“Bubble Capacity” has nothing to do with blowing through a soap dipped circular wand. It refers to capacity (in this case IT people) needed to handle spikes in demand. Creating this capacity effectively and efficiently will help your business be more agile and cost conscious.
When the world was a bit larger companies would reactively hire when customer demand increased, only to prompt a layoff when demand decreased. This method is too costly and has negative effects on community good-will and your company’s reputation. There is a more effective and efficient way to handle demand. Depending on how you run your company there are two scenarios. The first is for companies that operate reactively. The second is for companies that are better organized and operate proactively.
For those of you who believe in operating reactively to demand, you have good reason from an investment standpoint. Don’t spend the money until you must. What you will need to do however is establish a supply that is responsive, so you can generate the capacity you need in a short amount of time.
To do this you need to:
- Find an IT partner (yes partner, not vendor – see prior post on differences) that has demonstrated the ability to scale quickly, and who is willing to define this in terms of SLAs across all the IT skills needed by your company.
- Establish a communication and escalation plan with your IT partner that acts as the trigger to scale up specific skilled people.
- Share any historical information that will give your IT partner a sense of what to expect in the future.
- Revisit all this with your IT partner quarterly or semi-annually to make necessary adjustments.
This will establish a “just in time” mechanism to respond to demand reactively but predictably. That way your internal business customers and your external customers can be given a realistic expectation of when you can deliver what they need.
For those of you who believe being proactive is the best way to operate your business, you have a few more tools you can leverage. To mitigate introducing new risks to your operation your “bets” need to be backed up by solid planning and process rigor. To do this you need to:
- Same as with reactive; find an IT partner (yes partner, not vendor – see prior post on differences) that has demonstrated the ability to scale quickly, and who is willing to define this in terms of SLAs across all the IT skills sets needed by your company.
- Provide a seat at the table for your IT partner when you discuss business strategy, annual planning and operational governance. There will be some things you hold close to the vest, but your IT partner will be most effective if you share as much as possible.
- Collaborate with your IT Partner to define a capacity plan that meets the needs of your annual project initiatives.
- Agree and sign off with your IT Partner on an agreement to provide the capacity you need within a margin (e.g. 20%+/-) that aligns to your commitment of funding for that capacity. Define terms that cover business change so that enough notice is given to mitigate risk and cost to both parties.
- Define a more granular plan over a rolling 90-day period in terms of a 30-60-90 day capacity plan. The general idea here is to work backwards from 90 days so that proper steps are taken to ensure specific people are engaged where they need to be as close to the time of need as possible.
- Define a Risk Abatement Plan that increases the confidence of the 30-60-90 day plan by anticipating and abating the potential for risks to turn into actual issues.
- Establish a communication and escalation plan with your IT partner that is used to resolve issues and persistently adjust course during the process.
- Establish quarterly or semi-annually governance reviews with your IT partner to review outcomes and to make any strategic adjustments necessary.
You can choose to leverage reactive or proactive Bubble Capacity from your IT Partner. Either one will avoid the obvious downside of the hire-then-fire alternative for skills that are not core to your business or are not needed on a continuous basis. This can be done for an entire project or used as an effective means to augment your internal IT Team. Getting in to the right “mix” of internal and external talent is a topic for another discussion. Small or large scale, the advantages of leveraging your IT partner for Bubble Capacity are real.