Essential Elements of Services Success: What is Resource Allocation?
This is the third entry in our “Essential Elements of Services Success” blog series focused on helping professional services organizations strengthen the core of their business processes. Check out the first entry about resource management plans and the second entry assessing resource capacity planning.
A great team is nothing without strong resource allocation. It’s the difference between your best employees feeling directionless in their daily work and those same employees thriving on the projects that are right for them.
What is resource allocation and is this essential process being properly implemented and managed in your professional services business? Here, we’ll provide you with a back to basics approach to help you make the most of your team members, with an equal focus on keeping your company moving forward and keeping your employees from burning out.
What is Resource Allocation?
In its most basic form, resource allocation is assigning your available resources to different uses at a company. This can mean employees and other project contributors like contractors, technology, financial assets, and various other tools that all fulfill the definition of “resource” and are needed in order for work to be completed. In professional services, resource managers are most often tasked with focusing on the people side of the equation, with the constant need to allocate the right resource to the right project at the right time. While this can seem like an easy matter of clicking a name in a resource management system, it becomes much more difficult when done in the busy and constantly evolving professional services industry.
Competing project needs, shifting client demands, changing employee schedules – these all affect where, how, and when resources should be used for the greatest impact. But while that may cause resource managers to only focus on immediate needs, the neglect of long-term allocation needs means that larger company goals, like better employee productivity, a stronger brand identity, or a higher return on investment can be negatively impacted. A strong resource allocation plan is required to balance the short and long-term needs of a growing professional services organization.
Essential Elements of Resource Allocation
Here are some of the essential elements resource managers will need at their fingertips in order to conduct resource allocation tasks with clarity, control, and confidence:
- Resource Insights – Knowing which resources you are in your talent pool, what types of work they are typically assigned, what their upcoming availability is, what work they are currently assigned, and any other key work-related information will help you make the best allocation decisions.
- Skill Lists – Having an easily accessible database of resource skills will help you match the right task to the right person and eliminate blind spots that might keep valued resources on the bench.
- Project Scope – Having a complete understanding of a project’s scope and the many different interrelated tasks that will be needed to complete it helps managers allocate with the bigger picture in mind for better long-term planning.
- Task Dependencies – Not every task can be completed at any time in a project, and knowing dependencies will help you allocate work in the right order so team members aren’t delayed and frustrated by their work.
- Time Tracking – It’s not enough to just provide work. Tracking the time it takes to complete that work will help you understand where your employees are spending their work days, whether you are under- or overallocating, and where significant changes need to be made to your workforce.
- Project Progress – Having reliable updates on how far along projects are, what tasks are finished, and what complications are being encountered will make the allocation process much faster and more effective.
- Resource Feedback – Letting your team members provide feedback on their assignments will help you better understand if you are allocating effectively and where improvements are needed.
Of course, these elements can change depending on the person, task, day, and the many larger circumstances surrounding a project. Are you effectively allocating your resources? What tasks give you the most trouble? Are there types of work that your team struggles with regularly? Do you find that the act of allocation is based more on gut feeling and less on proven metrics? Evaluating your resource allocation process and managing your weak spots can help improve all areas of your business.
The Benefits of Strong Resource Allocation
Once a company has an optimized resource allocation process in place, they will immediately begin to see that the task pipeline becomes easier to manage more quickly and efficiently, simply because the right employees are receiving the right assignments without complications. Strong resource allocation practices have a wide variety of positive effects. Some of these are the direct result of simply assigning work better and others come from continued refinements in how your business allocates work.
- Improved Collaboration – Great allocation works like orchestration, moving around and arranging the many different parts of your teams and helping them work in concert with one another so they can more fluidly and easily collaborate with one another. The result is that a good team is made even better.
- Stronger Utilization – Company efficiency comes from strong individual utilization rates, but hitting the right rate only comes from effective, smooth resource allocation that keeps team members flowing between tasks so that they aren’t slowed down unnecessarily.
- Decreased Burnout – On the other hand, poor allocation can put too much work stress on an individual, causing them to have too much work and being burned out by the extreme demands of their job. Effective allocation means providing just the right amount of work.
- Reduced Costs – Great allocation eliminates the money lost from confusion, gaps in tasks, poorly executed work that needs revision, and projects that get delayed or go over budget, improving profit margins across a company.
- Predictable Success – Having better forecasting into future resourcing demands and being able to allocate more effectively against those demands means that your business will be able to find predictable success that it can depend on for years to come.
The best resource allocation strategies combine speed in assigning work with making educated decisions that pull from reliable data. It’s not a simple matter of just keeping the tasks flowing and your employees busy. Who is the right person for the job? What upcoming changes in schedules, influx of work, and competing priorities will shift the availability of your team? Where do you need to hire more, change tools, or change the types of work you provide? Making iterative improvements at the same time as you systematically allocate resources better will compound your company’s success.
What Can Kantata Resource Allocation Do For You?
Do you have a great team, but you just can’t seem to take their work to the next level? Have you been working to improve your utilization rates but seem to have a hit a wall? The Kantata Cloud for Professional ServicesTM provides informative, proactive insights into both resource and project needs that help managers allocate resources more clearly and effectively in less time. Learn more about how Kantata resource management software can support your business needs.