Mark Robinson, co-founder of Kimble Applications, a cloud-based professional services automation solution, provides nine tips on how more visibility in staffing and resourcing can help consultancies grow their business and bolster financial targets.
For a consultancy owner looking to turbocharge growth through best practice in their resourcing function, there are two fundamental challenges. The first is that resourcing information is in constant flux. If someone falls sick, or a project is delayed, everything changes. This makes visibility difficult: getting information out of people’s heads and into a source that everyone can access and trust can be time consuming.
The second is that one of the most potent sources of early information about demand for resources is the salespeople. But they may be reluctant to enter too much information into the system early in the process in case a deal fails to materialise and they are held to account. They could also feel that they wasted valuable time inputting information into the system.
So what should a consulting firm which wants to overcome these challenges do?:
Make it easy for the sales team to do what is expected: In addition to, or instead of, monetary rewards, ensure the sales team knows how this will ultimately make their lives easier. For example, show them how logging opportunities in a sensible level of detail early on makes it far easier for the business to provide them with the resources they need to close the deal.
Earmark resources before the win: Most firms don’t do this because operations doesn’t believe sales’ promises until the paperwork is in front of them. Try putting probabilities in front of pending deals and earmarking resources when the probability passes a certain point. Pencil people against the work as soon as possible, especially if scarce skills are required. This can have the added bonus of showing consultants that there is interesting work in the pipeline for them when their current engagement has finished – boosting morale.
Resource according to the data: Again, working with probabilistic project demand means sales has the data to back up their frequent requests for additional resources. And, if they’re encouraged to provide a data-based rationale, this helps ensure resources are assigned according to what is most likely to boost sales, rather than determined simply by who’s shouting the loudest.
Surface all possible resourcing options early: Since they don’t earmark resources against the forecast, most consultancies look to the contractor market too late in the process of beginning a new project. This could leave them shuffling resources or paying higher contractor rates. Considering the contractor option early gives you a larger pool to choose from, or more time to make permanent recruiting decisions.
Test sales forecast accuracy: Things slip. That’s not necessarily anyone’s fault, but if the forecast is not accurately modelled, how can demand and supply ever be matched? Get into the habit of comparing predicted forecast versus actuals at the beginning and end of every period. But then probe the reasons why variations have occurred and how you and the team will prevent this happening in the future.
Differentiate between role skillsets and named individuals: Particularly in small to mid-size consultancies, project and senior managers will put pressure on resourcing managers to give them specific individuals with whom they prefer to work. Professionally speaking, however, how often do they really need ‘Charlie’ as opposed to simply any ‘senior architect’? Recognizing that someone else with the same skillset will be able to do a job well allows consultancies to scale, while, if there’s only one ‘Charlie,’ not recognizing this can prevent scaling.
Keep a report on who’s coming off projects in the near future: Ensure your system accurately reflects, at all times, who is available and when. If project timelines shift, consultants need to be disciplined about amending the central system to reflect this.
Look out for trends in resourcing requirements: If you notice that certain skill sets are increasingly in hot demand, you can proactively hire or cross train consultants accordingly. Getting ahead of the curve like this allows you to steal a march on your competitors and mop up big contracts while they are still scrambling to find appropriate resources.
Don’t wait to win work before hiring talented people: Consulting is all about the quality of the people and good people are hard to find. So if you come across someone who you think is great, hire them. You’ll be able to find work for good people, but it’s far more difficult recruiting the right people when you already have the work.