Another driver of resource planning is talent and experience. Everyone brings different skills, experience, and work preferences to the business, so staff aren’t always easily interchangeable. In selecting resources for a challenging engagement for a key client, wouldn’t you like to know who’s done this kind of work before, maybe even for this same client? Or, who has the right certifications and skills?
You’re probably thinking that you have this information – but that’s in your HR system, accessible by only a precious few. Find ways to bring this talent into your resource planning approach so you can select resources not just by available capacity, but also by ideal “fit” for the engagement. You’ll avoid resource shuffling, and the best people on the project there are more likely to deliver on time, and within profit expectations – a win for everyone involved.
Almost all firms have performance expectations for key drivers of profitability, such as resource utilization, job margin, or client profitability. Some firms may have blanket expectations, and others may have variable targets. Performance expectations may be stringent and absolute in some firms, and perhaps an understated guideline in others.
Most firms typically expose results after the work is completed. By then, it’s too late to make adjustments on work or resources that failed to meet expectations – an obvious fact to most firms. The problem is, most firms can’t easily calculate the anticipated outcome while the work is still in progress. Often the profit expectation is locked in the firm’s back-office financial system, while the work itself is managed by the front office, using a different tool. Look for ways to bring financial and project information together, so staff and managers alike can see how progress, resources used, or billable hours are impacting expected profitability. By exposing the target and constantly updating performance against it as the work is performed, managers can make the necessary adjustments to keep the results within expectations.
While you may hope that all planners rely on the past and carefully select resources, perhaps this advice on bringing your firm’s information together will make it easier for your firm’s planners to follow these steps. And, with better information leading to even more accurate plans, you’ll see more consistent, repeatable profit from your firm’s work.
Drew West is the director of marketing for Deltek, a leading provider of enterprise software and information solutions for professional services firms and government contractors. With headquarters in Herndon, VA, the company has more than 1,600 employees worldwide.