EP. 02
Operations / Sales

The One Where We Try To Gauge Team Capacity

August 16, 2022

The Quest to Understanding and Optimizing our Team Capacity at 8020

Why is understanding team capacity important?

Team capacity assessment is the process used to evaluate the amount of time and effort a project requires to succeed, determining whether a team can handle it and ensuring the efficient use of employee time. On paper, it should be a pretty straightforward process since there are plenty of tools and formulas to calculate team capacity. But in day-to-day operations, understanding team capacity within a no-code setting is quite complex. Amongst other things, we've found that you need to be able to: optimize skills allocation, be prepared for unforeseen circumstances, and get as much accurate real-time data as possible.  

Optimize skills allocation

Making sure you have the right people for the job is crucial. Especially since each no-code-based project will require a different skillset and tool knowledge. You need to assess if you have the internal expertise to tackle each stage of the project, or if it would be more time efficient to hire a contractor for certain areas.

Be prepared for unforeseen circumstances  

No matter how much you plan ahead, or how idyllic your team is, you will face the reality that people need personal time off, and have commitments or emergencies to attend to that will directly impact their bandwidth — unless of course your team is made up of no-coder robots (which would be very meta).

Get accurate real-time data

Team capacity management does not depend on you or your agency exclusively. Sometimes projects unexpectedly pause, resume, and have all sorts of setbacks (due to client feedback, delays, and more). So, it is tricky to accurately predict what your team's real-time capacity is and how to successfully reallocate those resources.

To address these hardships, a big part of our strategy for team capacity planning is becoming psychics trying to anticipate challenges in resource availability and time constraints during the sales process. Clients will always want to start the ball rolling yesterday, but we need to fight the urge to sell-sell-sell and pause to holistically assess how much we can actually deliver with the assets we have to ensure stellar results in each project.

In this episode of Insider, Jake and Sebastián share our ongoing journey through the past, present, and future scenarios of our tracking, managing, and improving team capacity assessment at 8020 over the years.

In the early days of our team capacity tracking

Estimating your team's capacity might be overwhelming at the beginning, but rest assured that no one is born knowing how to perfectly handle it at first — and we are no exception. Don't worry no-coder, you do not need to have the perfect solutions, you just need to start testing ideas out.

Everybody starts somewhere, and here's how we did.

  1. Loom Chronicles:
    We used to do weekly Loom stand-ups. Seb, who was PMing all of our projects at the time, would document an overview condensing all the information from our current engagements and send them in video format to the team. It was like a portrait of all our projects. It was cool at first, but some of these weekly updates could take up to 15 minutes — each! So as our agency grew bigger it became unsustainable.
  2. Several Slack channels:
    Our Operation and Bizdev team used to connect across a bunch of Slack channels: #operations, #bizdev, #projectmanagement, #admin, ones related to specific projects, and more. And although it worked, keeping everyone in the loop was hard. We were tagging people all over to provide them with context for every decision.
  3. Notion ➝ ClickUp:
    We had been using Notion to track all our projects, but decided to migrate to ClickUp because of the limitations in Notion for automation and project management.
  4. Traditional Gantt view:
    We had a Gantt view where we could see all of the projects' start and due dates. The limitation here, (to the view, not ClickUp) is that it didn't show project participants per area: Devs, PMs, and Sales. Also, the information was misleading because not all of them were working on the projects at all times.

Key takeaways:

  • 10-15 minute Loom videos? Not ideal for a heavy week. To guarantee scalability, we suggest making operations updates short and sweet for everyone on the team.
  • Slack updates were good when we had a smaller team, but we quickly grew out of it. As a no-code studio, agency, or freelancer we recommend you to shoot for building a trustworthy single source of truth. In our experience, that can help avoid important conversations and decisions getting lost in no man's land.
  • Having a traditional Gantt view is useful. However, having enough visibility of not only the projects, but the assignees and their stacked commitments (aka Swim Lanes) is a key component to estimating team capacity more accurately.

A look into how we gauge team capacity now  

Fast-forward to the present time. We learned a lot from our previous procedures, identified the areas of opportunity, and reassembled new strategies for estimating our team's capacity. Although we still do not have a perfect system, we have one that works.

Here's how we do it now:

1. Weekly PM Bot + Reacjis:

We use this Slack feature to get a temperature check of our team's overall notion of their capacity.  Our PM Bot weekly posts on our #project-management channel and encourages our team to share their current work status, ranging from "I am open" all the way to "S.O.S".

2. ClickUp:

We are currently using ClickUp as our main project management tool.

a. Roundup view:

We use this to assign developers and designers to projects, and to track progress. But more than that, this view merges all of our areas (Ops, Admin, Devs) in a single dashboard. It is updated every week for everyone to have the same visibility on the nuance of all of our projects at any point of the week. As the cherry on top, we can also monitor the status of the contracts, and even how many invoices have been paid or are outstanding per project. Definitely a game changer for our Sales <> Ops syncs.

b. Gantt view ➝ Swim lanes:

This ClickUp view has helped us to show a cleaner timeline for projects. We can view projects stacked on each other and see at a glance the workload of developers, designers, and PMs based on project timelines. While this is helpful because it provides visibility on the number of projects everyone has at any moment, it is not perfect because we don't know the actual size of the projects from this view. It's still very good progress from what we had before, though!

