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Top Tips for Fueling Growth Through Resourcing

By Rob Bruce – Vice President, Sales

The resourcing function in a consulting firm can be a real driver for growth if it’s set up correctly, but there are two challenges to overcome in this process. The first is that resourcing information is always changing. If someone is sick, or a sale is delayed, many different adjustments have to be made. This makes visibility difficult, because often the information is only in people’s heads – and getting it into a central repository can be time-consuming.

The second challenge is getting reliable information from salespeople. How confident are they in the close date? What is their best estimate on how likely an opportunity is to come through? If a project has been pushed back, what are the reasons for this? They need to be quizzed regularly to ensure that the best possible data on which the company makes decisions is being fed into, and updated on, the system.

We’ve come up with a number of suggestions for how any consulting organization can take immediate, practical steps to overcome these challenges, and, in doing so, position their firm for faster growth. None of these necessarily require any additional capital investment:

  1. Make it easy for the sales team to do what you need them to do. In addition to, or instead of, monetary rewards, ensure the sales team knows how logging opportunities earlier will ultimately make their lives easier. For example, show them that if they log opportunities in a sensible level of detail early on, it is far easier for the business to provide them with the resources they need to close the deal. Equally, ensure the resourcing managers are also updating the information in the system as soon as anything changes with consultant availability. With everyone working together it becomes easier for the company to collaborate for the good of the entire consulting organization.
  2. Earmark resources before the win. Most firms don’t do this because operations doesn’t believe sales’ promises until the paperwork is in front of them. Try putting probabilities in front of pending deals and earmarking resources as early as possible, especially if it’s for a skill type or resource that is likely to be in limited supply. If the win doesn’t come through, you’re no worse off, and if you do win the business, you start working (and billing) earlier. Early resource assignment can have the added bonus of showing consultants that there are potentially interesting opportunities for them in the pipeline, boosting morale.
  3. Resource according to data. Again, working with likely project demand means sales has the data to back up those requests for additional resources they’re always coming to you with. And, if they’re encouraged to provide a data-based rationale, this helps ensure resources are assigned according to what is most likely to boost sales, rather than determined simply by who’s shouting loudest.
  4. Surface all possible resourcing options early. Often, upcoming consultant demand is not revealed early enough. Firms then have to go to market for contractors and end up with eroded margins (due to the rates contractors charge) and riskier appointments as the contractors are not a known quantity. However, if you’re viewing demand across the entire business, not just on a project by project or sector by sector basis, you will expose much earlier where permanent appointments can be justified. This means improved margins as well as increasing scale for the business.
  5. Test sales forecast accuracy. Things slip. That’s not necessarily anyone’s fault, but if it’s not accurately modeled, how can demand and supply ever be matched? Review how forecasts matched with performance each month and get your salespeople to explain any differences, whether in overdelivery or underdelivery. They might not like it, but it will help drive the right behavior. Many salespeople come from a product background, where slippage (so long as it remains within the fiscal year) is not really that important. In professional services, a day’s slippage is a day’s revenue and profit lost forever.
  6. Differentiate between role skillsets and named individuals. Particularly in small to mid-size consultancies, project and senior managers will put pressure on resourcing managers to give them specific individuals with whom they prefer to work. Professionally speaking, however, how often do they really need ‘Mary-Beth’ as opposed to simply any ‘senior architect’? Recognizing that someone else with the same skill set will be able to do a job well allows consultancies to scale, while, if there’s only one ‘Mary-Beth’, not recognizing this can prevent growth.
  7. Keep a report on who’s coming off projects in the near future. It’s important that your system reflects correctly, at all times, who is available and when. If project timelines shift, consultants need to be disciplined about amending the central system to reflect this. This way you can ensure the best match possible for each engagement.
  8. Look out for trends in resourcing requirements. If you notice that certain skill sets are in increasingly hot demand, you can take proactive action to hire or cross train consultants accordingly. Getting ahead of the curve like this allows you to steal a march on your competitors and mop up big contracts while they are still scrambling to find appropriate resources.
  9. Don’t wait to win work before hiring talented people. Consulting is all about the quality of the people you have and good people are very hard to find. So if you meet someone you think is great, hire them and the work will come. It is far easier to find work for great people than it is to recruit someone new when you have an engagement deadline to meet. Consulting firm growth is all about increasing headcount without eroding utilization. You can also create a culture where people are encouraged to look for opportunities to recruit by looking at the upcoming pipeline and flagging that if a certain percentage of opportunities are won, then you’ll need an additional resource. This is a very different way of working than trying to plug gaps with existing team members and could really help your consulting organization scale quickly.

There’s much more you can do to make your resourcing work harder for you, and to really ensure you’re not holding yourself back from that next opportunity to grow the business. If you’d like to know more, why not contact Kimble today?