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Why Resource Managers Are the Unsung Heroes of a Services Business

People often ask me what is the most important role in a consulting 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 do such a great job and the clients 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 of the companies I encounter 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 Kimble tool 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.

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 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.  Kimble 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). Kimble 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.

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. Kimble automatically re-forecasts revenue and margin in the case of a delayed start so 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. Kimble 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.

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. Kimble 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 optimum 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. Kimble 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, resetting expectations early on resource availability so that clients don’t feel let down or go to the associate/ contractor pool.

So to get this early visibility the resource manager must to 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 match up more closely supply with demand and maximize utilization. Through a unique color coded graphical screen in Kimble the resource manager is able to view resource demands classified according to the stage in the sales life cycle 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 projects extensions or those in negotiation phase can trigger the resource manager to placing a higher priority on confirming a specific resource allocation. In the case of opportunities earlier in the sales life cycle then the resource manager could use Kimble 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.

As Kimble facilitates this improved business process it allows the resource manager to provide a better service. It also provides a closer communication between those responsible for demand generation, those who manage the supply of resource and the resources themselves. Kimble 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 Kimble by business development staff when creating new opportunities, which automatically create resource demand, timescales, tasks and pricing. So making the data entry quicker and easier and allowing the resource manager to flag up early to the business development team member 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).

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 easy access to accurate information to financially optimize resource allocation, resource managers using Kimble can focus on the tasks that will maximize utilization and help secure those deals. The ability to closely link expected demand with supply enabled by Kimble has the potential to revolutionize the Professional Services order fulfillment process in the same way as ‘just-in-time’ processes transformed the Manufacturing industry.

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