Key takeaways:

  • No one will have a better understanding of team capacity than your team members themselves. The Reacji scale has been a very helpful communication tool between areas, allowing our Sales and Ops teams to better understand the limits and ranges of the team. While it is still not the most precise system, we are working on improving it to make it more accurate.
  • Bye-bye long Loom chronicles! ClickUp has helped us to condense crucial information for each project and slowly has become our single source of truth. Regardless of the project management tool you are using, we recommend you try to concentrate all of your areas in a single view to keep everyone in the loop and aware of important details.
  • ClickUp isn't flawless, but it is very flexible. Having a tool that allows you to build automations and workflows to keep your company's areas glued together is a game-changer.
  • Our swim lanes view unlocked a new level of visibility to the equation for us. The stacking of projects has allowed us to understand how many projects everyone owns and the current status of each and every one of them. Having this information can increase the chances for you to allocate resources efficiently.

Why don't we use an existing framework to track team capacity?

You might be wondering why we haven't used an existing team management framework to tackle some of our obstacles. Don't worry—we are not trying to reinvent the wheel, but we do have some reasons why we think there is currently no tailored formula in the market for us:

  1. We are a no-code studio. And, unfortunately, most of the current team capacity frameworks out there are built with product teams in mind. While we love adapting ideas from other industries, we like to keep things simple — so we are still brainstorming what our best options could be!
  2. We do not track time regularly at the moment. First of all, snore! Tracking time in the traditional form is not a fun task for anyone. And secondly, our no-code studio has a fixed price policy for most of the projects, so (for the time being) it is not super helpful for us. Although we are experimenting with it here and there, who knows, we might one day... never say never, right?
  3. In the end, we'd want to balance out implementation efforts vs potential benefits.

Key ideas:

  • We are constantly evaluating if using an existing framework could work for our no-code studio. For the moment, we think it might be a good idea to try out a lighter version of one that doesn't add too much overhead.
  • Maybe there is an ideal tracking system that we yet don't know of. If you know of one, we would love to hear from you!  

Leveling up the capacity tracking game

We have come a long way from the start of 8020 when we tracked the capacity of 4 employees to the present date, where we have more than tripled in size. But, the story does not end here. We are always trying to improve and upgrade our strategies to have a better understanding of our team's capacity at all times. As our company grows, so does our level of granularity.

So, what does the next level look like for us?

  1. Track pauses in projects:
    Although we try to perfectly plan and predict the course of each project — life happens. There are a lot of pauses (due to client requests) within projects and sometimes we have no way of moving quickly enough to reallocate those resources. We are trying to find a way to know if we can squeeze in short projects in between large ones, or even a large one as we roll up all pauses.
  2. Compare projects objectively:
    Every project is different, so trying to measure capacity in terms of the number of projects delegated is not the most objective KPI. Knowing the complexity of new projects and being able to compare them can help with both pricing and team capacity tracking.
  3. Balance our resources:
    Poor planning and miscommunication are the fastest ways that lead to burnout — one thing we try to avoid at 8020 at all costs. On the other hand, we also do not want to leave resources on the table. We are constantly searching for the right equilibrium between our Sales team and our Ops team.

Here are some experiments we are currently working on.

1. Reacji Bot v2.0:

In case we end up migrating our Bot from Slack to ClickUp, these are two options we are evaluating at the moment:

a. Battery scale:

In this view developers and designers can update the workload status of their current week and the next one. The scale is meant to represent how "charged" or full our team is at a given moment, and how much they can handle in upcoming projects and tasks.

b.  Emoji scale:

This view is quite similar to the one we previously used in Slack. On learning we've come across recently, though, is that when we asked the devs for ideas/feedback, some said that people don't want to say they are swamped, or completely open (and we get it, it can be kind of misleading). Plus, our emoji scale is too subjective still. For instance, if someone responds with the "Can handle more" Reacji... how much more could they actually handle? Are we talking of a few hours or days? So, finding a way of making this measure more precise is next on our list of priorities.

2. More fields on tasks:

To better make use of the data generated, we are testing tags for our informal time-tracking experiments. One of these fields contains our current services, for example. I.e., migration, design, development, integrations, and more. We think that if we were to track tasks on every project and tag them adequately, very interesting information would come up as we rolled up the whole of our efforts.

Key takeaways:

  • Sometimes project views can be deceiving. Keep an eye out for pauses, extensions, and delays in your projects so that you can quickly reallocate your resources and work in harmony with both your team and clients.
  • Having a common language to understand the size of new projects (including renewals and change orders) can allow you to plan ahead the costs, benefits and resources need for success — or at least we theorize so!
  • For your sales team, (or your inner multifaceted entrepreneur) having an objective KPI can help you comprehend exactly how complex the components of a project are and how they compare to other projects.
  • Team capacity changes from week to week, so it is crucial to try to move away from subjectivity as much as possible and quantify it, in whichever way works best for your team.  

Stay tuned for the next chapter of this episode. This is still a work in progress, so we might have changed our minds completely by the time you read the next episode on Team Capacity — we hope to have made some progress though, at least!

The next episode of Insider comes out in two weeks. In the meantime, if you have any ideas (no, really, ANY ideas) of what you'd like to hear us talking about, we'd love to hear them out and integrate them into the streams.

Hasta la próxima, no-coder!