Updated: Mar 30
Ever been packing for a holiday and decided which items to sacrifice to make the weight quota? End up with all your vital vacation items? Congratulations, you’ve just performed resource management 101. You have prioritized and replanned your holiday resources to achieve a goal.
We wish it were that simple in professional services & project planning; effective resource management requires a deep understanding of your customer’s objectives vs. your capacity to help them achieve their goals. By setting up an efficient process for resource management, you will increase your operational efficiency and ensure your staff are mobilized effectively.
In the current economic climate, the best companies understand the importance of effectively mobilizing their services team. Great resource management drives better cost management and will help you generate higher services revenues and that all important gross margin. Bad resource management means project delays, staff on the bench and underhappy customers – which doesn’t help when you need to maximize recurring revenues and profitability.
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What is Resource Management?
Resource management is the process by which planning, scheduling and allocating resources can all be done in a methodical way to maximize efficiency. Efficient resource management will result in the right resources being made readily available for the right work at the right time.
Resources are typically the human capital needed on a task or project to ensure it can be carried out. Services organizations use a blend of people, processes and technology to manage resources and capacity.
The best way to manage your resources is to follow a step-by-step process designed to visualize availability, prevent capacity crunches and make better-informed decisions on the work to be done.
Below are some of the key pillars to resource management:
Demand planning - The process of reviewing all sources of demand including new implementations sold by sales alongside additional services packages being sold by PS or your CS teams. Demand will usually be calculated in the time required of services cut by role, task or skill.
Allocation - The purpose of allocation is to identify what resources you need to complete a given task or project. Usually there is an intersection of the task, effort and expertise needed to complete a step in an engagement.
Scheduling - Resource scheduling is the process of mobilizing and scheduling work across your resource pool. Services teams need to be able to adjust their schedule of work based on sales, project slippage or other changes that impact your supply.
Aggregation - Aggregation of resource consumption allows you to see the total amount time utilized rolled up across your service organization. This can be shown in days, weeks or months and allows you to answer the question “what is our capacity to deliver?"
When you have a clear idea of the resource allocation and aggregation, then scheduling these resources will become a far easier task. It may be necessary to apply scheduling techniques to guarantee that every project meets its objectives. Such techniques include resource smoothing (when time constraints are prioritized), and resource leveling, which aims to balance the availability of resource stock, such as limiting excess and deficits.
Why is Resource Management Important?
In the Precursive Playbook “Traditional Services Delivery is Dead”, Jon Harrison the former VP of Services for Sage and current SVP Support at ForgeRock states this about the resourcing team:
“Is this the most important team in your PS organization? We know that effective management of resources can have a huge impact on margin and project success, therefore, we suggest that this is critical and that resource management have a seat at your leadership table - this role is the glue that holds the machine together- if your resourcing team are not aware of the current projects, but also, upcoming pipeline, the likelihood of winning, and testing the sales forecasting, then they are not doing yourself justice.”
Resource Management is a critical component of PS operations. Effective resourcing will ensure that you are ahead of demand and are able to plan resources efficiently. Consider the impacts of this process:
Increases operational efficiency - meaning you will generate better outcomes for customers and increase margins for your company.
Improves customer experience - matching the right people to the right project can improve delivery and customer experience leading to higher NPS scores.
Reduces staff burnout - getting a clear and accurate picture of your team’s workload will help with over utilization and drive better staff retention.
Boosts revenue and cash flow - mobilizing your team quickly will help to drive faster revenue and ARR for an embedded services team (in a SaaS company) or alternatively in the form of additional billings in an IT Consulting firm.
Introducing Resource Management Systems
With insufficient data, resource managers have less control over their people or projects and can’t understand the following:
Resource utilization - Having a forward and historical view of your utilization rate informs how much you will bill and what your future income will look like.
Resource capacity - Understanding your PS team’s true capacity for work, acknowledging that not all time is utilized. A utilization-only method is not the proper way to approach capacity. Capacity is the entire organizational capability (sales, services, CS, Support) to deliver work, and should not be limited by focusing on just billable utilization.
Planning and scheduling - Seeing the availability of each resource, assigning projects to people and scheduling when tasks can be delivered.
Resource prioritization and allocation - Deciding which staff are the best fit for work based on their role, costs and the match to the customer.
Available and required skills - Using a skills matrix to map out what skills and capabilities your staff have. Make an assessment of the current skills at your disposal and identify where additional capability may need to be hired for or augmented through contractors.
