Leadership

2017 Economic Trends: The Specialization of Labor & Global Resourcing

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In the world of services, we’ve seen global resourcing strategy come up a lot in recent discussions. That is because today what are seeing is a dramatic acceleration of the specialization of labor. There is a reduced call for the Renaissance man, who can do a little of everything. There is a greater call for people who have specialized skills and as a result, a great need for global resourcing strategy.

As Harvard Business Review (HBR) put it, “We will now see knowledge-worker jobs—salesperson, secretary, engineer—atomize into complex networks of people all over the world performing highly specialized tasks.” (Read the full HBR article on the era of hyperspecialization.)

What is a Global Resource Strategy?

Using a global Resource Strategy is simply employing tactics to find talent from all over the globe. Today’s specialized, 'knowledge' workers have more opportunities than ever to take on lucrative projects. “Consider how much more finely work can be diced when it produces intangible, knowledge-based goods,” the HBR states. “And the information involved can be transported anywhere in the world nearly instantaneously and at almost no cost.”

And yet for providers managing teams made up of specialized resources, the opportunity for growth has fueled a greater need for control over global resourcing.  In managing resources and the growth in services business globally, we’ve seen two key resourcing challenges come up: reducing bench time and going to market faster.

Keep Everyone Billable

When resource managers have resources sitting on the bench, and unassigned to any project or client, they aren’t making any money. It’s getting harder to reduce this bench time with greater hyperspecialization, too. If I work in the tech industry, for instance, I need people with deep, deep knowledge on very new technology.

I need to find a way to keep these people on billable work as long as possible, ideally 35 hours a week or more, for a fairly specialized task. It's not always easy to find consistent work for a resource that has specialized skills. For one, their rates may very well be higher than other due to their skillset. Second, there is typically less of a demand for a highly specialized worker. Keeping non-billable workers on the schedule will have an dramatic impact on your margins.

How do you cut benchtime to keep resources working 35 billable hours/week for a hyperspecialized task?

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The best companies assemble their teams with an optimal mix of skills as a result. They find ways to put a billable resource on multiple projects at the same time. They reduce resources’ administrative work with efficiency tools and good planning, and they have the confidence and flexibility to quickly move resources on demand. They have greater visibility into current and future projects than the competition and therefore can position their teams to meet these needs much more efficiently.  With the right mix of hyperspecialized skills and detailed visibility into their real-time resourcing needs, these companies become higher performers than their competitors.

The Economic Impact of the Specialization of Labor

Most companies are still managing their business via fragmented tools including spreadsheets and email. This siloed information environment will only become more frustrating as these companies try to grow—or even stay afloat—in a faster-paced services ecosystem. Project managers will struggle for visibility and real-time control over resources and margins.

Mavenlink offers a complete digital infrastructure that enables higher business performance through unparalleled speed and visibility. This complete high-performance platform captures all collaboration, resource planning, and financial information. With everything available at a glance, services providers are transforming their businesses and achieving higher performance levels than ever imagined.

This sets them up for success in the era of hyperspecialized skills.

Building a Network of Hyper-Specialized Labor  

Having the right network means knowing you have the capacity and skill set to take on new business. It takes most of us a whole career to build a strong network. So naturally, companies go to outside talent providers for resources.

Finding quality people can prove hard. Third-party companies including Upwork let you find people quickly. However, the risk is you haven’t worked with these people before. You don’t know anyone who has. They are ranked often by volume of work completed, not quality. Moreover, you don’t know who is ranking them.

On the other hand staffing firms, like Creative Circle and Aquent, will find and vet talent for you. They charge a premium price, however, which most likely will reduce your margins.

In the best case, services providers would be able to quickly tap trusted networks independently, at speed and scale, with appropriate costs. They scale up and down in real time, thus eliminating margin erosion.

This is the foundational vision of the Mavenlink platform for project and resource managers.

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Editors Note: The original version of this post was published in June, 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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