We speak to Guy Marsh, Head of Resource Management at Shell about his journey and the evolution of resource management.
Q: Can you tell us a little about you and your career in resource management?
GUY: I've been working in resource management for about 12 years now. Started off with Hewlett Packard (HP), very very much in a role which didn't exist, so I had to kind of make my own way as we went along. I think it's an interesting position which has evolved over time where people didn't really understand it and now has become an integral part of the business which is supported by technology such as Precursive. So yeah, it was at HP for five years and progressed up from UK&I resource manager to having global responsibility. Then I moved on to Vodafone and embedded a similar thing that I did at HP, which is the fundamental practice of resource management and again started in the UK and then spread that out worldwide, covering their core hub locations.
Then I took a little turn into the consultant arena and I really wanted to get more exposure to different industries and rather than big corporates, I wanted to see how these issues came to life in a different environment. I did some work for some tech startups as well as the legal sector, which is very different in terms of the way that they operate. A little anecdote with that is that I asked them to fill out a skills capability matrix to the lawyers in the firm. Out of 120, probably about 30 of them filled it out in pen. Gave it to their PA who took a photo and then sent it back to me in an email. So that gives you a bit of insight into the different mindsets and different organizations that I work with, which is so very, very different from the more technical one which where I'm at now which is Shell, and they're very switched on and I’m in a part of the business called IT Engineering.
I have quite a varied experience in resource management from its origins 12 years ago to now, so I've seen the various stages of evolution over the years.
Q: Tell us about how Shell has adapted to this virtual environment for resource management?
GUY: The team which works under me is split across four locations: UK, India, Netherlands, and Houston, so we're all used to working quite remotely. Individual groups are very much used to working together in their hub offices. So whereas before at least there was some interaction in person between teams, now it's been much more difficult to form those relationships. People haven't really had a chance to get to know each other that well until obviously the implications of coronavirus here. Technology has been critical for sharing information, best practices, what’s happening day-to-day as well as maintaining the relationship of the team.
Just to make sure that things continue to be connected. So I think from a team management perspective, that's been challenging.
Q: Can you explain what resource management is?
GUY: Yeah, I mean it's very simple in concept. It's quite basically the demand that you have versus the capability of your resources, your people, versus the availability. Now those are the three key components.
And you can't have one without the other. You need to know what's coming in, you need to know who can do that, and you need to know when they can do that. So where traditionally that has been done at kind of siloed level with small teams and they would manage it, now it's done on a lot broader scale in which we are heavily reliant on technology to get that wholesale view of what's happening. And then that's linked to costs and profitability, and you know, from the kind of board-level executive level down, they need to understand what the demand means, if there's a change in that demand, what's the 'What If' factors? How would they cope? What would they need to do? Because obviously that then has an impact on recruitment, on training and on upskilling. So resource management really is like the key kind of nerve center for being able to decide what you need, how you need, and what you need to do. So it's that fundamental source of information that allows you to make intelligent decisions and in essence, get the most effective use out of your workforce, your staff, in essence, so those are the kind of basic guiding principles around it.
Theoretically, it is very very basic but once you scale up and once you include different time zones, specific restrictions with government projects, you know, certain clearances etc. it becomes something that is not easily tracked and can get out of hand if you don't have the right systems and processes in place to underpin it.
Q: What does good look like with regards to Demand Management in Resourcing?
GUY: So the key for demand or, in essence, what you're selling is understanding a certain degree of predictability about knowing what you are selling. So if you as a business know that your run rate is on certain products is you convert 8 out of 10 of those prospective deals into projects, you get them over the line in a certain area. Then you can start planning for that in terms of your resources, you know that I will need largely X amount of Project Managers etc., balance that against what you currently have and then make decisions accordingly. So the key for demand is getting an early snapshot of the pipeline. You need a forward-looking view and the longer term the better, because the more time you've got to execute and plan accordingly. So I think that is a crucial part.
Now what also happens and what was a scenario that I faced when I was at Vodafone is you had demand coming from 6, 7, 8, 9 different channels because Vodafone is a business that is largely based on acquisition, all using different systems, so not used to being an integrated view. For example, a project we've done there called “Single Front Door”, having one single interface, the one funnel where all demand comes in. So you're capturing everything because, again, not having that complete view, making plans on the assumption that you do and then two or three big deals coming out of nowhere, then that puts all your planning out the window, or at least has a significant impact on it. So a single interface I would say is absolutely KEY for demand. As well as a clear idea of what your success rate is for winning deals and also then a clear view in terms of projected timelines. Get that forward look as to when it's happening.