An effective resource management system will enable your services team to manage and improve these processes. Resource management systems give resource managers the data they need to advise business partners based on real-time data of services KPIs.
What is an Effective Resource Management Platform?
Efficient resource management can’t happen without comparing demand driven by sales vs. supply of available resources at a company, department and project level.
An effective resource management platform should allow you to maximize billable utilization and boost project profitability. Ideally your resource management technology should seamlessly integrate with your CRM system so you can review your sales pipeline and, when that pipeline changes, see this reflected in your resourcing platform’s demand forecasting.
Let’s take a look below at some of the benefits that a resource management platform would bring to your organization:
By mobilizing the right skills and expertise for your customers, you increase the chances of meeting delivery obligations and providing a high quality services experience. Customers want to get value from the product or service they have purchased quickly and expect to be able to get started quickly on a project. By avoiding projects slipping through the cracks, you can make sure that you assemble your team quickly and get working with your customer promptly.
Effective Time Management
We all hate timesheets! However without good time tracking, you cannot measure resource utilization or the variance between your planned work (and hours) vs. your actual time spent.
Time tracking will allow you to analyze planned vs. actual, and billable vs non-billable hours. These metrics can help you identify your resource productivity and project profitability.
An effective timesheet app in your resource management solution will allow you to see your burndown rate and if you are on track to hit project milestones on time and in line with timelines communicated to the customer. Understanding the amount of time spent on non-billable work is vital if you’re looking to increase productivity or see if you are consistently using services to bridge product gaps; alternatively you may want to know if sales is giving away free services too often.
Centralized Resource Management
A clear visualization of all your resources is the first step to building an appropriate level of organizational capability for your services team. Without a proper system in place you’ll have no visibility to assess your skills and knowledge efficiently. Having a centralized system means you can identify resources by availability, roles, and skills in one single view.
By breaking down silos between teams, you will avoid tribes of people holding onto resource capacity.
Professional Services Reporting
The increased scrutiny on professional services efficiency by boards and investors means it is useful to have access to correct data in real-time. Some key data points for PS teams are:
Services revenues and profitability
Revenue per consultant
Summary of time spent per account/project/phase
Billable vs. Non-Billable
Real-time data helps build confidence and credibility with other business stakeholders and plays a vital role in informing future hiring decisions.
Align Project Management with Resource Scheduling
There are a range of workflows associated with services delivery including project setup, staffing, project management, and billing. Often the project plan for an engagement and the staffing plan can become disconnected if specific tasks are delayed or moved around due to requirements changing or work taking longer than estimated.
A robust resource management solution will be able to sync the tasks in your project plan with your resource plan. Otherwise, everytime you re-estimate or move tasks, you will constantly have to adjust your resource schedule so that you have an accurate view of capacity. This will create a huge admin burden for your operations team if you have a high throughput of work flowing through professional services.
For example, in Precursive’s resource management platform, you can automate the creation of projects and resource plans based on opportunity stages in Salesforce, reducing the admin burden for your PMO or Operations team. DealerTrack, part of COX Automotive, provides automotive dealership management solutions, a software solution that streamlines dealership operations. They wanted to improve the allocation of resources to help improve customer onboarding experience, but were using manual tools. It estimated a single person would take nine years to plan all its delivery resources. With Precursive, DealerTrack was able to automate these manual processes and mobilize the right resources based on their capacity as well as their location. This led to savings of $1M in administrative costs and T&E expenses.
Integrating Resource Management Software with Salesforce
Seamless resource management is at your fingertips with a platform like Precursive. Resource planning and capacity forecasts can be managed easily within our Salesforce-native app. Built on Force.com, Precursive allows you to stay ahead of customer demand by forward planning based on real-time information on your sales pipeline, in-flight engagements and your utilization forecast. Precursive powers a range of resource management activities:
Resource scheduling - Schedule resources daily, weekly or monthly with our user-friendly planner and reallocate work when things change on projects.
Capacity planning - See who is available for work and who has capacity to deliver. Differentiate between forecast and sold projects and see when staff are coming available.
Utilization tracking - Forecast and track a range of utilization metrics including billable and productive time. Compare the variance to be able to make adjustments to how you quote and scope work.
Precursive makes use of the Salesforce reporting engine meaning you can generate robust insights using data and analytics on services performance.
This Precursive guide to resource management has introduced you to what it is, why it’s important, and ways to mitigate some common resource management challenges.
Found it useful? You may also want to read:
Interview with Guy Marsh, Head of Resource Management at Shell on “What does ‘good’ resource management look like?”
How to build an Agile Workforce