For those leading a Professional Services organization today, it may come as no surprise that seven of the top ten business challenges that peers expressed in the 2018 State of Professional Services report are linked to the topic of resource management. Another recent professional services industry study conducted by market research firm, Research Now in conjunction with Mavenlink, found similar results with the challenges of “forecasting resource demand” and “managing unplanned change” being two of the most formidable. With the well-publicized shifts taking place in the modern workforce and the unique demands on today’s technology services business in the service level economy, resource management is clearly on the minds of many.
What Makes Resource Management So Difficult?
Without a doubt, getting the right people on the right work, at the right time is one of the most difficult challenges today. At the root, often processes and infrastructure are out of date and the identification, assignment, and scheduling of resources are handled using primitive and limiting methods, via email and spreadsheets.
Fueling the fire, many teams find themselves with just one person or a small number of people within the organization holding the tribal knowledge about the resource pool, including competencies, skills, client preferences, etc. Those assigning resources to projects often fall into a trap of leveraging the same people over and over again, due to their personal knowledge of the skills of certain individuals gained through geographic proximity, and past projects. These approaches unnecessarily constrain visibility and utilization of the entire available resource pool and limit the speed and degree to which an organization can react to new opportunities and change.
Luckily, there are trends of centralization and digital transformation surging to change the game. While there are varying degrees of centralization and digitization an organization may adopt, the natural outcome is that resource management becomes more all-encompassing and strategic, versus a fractured, tactical effort.
Whether these topics are on to-do list or initiatives you launched long ago, here are four modern-day resource management tips provided by TSIA’s John Ragsdale and Mavenlink’s Chris Scalia to help you succeed, as first introduced in their webinar, “Agile Resource Management: Best Practices of High Performing PS Teams”:
Tip #1: Hire Dedicated Resource Managers
According to TSIA research, only 59% of services organizations surveyed actually have a dedicated resource management function. This is a necessity for organizations with more than 25 or so employees. Often, services organizations choose to have multiple resource managers over different geographies. If this ends up being the case for your company, make sure that each resource manager has a view of the entire resource pool, including those that are scheduled on projects in other locations.
Tip #2: Take a Full-Cycle Resource Management Approach
Full-Cycle Resource Management is an approach designed to help make sense of and facilitate efficient and effective resource management, through the lifecycle of multiple concurrent projects. Reality is, with today’s rapid delivery cycles, optimizing utilization often means scheduling resources on multiple concurrent projects at a time. The Full-Cycle method consists of four phases that help the resource manager accurately forecast resource needs, scenario-plan resource approaches, allocate resources by role or by name, and make sound resource updates on active projects at the speed of change. Adopting this structured, systematic approach to resource management can help your organization become more agile, predictable, and profitable.
Tip #3: Enable Role-Based Planning
Many projects are doomed from the start, which makes planning all the more important. Once client requirements are known, the resource manager must have a clear picture of the types and quantities of resources required to execute the project. But how do resource managers plan resources if they have inadequate information on resource expertise or roles that can be played?
In order to get the right people on the right projects, it is important resource managers not only have a view of availability, location, cost and bill rates, but first have ready information about the roles their resources can play in order properly model and estimate projects, scenario plan, and forecast capacity needs relative to coming demand. With role-based planning in place, resource managers will ultimately be more effective at planning and optimizing the organization’s resources for the long haul.
Tip #4: Adopt an Operational System of Record
All too often, the information necessary to make resource decisions lives in disparate systems across an organization’s tech stack. Planning in one tool, scheduling and time tracking in another, project management in a third, and collaboration and communication in a host of other systems. Most of these systems were designed to make work more efficient, but they tend to have the opposite effect today, as workers spend substantial time bouncing between them. The American Psychological Association estimates that “shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40 percent of someone's productive time.
Having an Operational System of Record in place to plan and deliver your services can help combat the productivity loss and help your team execute with greater precision, agility, and predictability. With a single application driving your operation, your team is more easily mobilized, information is centralized, and processes are more naturally and efficiently facilitated. Also, when you have a single source of truth in place, the entire resource pool is in view, capacity is more easily planned, responding to change on in-progress projects can be done more swiftly, and utilization is more simply optimized.
In summary, although resource management may be an ongoing and often daunting challenge, it’s not insurmountable with today’s modern approaches and technology at your disposal. With these tips in hand, your organizational journey towards conquering this age-old challenge may be closer and easier than you ever imagined.