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ITIL and ISO 20000 – How to setup the Capacity Management process

When I started exploring ITIL and ISO 20000, what I figured out is that the Capacity Management process is involved in many operational activities, but also in most of the other IT Service Management (ITSM) processes. My further involvement in ITSM proved that fact.

Because it is so important – or better to say, because it influences so many other processes – Capacity Management should be a well-set process, according to both ITIL and ISO 20000. And that’s where the simplicity ends. There is no cookbook to explain how to set the Capacity Management process. This process will depend on your business and related services. But, fortunately, there are many elements in the scope of Capacity Management that are common to all companies, and give you a good chance to setup the process.

Any prerequisites?

Actually – yes, many of them. The reason for this is that activities in the process rely (heavily) on information and corresponding systems. To be more precise, without good preparation, the Capacity Management process can’t be performed. So, let’s see, then, what the prerequisites are.

First of all, you should be aware of your organization’s business, service, and technology components. These are the three sub processes of Capacity Management:

  • Business Capacity Management
  • Service Capacity Management
  • Component Capacity Management

Since we have a whole article devoted to these sub processes, Three faces of Capacity Management, I will not go into more detail here. The point is that each of these sub processes provides inputs you need during the preparation phase. For example, if you have a service and you need to make a Capacity Plan for it – it’s a must for you to understand its functionality (what does this service do?) and the related technology behind it. That will give you input about the components that support this service, and that’s where you can be concreate with numbers (meaning measurable targets). So, here are the elements that you need to consider during the preparation phase:

  • Capacity Management Information System (CMIS) – this is a repository of all your capacity-related information. The CMIS is connected with the Configuration Management System (CMS; you can read the article Knowing your herd – Service Asset and Configuration Management (SACM) to learn more about the CMS) and extends existing information by recording data about a component’s utilization and thresholds, and provides reports.
  • Capacity Plan – this is your formal plan where you will define how to deal with capacity requirements for a certain service, as well as how to overcome capacity issues (e.g., shortages).
  • Roles and responsibilities – as with many other processes, it’s crucial to define the responsibilities of all people included in the process.
  • Related processes – the Capacity Management process is related to almost all other processes within the scope of IT Service Management (ITSM). Here are a few examples: Service Asset and Configuration management (SACM) is responsible to setup and manage the CMS. I mentioned already that Capacity Management has a sub process component capacity – which requires (and relies on) information from the CMS. In Financial Management, you need to know the utilization of your components/services to charge appropriately. Other related processes included Incident Management, Change Management, etc.

The process itself

So, you are done with preparation. Great – that’s a huge job that gives you the foundation where you can start building your process and related activities. As with many other processes – a policy is an excellent beginning.

Policy – This is your guideline throughout the process. In the policy you will define the general parameters of the process. A Capacity Policy could be a stand-alone document or integrated into the process description. A few examples which the policy should define are:

  • Generalities – scope of the process, roles, responsibilities, tools in place, integration with other processes, etc.
  • Capacity planning – declares the Capacity Plan (and its scope and depth of details) as a mandatory document during design of a new service or change of an existing one.
  • Capacity acquisition – here you will define the threshold for particular types of capacities (e.g., percentage of storage space that triggers extension of new capacities), priority for acquisition, the way you do procurement, i.e., reuse existing equipment, etc.
  • Capacity incidents – since they affect users directly, incidents are always a hot topic and should be tackled accordingly. The Capacity Policy should define responsibilities to support Incident Management, but also some technical details that help to distinguish between what are incidents and what are allowed deviations related to the component’s / service’s performance.
  • Monitoring and measurement – this is necessary to keep the situation under control, i.e., to know where you are and what (if anything) you need to do. This will include definition of tools, responsibilities, reports, etc.

High-level process description – The next step in the Capacity Management process setup is to group activities, i.e., to define the high-level process, which is shown in Figure.

  • Review current capacity and performance – The first set of activities includes monitoring and measurement activities, which will give you an overview of the current state of the components and the service itself. Based on these results, corrective activities will follow (e.g., when a certain threshold is reached).
  • In the next step (improve capacity), you will try to improve the performance of the components and, consequently, the service. Here you will analyze existing and potential issues related to performance and create actions to overcome them.
  • Based on the measurement and experience with existing components and services, you should try to forecast capacity needs, i.e., demand for the service.


Figure: High-level process description

The Capacity Plan includes creation of Capacity Plans (as described earlier) for each type of capacity you support.

Detailed activities – The high-level process description will group similar activities, but in practice you will have to detail activities with associated roles and their responsibilities for each group of high-level activities. For example, while reviewing current performance you need to define the components or parts of a service that need monitoring (e.g., it’s not necessary to monitor all components, only critical ones). That will differ from service to service. Once you know what should be monitored, you have to know who is doing that, which tools are used, the parameters that you will measure, the thresholds, and what to do once the threshold has been reached.

Never-ending story

So, your process is setup and everything appears to be under control. Well, that’s just the beginning of the “journey.” Namely, setting up Capacity Management belongs to the design activities, but once the process is set, the operational activities will rely heavily on this process and the results of its activities. That’s a burden, but also an opportunity to influence efficiency once the services are used in the live environment.

Use our free  ITIL and ISO 20000 Tools to check your compliance with ITIL and ISO 20000.

Advisera Branimir Valentic
Branimir Valentic
Branimir is an expert in IT service management (consultancy, training and tools), IT governance (training and consulting), project management and consultancy in IT and telecommunication. He holds the following certificates: ITIL Expert, ISO 20000, ISMS Lead Auditor and PRINCE2.