9 ways how improved resourcing visibility can support growth

12 September 2016 Consultancy.uk

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?:

Resourcing of consultants

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.

9 ways how improved resourcing visibility can support growth

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.

Related: PSA solutions can help consulting firms gain a competitive edge.

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PA Consulting results reveal record 14% revenue growth

17 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

Global professional services firm PA Consulting has reported another year of strong growth, outpacing the global consulting market significantly over the duration of 2018. PA’s revenue boomed by 14%, passing £455.8 million over the course of the year.

Founded in 1943, by Englishmen Ernest Butten, Tom Kirkham and David Seymour, the firm once known as Personnel Administration has since gone on to become one of the largest consulting firms in the world. PA Consulting Group, as it is now known, has over 2,600 professionals and a global presence spanning 18 countries. While turnover took a decade to recover from a rocky spell after the global financial crisis, PA Consulting is now firmly on the upward incline.

PA has booked strong growth in recent years, following its securing of private equity investment from the Carlyle Group in 2015. While the first full year of results following that move were slightly muted, due in part to the altering of how PA measured its results, the decision has clearly paid dividends since. Revenues jumped by 6% in 2017, hitting an all-time high of £400 million in the process.

Annual consulting revenues of PA Consulting versus UK market

Now, in the latest chapter of the firm’s rapid turnaround, the innovation and transformation consultancy has revealed things only got better in 2018. A set of record results released in April have confirmed that fee income rocketed up by 14% over the course of the prior 12 months, hitting £455.8 million. Considering the UK’s consulting market saw growth slow for the second year running (just 5.6%), PA’s performance is even more pronounced, especially in its first year of full results since influential Chair Marcus Agius stood down. 

The firm is also outpacing the global consulting market. Analytics firm Statista estimates that the consulting market expanded by 4.08% in 2018. As a result of such bullish demand, PA Consulting has also bolstered its staffing, boosting its consulting team’s headcount by 10% in the space of 12 months. 

PA’s team was further strengthened with its continued acquisition campaign, which brought three new firms into the fold during 2018. Boston-based innovation company Essential Design, specialist digital service design firm We Are Friday and London-based digital insight and strategy consultancy Sparkler all became part of PA over the course of the year. PA has also announced plans to recruit 400 professionals for its new digital centre in Belfast. 

‘Not traditional’

In terms of client work, in the UK PA supported Skipping Rocks Lab to create an edible alternative to single use plastic drink packaging, and worked on a notable restructuring project at disability charity Scope. Further afield, PA helped Norwegian authorities deliver their citizen-facing digital services, while in the US and India, PA partnered with Virgin Hyperloop One to build the first new mode of transport in a century, one that hopes to revolutionise travel. It even worked with United Nations to identify the technologies most likely to contribute to the achievement of the organization's Sustainable Development Goals.

Commenting on the year’s performance, Alan Middleton, PA Consulting CEO, said, “We’re not a traditional consulting firm and we think this is key to our ongoing success and why 98% of our clients recommend us… Our people are strategists, technologists, digital experts, consultants, designers, scientists and engineers – all of whom bring real-world experience, and apply it at pace. We offer the innovation, design, digital and transformation skills that our clients need to change, fast. There’s a sense of optimism behind our purpose. And it’s a feeling that inspires our people as well as our clients.”

The existing staff of PA also enjoyed a bumper year, as it was revealed that a refinancing manoeuver at the firm was expected to land over 1,000 employee shareholders a significant pay-out. The firm’s debt, which includes vendor loan notes put in place when Carlyle purchased the firm, is set to be refinanced in a deal worth £350 million.