.
Let’s start with a non-IT example: the fashion industry – an industry where one individual can theoretically have all the necessary skills to offer their clients the whole range of capacity management.
Our fashion industry capacity manager starts with business capacity management. What’s needed are the answers to key questions like:
These are answered by attending the right trade shows, seeing what the world’s designers are showing, and understanding what can be copied.
That solved, we come to service capacity management, whose questions are more like:
There are many more questions like that of course, which our fashion capacity management expert would answer for their customers. Don’t worry if your fashion knowledge doesn’t stretch to understanding them all; this is just an example.
And then we come to component capacity management, which deals with what you need to have in order to actually make things happen. In our fashion example, for instance, this covers, among other things:
Specifically, component capacity management actually gives you the answer to what you must buy, obtain, own, etc. in order to deliver what the organization needs.
So, putting it all together, we see that the whole spectrum of capacity management – from business through service to component – is necessary to create the key deliverable: what the organization needs to buy and implement. In ITSM, this is what is known as the Capacity Plan.
Let’s take that fashion analogy back into IT services now.
Yes, the distance from start to finish in IT is greater and the difference between understanding the business environment and the need for components much wider.
But the key message should ring true all the same. We need to know what materials and skills will have to be supplied and available over the next accounting period (a year for most of us) to deliver what we have to deliver. In order to know that, the first two sets of question need to be answered first (and in order). Without the answers relating to business capacity management, we cannot answer the service ones. And without the service ones we don’t even have meaningful questions about component capacity, let alone answers.
In ITSM, we are likely to need either the business themselves or external consultants to answer the higher level questions. And we need answers in a way that the IT- focused guys doing component capacity can understand and process into good answers.
Do you have this level of support available for your IT capacity team? Do you expect them to find it for themselves? Or do you just focus on getting better at what you did last year, rather than what you should do next year?
In the fashion business, if you keep making last year’s dresses, you probably won’t survive at all. That situation holds true in IT too!