WHITEPAPER

5 Pillars of Great Resource Management

By Steve Brooks & Roy Edwards, Enterprise Times

“Getting the right person in the right place at the right time predictably.”
—Randy Mysliviec, President and CEO of the Research Management Institute (RMI) on resource management

Resource management is critical for every professional services organization. It is the efficient and effective development and use of an organization’s resources when they are needed. Done well, it increases efficiency, improves margins, increases employee satisfaction and helps to deliver customer satisfaction. It can mean the difference between having profitability and a business failure.

It may sound simple, but there are many components to resource management that one needs to consider. Schwindt (2006) summarized saying: “The complexity of resource allocation arises from the interaction between the activities of a project by explicit and implicit dependencies, which may be subject to some degree of uncertainty.”

This whitepaper breaks down these complexities into five core pillars: People, Process, Data, Technology and Culture. For a professional services organization (PSO) to thrive, it needs to have these components at a certain level of maturity, in place and aligned. Holding up a roof with five pillars of different consistency and height is doomed to failure. For example, one can have the best consultants, but if they are not used in the right projects or are part of a broken team, it can lead to disaster. Each of the five pillars is important, but people are at the heart of every professional services organization.

1 Schwindt, C., 2006. Resource allocation in project management. Springer Science & Business Media.

People

A unique characteristic of PSOs is the importance of the expertise of its people to the business. Attracting and retaining people is vital to the success of the company. People want interesting work equitably distributed and aligned to their skills. Resource management can assist with that. Business leaders want to maximize the utilization of the most costly resource to deliver profitability and customer success.

Resource management is about allocating the available resources across all enterprise projects most effectively and efficiently. The critical resources are the internal and external consultants. They need to have the right mix of skills for the tasks that need to be done.

Figure 1 RMI Resource Management Maturity Model, reproduced with permission of RMI

The evolution of who carries out resource management

Traditionally, organizations use a project manager to carry out resource management. As organizations grow, more project managers are hired; this can introduce conflict or poor utilization. The skill requirements for project managers change as they move from managing single projects to multiple projects. Patanakul and Milosevic (2008) found six unique competencies of multiple-project project managers. Patanakul and Milosevic (2008) found six unique competencies of multiple-project project managers.

  • organizational experience
  • the ability to work on multiple projects
  • managing interdependencies and interactions between projects
  • multitasking
  • simultaneous team management
  • interproject process – coordinating among different projects

The research found that the higher the level of expertise in these skills, the greater the success of the projects managed. If a centralized resource management function is introduced, would this lessen the risk and expertise level required for project managers?

“The delivery of professional services is at the tail end of a process that the customer began some time ago.”
—Shane Anastasi 2014

Maturity is attained with dedicated resource managers

The Resource Management Institute advocates a centralized resource management approach. Why? The challenge for project managers is that their focus is on delivering their projects successfully. Resource managers have visibility of the complete portfolio of projects and treat consultants as individuals rather than human resources. This softer focus is even more important today with virtual working and understanding individual requirements such as childcare responsibilities, which may not be captured in any resourcing solution.

It is not just consultants and project managers

Successful resource management extends beyond the people involved in projects. Other people that influence its success include business leaders, salespeople and the HR team.

It begins with the business leaders and the business strategy. Business strategy must align revenue targets with long-term resourcing requirements. Leaders also need to inform HR and resource managers about the long-term strategy. A lack of transparency can cause issues as some recruitment can take six months, leading to a lack of resources at the “right time.”

Resource management begins before a project starts. As Anastasi (2014) noted: “The delivery of professional services is at the tail end of a process that the customer began some time ago.” The sales executive has the responsibility to capture as much relevant information during the sales process as they can and where relevant to pass that information onto the resource manager. For example, the client might insist on having a specific project manager as part of the project. An entire sale may be predicated upon it.

HR teams need an awareness that their actions can impact resource management. Often, HR is the first to learn of the departure of a project manager or consultant. The Resource Manager should take a longer-term view on requirements and flag HR when recruitment is required to meet future demand. Having good data and the right technology enables this. A trusted relationship, therefore, needs to exist between HR and the resource management function.

2 Patanakul, P. and Milosevic, D., 2008. A competency model for effectiveness in managing multiple projects. The Journal of High Technology Management Research, 18(2), pp.118-131.
3 Anastasi, Shane. The Seven Principles of Professional Services: A Field Guide for Sucessfully Walking the Consulting Tightrope. PS Principles, 2014.

Process

Resource management relies on many processes within an organization. These include strategic planning and forecasting, project requirements gathering, recruitment, consultant skills tracking, availability, change management and escalation. These processes work when they are supported by trained people using appropriate technology with relevant data.

Processes also evolve as organizations go through different levels of maturity. In 2005, Pennypacker identified five maturity levels for resource management. A PMI survey revealed that 74.4% of organizations had not exceeded level 2. The Research Management Institute proposed its own five levels of maturity (see Figure 1).

Business processes rarely keep in step with organizational growth. What works for a small organization will not work as that organization grows. For example, an organization with a single project manager will need to change processes as it introduces more project managers, a project management office (PMO), a portfolio and a project management office (PPMO). During this growth, it may choose to implement a resource management office.

