Why Resource Managers Are the Unsung Heroes of a Services Business
By Mark Robinson
People often ask what is the most important role in a professional services business. Is it the business development team who win the big deals or the marketing people who find many of those deals in the first place? Perhaps it is the consultants in the field who deliver successful projects and do such a great job that clients end up wanting more. The finance team who report the numbers and manage the cash deserve a mention too. Let’s not forget the leadership team, who in many cases founded and grew their businesses.
But none of these gets my vote. For me it is the people responsible for resourcing people onto projects. In a consulting operation, managing efficient allocation of people to projects can have the largest impact on profitability. “Utilization is king” is the phrase often used. Yet in far too many companies the resourcing role and associated business process is often under-valued. It is seen as an administrative role rather than a key operational function. The Kantata Professional Services Cloud has been designed to take the administrative tasks away from the resource manager and allow them to focus on providing value added services, which enable their organizations to realize tangible benefits.
1. Your People are Your Profits
In a business selling products, as soon as an order is received, the product is dispatched from stock or built in the factory. Manufacturing and distribution techniques such as ‘just-in-time’ have evolved in recent years to more closely match supply with demand, minimizing stock levels and so maximizing profitability.
However, in businesses selling people it is not that easy. If you have ‘stock’ available at short notice, it typically means you are running with a sub-optimal bench size and profits will suffer. When an order is received, it will be for one or more consultants to fill roles with a client. Both a consulting role or a product requirement could be characterized by a specification. In the case of a role it would be the skills and experience level required of the consultant. To fulfill the order it is a case of profiling the associated role(s) and finding available staff. Kantata allows you to configure your own skills matrix and has comprehensive search functions to help the resource manager match the most appropriate individuals. It also automatically tracks the actual project assignments experience of the individuals and allows specific project experiences to be captured, to help find someone not only with the right skills but also with similar project experience (e.g. industry expertise). Kantata even allows your consultants and associates/ contractors to update their skills profile on a self serve basis and has a configurable approval facility for managers to verify these skill levels.
2. Resource Managers Deal With Last Minute Assignments
But what if there was no person available for the date required by the client? It is not like a product business where a new product can be manufactured to order. Sadly consultants can’t be manufactured in this way. The easiest option open to the resource manager is to try and slip the start date of the project to a date when a suitably skilled resource is available. Unless the delay is minimal it is unlikely the client will accept this and may even decide to go to a competitor instead if they can provide a resource in time. Even if the delay is accepted by the client then your revenue forecast will be wrong as the project won’t start as forecast by the sales account owner. Kantata automatically re-forecasts revenue and margin in the case of a delayed start, ensuring financial KPI’s are always accurate and up to date.
Alternatively, the resource manager could look to their associate/contractor pool for a suitable person. Kantata allows you to store and maintain the skills and availability of an unlimited number of associates/ contractors without additional charge and selectively match them against requirements.
3. Optimal Resourcing Instantly Drives Profits
In the case where the particular resource need is for a critical project you might decide to re-allocate someone early from another in-flight project. Kantata provides real time visibility of historic and forecast project and client profitability across your business. You can perform what-if type analysis to see what financial impact a decision to swap resources between projects would make, so the optimal resourcing decision can be easily taken to maximize financial performance.
If time permits, another option would be to recruit someone with the right skills to your permanent team. Kantata allows you to manage your recruitment pipeline so the resource manager can also search the available recruits under consideration to see if any of these people fits the bill. But, this typically only works if the resource manager has sufficient lead time to recruit someone. This is where an enhanced resourcing process is desirable – a process which provides earlier sight of upcoming resource demand so that the most profitable decision can be made between hiring, re-allocating existing people from other projects, and resetting expectations early on resource availability so that clients don’t feel let down or go to the associate/contractor pool.
4. They Can Do So Much With Early Pipeline Visibility
In order to get early visibility, the resource manager must be able to see more than just demand created by firm orders. This is where a process needs to be supported which is more like ‘just-in-time’ manufacturing, to more closely match up supply with demand, maximizing utilization. Through a unique color-coded graphical screen in Kantata, the resource manager is able to view resource demands classified according to the stage in the sales lifecycle the requirement has reached. This classification is automatically updated when the percentage likelihood of winning the deal is updated in the opportunity management part of the application (e.g. Salesforce). So for example resource needs which have a high probability of closure such as project extensions or those in the negotiation phase can trigger the resource manager to put a higher priority on confirming a specific resource allocation. In the case of opportunities earlier in the sales life cycle, the resource manager could use Kantata to identify trends in resource needs. Where a significant demand is identified (say 4 early stage needs due to close in 3-4 months time for a specific skill in short supply), the decision might be taken that at least 1 deal would be closed out of the 4 and either an existing team member be trained in advance to fulfill the need or the external recruitment process accelerated for someone with the associated skill set.
5. Responsible for Cross-team Collaboration and Effective Communication
As Kantata facilitates these improved business processes, it allows the resource manager to provide a better service. It also provides closer communication between those responsible for demand generation, those who manage the supply of resources, and the resources themselves. Kantata can be configured to automatically update a consultant’s Outlook or Google calendar with the projects they’re assigned to or even those they have been reserved for which are yet to close. Template projects can be selected in Kantata by business development staff when creating new opportunities, which automatically create resource demand, timescales, tasks and pricing. This makes data entry quicker and easier, allowing the resource manager to let to the business development team member know early if there is likely to be any problems in fulfilling this demand, so that this can be factored into the sales process (e.g. proposing a different start date in the first place).
6. Optimized Utilization Rates are Key in Improving Profitability
Maximizing utilization is the most effective way of boosting profitability in a consulting operation. The role of the resource manager and effective resourcing is thus critical. So by providing early visibility of resource demand, improving communication across all parts of the business, and granting easy access to accurate information to financially optimize resource allocation, Kantata enables resource mangers to focus on the tasks that will maximize utilization and help secure important deals. The ability to closely link expected demand with supply enabled by Kantata has the potential to revolutionize the professional services order fulfillment process in the same way that ‘just-in-time’ processes transformed the manufacturing industry.
The Kantata Professional Services Cloud is optimizing so much more than the resource management process. Learn how Kantata helps professional services organizations tackle unique, modern projects with clarity, control, and confidence. Learn what the transformative power of Kantata can do for your business