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How to manage demand versus resources availability

How to manage demand versus resources availability

By Neil Davidson, Managing Director, Maconomy UK Ltd

Resource management is integral to the smooth, profitable running of any professional services firm. Therefore, the importance of planning a consultancy’s resources cannot be underestimated. However balancing the demand of clients with the needs of consultants is difficult to achieve.

Recent research by the Management Consultancies Association (MCA) on behalf of Maconomy revealed that 66 per cent of consultancy firms surveyed considered resource management to be one of the most important business processes.  However, 55 per cent of resource managers surveyed said they could only plan ahead for three months due to a lack of adequate information available.

This highlights the difficulty that resource managers face when trying to effectively manage resources. The problem with a stand alone solution, such as Excel, is that it is not possible to get a high level overview of capacity and resources, or to predict the impact winning new business will have on resources or perhaps and profitability.

Resource management can play a key part in client satisfaction - managing client expectations is vital. Making sure that a consultant is kept on one particular project is an important step. With new business, or faltering projects it can be tempting for a resource manager to move successful consultants around, but this should be discouraged unless really necessary – the relationship between client and consultant is key.

A resource manager cannot work in isolation - senior consultants, project leaders and operations (such as human resource) need to contribute to the information that the resource manager receives. The feeding in of information from those key individuals can give the resource manager a truly rounded picture of the company’s capacity.

Another element of resource management is making sure your best people are working on the right project at the right time.  Only with accurate business data can a resource manager ensure that their consultant’s time is managed effectively ensuring he or she is providing the biggest return to the business. 

Good consultants are difficult to find and can be just as difficult to retain. Therefore, resource managers need to make sure that they keep their consultants just as happy as their clients.

Resource managers have to manage each consultant individually. Having the confidence to give consultants more autonomy and greater flexibility in how they manage their clients can be very empowering. But this freedom needs to be balanced with a regular review procedure with a senior line manager. 

Resource managers always need to be succession planning, so offering development and skills opportunities for junior staff is important. Good consultants need to be given the opportunity to manage team development and lead projects. This style of management will naturally provide a culture where their experience can be past on to junior members of the project team. 

It can be too easy for a resource manager to concentrate on simply making sure that a company is fully utilised. However, putting staff development ahead of new business can be a risky strategy, they should work in tandem.

Many resource managers find that allocating the responsibility for business development to senior consultants is a good way to balance delivery and development. Those senior members have the experience and knowledge to give weight to any pitch, while the junior consultants can focus on delivery and gaining valuable experience.

Some large firms will have a dedicated budget put aside for business development purposes, or even a devoted sales team.  However, for smaller firms it can be hard to afford the luxury of allowing consultants time to focus on new business.

Whichever way a resource manager decides to approach this, the underlying factor is that they must have access to as much information on the current and future developments as possible. 

Consultants are under more pressure than ever before to deliver quality services at a competitive price. The reason why resource planning is such an important cog in the wheel is that if effectively utilised it gives the company the best foundation for intelligent decisions that will help the consultants deliver. 

Only when business processes are integrated under one system can resource managers hope to get the visibility into the organisation required for successful resource management.

Ultimately access to consistent and accurate real time data on projects and consultants can mean the difference between success and failure.  In today’s market, those firms who take a professional approach to resource management and capacity planning with formalised systems have the opportunity to gain a distinct advantage over their competitors.

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