MS Project – Managing your team the agile way

Follow our tips for an effective, team-oriented approach to agile capacity planning. Our step-by-step guide will help you determine how many productive hours are available within your team for the upcoming development sprint.

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As a project manager and supervising a team of 15 people, I have to take responsibility over a series of different issues in communication, resources, and risks. The daily challenges on my path are various. On one hand, the clients – constantly changing their priorities, defining new goals or demanding unplanned changes. On the other, the team availability. There are the holidays, training, sickness, part-timers, consider. To keep the project time and cost under control, the visibility around man-days, team organization and disposal around sprint goals is key. So, how to calculate sprint capacity in man-days for agile team management?

Let’s say, each sprint is 2 weeks. So it’s not as easy as (number of team members * number of days in sprint) or for example, (15*10) = 150 man-days. A project manager thus needs a tool that helps to keep an overview of team availability and man-days capacity for each sprint and to ensure everything runs smoothly. Over the past years, I struggled with finding the right solution for an accurate project plan and estimation.

The possible solutions

My initial thought was to use JIRA Tempo Planner. We were already using it in different project stages and it helped to manage sprints, backlogs, and releases successfully. However, using JIRA for team management would mean another plugin in your local JIRA installation and if you are going to use this to calculate only the sprint capacity, the cost cannot be justified. JIRA was over and done. I decided to give a go with plain old Excel. With little automated features, this meant the need to create my own calendar, insert details of the people, their availability and create my own grouping via pivot tables, etc. A lot of manual work and a limit of views you can have on it, which can be a major disadvantage for agile team management.

And then I remembered – The MS Project tool is still on my computer! Being considered a typical waterfall product, MS project is not often used in agile environments. But I was ready to show its potential, as I will demonstrate in this article. Simply because MS Project must be viewed as a database and so it’s agnostic of the methodology that you use. The calendar, grouping possibilities, etc. are already there. I just needed to configure the project and enter the data!

A step-by-step guide

  • Open MS Project and set the start date of the project.
  • Enter all the names of the team members in the Resource sheet and their group, this is useful later on, to group people in views

Resource sheet

  • If your sprint starts on Tuesday, then it’s easy to set the start of the work week also on Tuesday. Then the capacity is summarized in a correct way later on.

set the start of the work week

  • Now add the national holidays to the calendar

Add holidays to the calendar

  • Open Gantt chart and add a task for each team member
    • Set each task as an automatically scheduled task
    • Set the start/finish date that he/she will be on board
    • Enter the units, the team member will be available.

gantt chart

In the Gantt chart you can create a new view that groups the team members by their group

  • Click on the View tab and then New group by ..
Groups on Gantt Chart
  • Give it a name and select Resource group

resource group

  • Save the filter
  • You can now select it

groups selecting

  • It would be possible now to add the holidays etc. to the team members’ proper calendars but that would push the end dates of the tasks in the future. And it’s much slower so go to the Resource usage view and modify them here by setting them to the correct values on a day-to-day basis. It’s important the number of work days becomes smaller without increasing duration.
    • For example Mike doesn’t work on the 18th of July: replace the 0,6 by 0

MS Project team- members

  • And Nils is a week off



Now you build a view here also to group and see capacity:

  • Click View and Group by: Resource group

group capacity

  • Change the Timescale period to Months in the Middle Tier and Weeks in the Bottom Tier

timescale  MS Project

  • You should have something like this now

group resources sprintI have 24 development days in the first week and 17.6 in the second week of this sprint.

  • Save this view as a new view

gantt chart new view

  • And next time open it immediately

gantt chart custom view

If your sprint starts in the beginning or in the middle of the month you can set the count of weeks to 2

timescale count of weeks

Then the days are summarized by 2 weeks - your sprint length

gantt chart summarized weeks

This gives me the power of MS Project and its different views and the calculation at the same time. Even with regular team sizes, I believe that this can be of great value to correctly predict the capacity for the next sprints.

Published on    Last updated on 01/07/2019

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About the author

Isaac Van Der Straeten is Project Manager at Amplexor, based in Belgium. With over 20 years of experience leading projects across industries, at Amplexor he’s the driving force behind client website and software implementations. Isaac is certified as Project Management Professional (PMP) and Scrum Product Owner (CSPO).