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The right tools for the trade

By Mark Robinson, CMO, Kimble Applications

In my last blog I wrote about how some staffing companies are gradually moving up the food chain into more traditional consulting work, such as fixed price contracts and project-based consultancy. I discussed how work like this needs to be managed in a different way if staffing agencies are going to compete with consultancies and make a profit.

Applicant tracking systems (ATS) are the current go-to tool for staffing companies. They allow companies to track the skills and talent available on the books and continue to get fresh contractors into the system. However ATS systems do have their limitations.

They are not able to match the future demand for work with the people on their books or to keep track of the overall profitability of a project, as they can only see the revenue as it is delivered per contractor. To track other factors, such as margins, varying overtime, recognizable revenue and other moving parts, a different kind of management system is needed to work with the ATS.

Job Science is one company that is helping to give recruiters and staffing agencies the tools to move beyond simply placing candidates and billing organizations. It includes a powerful search engine to identify and recommend the best external candidates. Its tools integrate well with Professional Services Automation (PSA) software like Kimble to give staffing and contracting agencies an end-to-end view of projects, from onboarding contractors to the profitability of a project and the ability to forecast future demand.

PSA systems are equally useful in consultancies that have a mix of permanent staff and contractors. Speaking to organizations with this hybrid model, it’s often the case that the resource is looked at as separate streams of permanent staff and contractors, rather than holistically.

In organizations such as these, profitability is maximized when permanent staff are used first and then additional contractors or associates are added as required. But for this to be possible, a bird’s eye view of both the talent pool and an early insight into predicted demand needs to be available.

A new breed of integrated systems are required which don’t simply provide a static report of the data but are capable of guiding users through the process and help them decide the optimum resourcing strategy to both meet demand and maximize profitability. This is where integrated ATS and PSA comes in.

As we all know, demand changes quickly in consultancy work, with new work coming in and other projects being delayed. By incorporating tools that allow future demand to be forecast, a consultancy is able to make the most of the people on its books and therefore increase profitability.

For staffing agencies moving into consultancy-type work and organizations with hybrid models, the key to maintaining and increasing profitability on projects is having an overarching view of the skills available and the ability to forecast future demand.

Changing models require more mature management systems that can grow with the business. Only in this way can staffing agencies compete with traditional consultancies and win more profitable and longer-term business.