Figure 1 RMI Resource Management Maturity Model, reproduced with permission of RMI

Seven processes associated with resource management

The organizational strategy should plan for future resourcing requirements. If an organization intends to grow revenues through additional sales, it needs to consider what roles and skills are required to service that new business. Sales forecasting is also key; as leads turn to opportunities, the resourcing requirements are unlikely to align with the strategic planning horizon.

With an accurate forecast, resource requirements are better understood. With this understanding of future requirements, resource managers and business leaders can plan what consultants are required in the future. Accurate forecasting enables resource managers and HR teams to better plan recruitment or identify the required external consultants.

Organizations need a process to capture information gathered during the sales cycle and pass it to operational teams. At a basic level, it includes project requirements, which are then expanded upon during the scoping and planning phases. Existing clients may name specific resources. If there is no process to inform resource management of such requirements, clashes will occur.

In the recruitment process, new consultant skills need to align with strategic, resourcing and management criteria. Managers may recruit consultants with the skills they need rather than those they are going to need. Resource managers also need an awareness of the challenges that HR teams can face as it can impact the resource’s availability at the right time. Typically this is the time to hire and ramp-up time for new consultants.

As consultants onboard, gaining experience during projects and learning new skills, a process is needed to capture that information and inform relevant teams, including HR and resource management. Adding skills to a spreadsheet works for a small company but begins to fail quickly and resource management suffers. As firms adopt agile methodologies, soft skills are also becoming more important.

Several HR-related processes are important. Resource managers need awareness of planned time off from holiday to training. Processes to request and book time should be supported by systems that provide real-time data to the resource manager, so they know what is happening.

As the company grows and recruits more project managers, the firm needs processes to resolve resourcing disputes. This may fall out of the resource manager’s control where key resources are involved and may need a senior leader to make a decision based on commitments made during the sales process.

Where these kinds of conflicts occur, a senior leader should have the hard conversations as quickly as possible and a strong PPMO can preempt issues; B.N. Unger et al. (2012) noted: “Thus, the PPMO may take an authoritative style in resource management to improve the quality of resource allocation or a consolatory stance when mediating or coaching parties to improve collaboration between stakeholders, thus increasing the quality of cooperation.”

The most important process of matching people against tasks combines art and science. However, it requires accurate information drawn from project data and people skills data, expertise and experience. The resource managers’ knowledge of personalities can complete it.

If you are going to staff a project, you need to know what types of resource that project needs.

4 Pennypacker, J. S. (2008). Portfolio resource management: the most significant challenge to project management effectiveness. Paper presented at PMI® Global Congress 2008—North America, Denver, CO. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute. https://www.pmi.org/learning/library/portfolio-resourcemanagement-six-characteristics-7022

5 Unger, B.N., Gemünden, H.G. and Aubry, M., 2012. The three roles of a project portfolio management office: Their impact on portfolio management execution and success. International Journal of Project Management, 30(5), pp.608-620.

Data

Resource managers need data. Jordan Warren, Principal Consultant at Kantata, noted that: “If you are going to staff a project, you need to know what types of resources that project needs.” You also need data about the available resources and the skills they have.

Warren notes that it is important that organizations normalize roles across the company. This becomes critical as the company grows, especially through acquisitions where job titles, skills and expertise can fall out of sync across different locations. Creating an organization-wide skills ontology to help resource managers demonstrates a level of maturity few attain.

The Resource Manager also needs to factor in other data points not often available within a system, including:

  • Is the individual able to travel? Are COVID passports required, or are there perhaps childcare issues?
  • Might personal issues interfere with delivering this project? They may have medical procedures planned, but not yet booked, or are due to become a parent at a critical point in the project.
  • Can two individuals chosen to work together do so effectively? There may be a personality clash, for example.
  • Has the client informed the sales team that they do or do not want a specific person on their project?


Resource managers may also need to draw on external contractors to fill roles where there is an internal shortfall of resources. Data around those external individuals is critical. How is the information stored internally on the organizational systems, which can have PII and data protection considerations? Can systems integrate with third-party talent sources such as LinkedIn to locate the right individuals? The latter’s advantage is that the contractors may keep that information up to date, though there is no guarantee they do. Can organizations convince contractors to update skills?

Is that all the data needed for resource management?

No, this is an insular view that only looks at data related to the project and its resource requirements. Data takes many forms for resource management. Resource managers need to be able to act strategically. To do that, they need visibility of all sales forecasts and opportunities in the pipeline. This enables them to inform HR of requirements for any future hiring.

They also need a broader understanding of every project. For example, the client’s industry could inform which resources they use on a project if this information is not captured on task detail. They also need to ensure that the team allocated to the project is balanced in experience and personality. This is not just for the project itself but across the wider regional or corporate projects.

The presence and richness of data also enable data analytics. Optimization only occurs with data analysis and the ability to present key performance metrics about processes. Key metrics include utilization, resource capacity utilization and planned vs actual resource variance for resource management. Other business metrics are also important, including employee satisfaction. As Peter Drucker commented: “What’s measured improves.”