So I appreciate as well that with sales, there's a degree of unpredictability. At Shell, there is an acceptance that we have some of the areas, if we move that to at least so 50/60%, that's acceptable. You know, you're never going to get 100%, but if you work within the parameters of the areas which you are, and define what a degree of success is, then you kind of move back from there. And if the improvements could be made, and further refined. But I think it's important to have a base level as to where to strive in terms of that predictability so that you can, again, when you're looking at what your availability is in terms of resources versus demand, you know roughly what margin of error is and can make calculated assessments.
Q: What are the key skills for a Resource Manager?
GUY: I think I’ve been able to sustain a career in resource management because I’ve learned how important empathy is.
So I think it's broken down into three key areas:
1) Stakeholder Management
2) Being able to process and assess individual information quickly and
3) Being able to analyze data
Stakeholder engagement is absolutely key because you're the interface between the resource and the demand owner. You need to be able to manage both, the demand owner's expectations also be able to empathize in what the urgency is for them, what the pressures they're under, and the challenges they are facing.
Some clients are particularly difficult to work with, and I think having that awareness of also what the project is delivering, arms you with enough information to make an educated assessment as to how best to deal with this situation. Because every Project Manager or Program Manager thinks their project is the most important, so being able to process all the information, look at the data and make an informed decision as to what the most pressing priority is.
You've got your kind of instinct - the human element where you have to deal with the stakeholders, you need to underpin what your instincts are by using supporting data and you need to be able to be quite thick-skinned and robust in the way that you work at times whilst also being flexible to changing demands. There are processes then we all should strive to follow them, but at times we can't be a slave to them. They need to be bent slightly to make sure that we were focused on outcomes. And we don’t become a 'Computer Says No' sort of blocker.
Q: What does the future hold for Resource Management?
GUY: I think it goes back to the three key pillars of resource management. If you've got requirements and you need to be able to fulfill them, if you aren't aware of the capabilities of your workforce, then how do you know that you can when you can deliver it, how it's going to be done? Or is it gonna be on time? You're making promises to your customers that you simply can't keep if you don't have that kind of inventory of what your people can do. So it's critical that you have a system which allows you from a high-level view (for me the resource manager) all the way through to the team or department leader. To understand that I have X amount of people with your skills. For example, I can marry that up against the demand that we've got coming in, and obviously, balance that against the availability you see. Do we need to update our workforce plans on the recruitment side of things? Are they going to meet the demands of the business? So making sure we have an up-to-date clear skills matrix for each and every person is absolutely critical. This allows us the ability to speak to our clients with confidence that we can say "If you sign here, we can deliver that by then".
It's as simple as that. We have the people already waiting to go, not “sign here" and then we react to it.
Q: What are you working towards at Shell for Resource Management 2.0?
GUY: At Shell, what we're working towards is having that job description go into Salesforce which would include “We want to achieve this outcome, these are the resources that you need" and then the AI comes in, and then it all flows through the system to identify the right person more quickly. We want this embedded over the next 6 to 12 to 18 months where we've got the repository of history of how we've delivered. We use that with the AI that then computes and tells us, what is then the impact on our resources and it jumps us a few steps ahead in terms of what actions we should take.
The day-to-day operational work of resource management won’t change but it will reduce the admin burden and the need for as much of “us” (e.g. resource managers) in the process. We’ll also make much better decisions on who the best fit is, more quickly - matching in effect.
If we have a standardized approach where if we have 100 projects, we know that we got an 80% success rate, so 80 of these projects are going to be getting over the deadline and will need a resource.
We've now got to that next level where these projects are, and say 70% of them, so are requiring these teams to deliver, that then tags it in again. As we said, these are our capabilities, these are existing availability based on those dates. What do we need to do? What strategy do we put in place? Based on this information so that AI is becoming and will become a major step in the kind of evolution of resource management, and I think I hope it doesn't get too advanced because I might be out of a job if it carries on at this rate! It's really exciting to be part of a business that's so progressive in that way. If we look back in two years time, we'll see a massive difference between now and then. I can really see it changing the way that we operate massively, and I think it's progressing quicker now than then it has done over the last 5-10 years.
Everyone sees the value much more clearly now of resource management and the impact it can have on the profitability of their business.