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When Planning Is Pointless

Authored by Daniel Keating, Kimble’s US Chief Operating Officer.

Resource planning meetings can become the bane of a consulting firm’s existence. Clearly, if you’re going to be able to service existing and upcoming work efficiently and profitably, you need to know what resources are available when. If you can’t, you’re going to run the risk of missing out on new or additional work. Or you’re going to have imperfect project teams, jeopardizing client satisfaction. Or you’re not going to be able to maximize billing rates. Or you’ll have too many people on the bench for too long, hurting profitability yet again. Or all of the above.

Most likely, you’ll try to get to and maintain a state of optimum resourcing by holding regular resourcing meetings. Perhaps they’re monthly; perhaps they’re weekly. Regardless, they feel tedious, and are often an exercise in futility because things change so fast: the scope of an existing project changes or a new project drops in seemingly from out of the blue. And when that happens, you’re left running around frantically between your regular meetings trying to get an up-to-date enough view of the resourcing data that will allow you to MacGyver a solution into place.

It’s far from ideal, but holding regular resourcing meetings at least means the pertinent information is mostly up to date, so it’s probably the best we can do. Or is it?

In fact, it most certainly is not. The best situation you could hope for is one in which resourcing data is up to date in real time: push a button, glance at the (accurate and up-to-date) data, and you can instantly see the solution that fits today’s need whilst safeguarding against future developments of differing likelihood. This is not a pipe dream: it’s possible to do this today.

If you’re looking at investing in professional services automation software, you’ll find any even semi-decent product will give you that real-time access to the data you need to resource in real time. If you go the next logical step and instill in your organization a culture in which all employees, from consultants to business development, record all information on the software in real time, that data will be accurate to boot. Suddenly, you can see not only which consultants are promised where and when, you can see the likelihood of incoming project work and the skill sets, and even people, who will be necessary to meet that demand. You can see when your resourcing cliff is approaching and take proactive steps to keep pushing this date further and further out.

You may already have software and a culture that does this for you; if you do, or if you’re about to take that step, this next question should be an obvious one, but we don’t see it asked as often as you’d imagine. What’s the point of a weekly or monthly resourcing planning meeting?

Such meetings only existed because the technology you were previously using only gave you the necessary level of visibility on a weekly or monthly basis, which meant there was no point in trying to resource more frequently. If you’ve invested in some clever technology, you need to make sure you make full use of everything that it enables if you want your business to grow. You can provide a better service to your employees, your company and yourself by remembering to look out for opportunities for disruptive change. Ask yourself, constantly: are we doing things this way because it’s the best way to do it? Or because it’s the way we’ve always done it? Unlocking scalability at your consultancy is about, more than anything else, challenging the status quo.