“What’s measured improves.”
—Peter Drucker

Bringing it all together in a unified data model

In the same way that processes need to flow across the organization, data from across the organization is best kept in a single unified data model. This can also help determine the best mix of resources for the ideal outcomes across every project and every client in the business. Once business leaders have accurate real-time visibility of metrics across the company, they can make better evidence-based decisions.

Technology

As organizations grow, they also add professional services technology to support the processes. In most cases, this starts with spreadsheets. These can capture information about skills and projects while enabling resource managers or project managers to allocate resources. However, they do not scale well. To overcome this, organizations acquire more comprehensive and inclusive technology, which helps to track the processes. This includes resource management software, project management software and other tools to solve specific challenges.

What organizations actually need is simple. They need technology that minimizes the duplication (or worse) of data entry. A good resource management tool will have integrations with project management solutions, HCM, CRM and Financial Management. It does not necessarily mean that all data is kept within a single solution. It does mean that processes between different systems of record need to ensure that data integrity is maintained and visibility of relevant data is assured across the organization. For example, not everything kept within CRM is required by the resource manager and vice versa. It is a balance between delivering the transparency that the modern organization needs, maintaining data privacy and avoiding information overload.

With people at the heart of the organization, it is the resource management tool that should lie at the heart of a professional services organization. A well-implemented resource management tool draws on data from ERP, CRM, HCM and PPM tools to maximize the efficiency of an organization’s people assets. Ideally, it will connect workflows between these technologies to support how departments work together. As the professional services organization grows, it needs to move from spreadsheets to professional services technology. Once implemented, the right technology will support further successful growth.

Culture

A weak organizational culture can significantly hamper resource management in any organization. A strong culture can enhance it. The values shared within professional services organizations are therefore important. This is a major problem today. 72% of respondents in a recent survey have limited organizational support for effective resource management. That needs to change.

One of the critical factors is trust. Resource managers need to build an atmosphere of trust around them. To build that trust, resource managers need access to data to allocate engagements that leverage the consultants’ skills and advance their careers. Furthermore, the allocation should equitably distribute high-profile engagements. Building that trusted personal relationship ensures that confidential information, which can influence resourcing decisions, is shared between the consultant and resource manager.

HR needs to trust that confidential information about staff movements is kept confidential. Project managers need to trust the resource manager to be fair and equitable in allocating resources to their projects.

Technology can help embed these positive values. Mimi Moore, Group Vice President, Resource Management at Huge, recently explained how she helped facilitate cultural change at the business, making a massive difference. When she arrived, the company had a startup attitude and worked in silos, which allowed an imbalance in utilization. The company moved to a regional structure enabling better control. The implementation of a PSA solution facilitated another cultural change.

A strong culture enhances reputation both inside and outside the organization. Having a strong culture can help with both talent acquisition and retention.

Where Kantata has been incredibly helpful is we’ve also shifted our culture to one that’s much more transparent. Where we, as leaders, are sharing information, ideas that work well, different sales opportunities. We’ve come together as one global leadership team, under our C-level executives with a very strong set of vision, mission and values that we carry out through all of our offices.”
– Mimi Moore, Huge

A strong culture enhances reputation both inside and outside the organization. Having a strong culture can help with both talent acquisition and retention.

Conclusion

Resource optimization is not a magic wand that will fix a professional services organization, but it is critical to its success. It needs to be at the heart of a wider ecosystem that it both feeds from and helps drive success into the modern PSO’s key metrics. Done well, it can increase profitability, employee satisfaction and customer success. Business leaders need to consider the maturity of their resource management function. Importantly and feeding into that, is the maturing across the five underpinning columns: People, Process, Data, Technology and Culture. If one lags behind another, the maturity and therefore cohesiveness of resource management is not as advanced as one might believe.

The best professional services organizations have the right people in the right roles. They also have the right processes and technology in place, access to normalized data for every person and project within - as well as consultants outside - the organization. It will use the best technology, not point solutions, but a professional services technology platform that leverages the people, processes and data to achieve a positive outcome for the business, its customers and employees. Finally, it will only demonstrate benefits with the right culture, which includes both trust and transparency.

About the Authors

Roy Edwards trained as a journalist and editor at Reuters. Roy is a qualified Prince 2 project/programme manager, consultant with more than 20 years experience of working for some iconic brands in digital, eCommerce and bespoke software. He has delivered both website and ecommerce strategy and projects and has a wide experience of different products and sectors. Roy has worked on projects including Jimmy Choo, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Savills, Tui, P&O Ferries and the NHS. During his career he has also lectured at London Metropolitan University and has an MA in journalism studies from the University of Westminster.

Steve Brooks is Joint Editor at Enterprise Times and Senior Analyst at Synonym Advisory. He is a director and co-founder of Synonym Ltd, the company behind these brands. Steve has worked in IT for nearly 35 years, working through different roles to CIO in several vertical markets, including Consulting, Finance, Manufacturing and Real Estate. A qualified Project Manager, he spent 17 years at Savills plc, a FTSE 250 real estate company, rising to CIO before leaving in 2012.

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