4 Reasons Why Professional Services Fail To Use Resources Strategically

Author: Ian Needs

Customers come to you because of the calibre and reputation of your people. You deliver through the advice and skills of your people. And to stay ahead of the competition, you need to keep attracting and developing the right people.

So given this universal truth, why are professional services businesses routinely so poor at managing their people strategically? Not in terms of rewarding or incentivising them, but making best use of their human resources, across multiple projects, to drive on-time, on-budget delivery and secure client satisfaction.

In our experience there are 4 Key Reasons for this:

  1. A continual battle to get the right resources
  2. Poor planning practices meaning many clashes and resource conflicts
  3. Lack of centralized information on resources, skills and allocations
  4. Poor visibility into the long term allocation of resources

Put in more simple terms, time after time, professional services projects are delayed because key resources – key people – aren’t available when they’re supposed to be.  Or more accurately, they’re not available when the project plan said they should be... regardless of the fact that they’re actually doing exactly what another project plan requires of them.

The result? An unedifying squabble between project managers – and more importantly, a project hitting the rocks because of a lack of visibility and communication that goes back as far as the initial planning stage. With luck, a whole lot of cajoling and a big budget for late-night pizzas for the team, you might get it back on track. A significant proportion won’t.

The smarter approach, of course, would be take account of existing and scheduled workload when planning projects. If you knew that the specialist you want for your job in Manchester will be in Minneapolis for a month, then you could make sure you avoid clashes – whether by adapting your project plan to include his input later, or by using alternative resource. If he’s the man your client insists on dealing with, then they have to fit around him.

It sounds perfectly logical, but in practice, it rarely happens – and not, we should underline, because project managers don’t appreciate the problem.

Instead, it’s because very few organizations give project managers the visibility they need about what else is happening in the business. Without a centralized system, you’re reduced to having to check multiple diaries and ask countless individuals about their workload. It’s simply not practical: the best you can do is build your schedule around a few key people and hope the others fall into place.

But a centralized system combining project management and resource planning has other benefits too. For example, the best professional services project management systems facilitate change handling, automatically updating project documentation if a change is made. That means that project managers can be certain they’re working with the latest information when planning a project – rather than a document created six months previously.

What’s more, requested changes can be evaluated within the context of the entire project portfolio: when a specialist is asked to stay on site longer, the impact of

that on other projects can be foreseen – and the business can make intelligent decisions about priorities.

This same organization-wide visibility can feed into project selection. If you can see that a specific team is already booked to work on a series of projects, then it may not be appropriate to bid for new jobs that will require their involvement.

Alternatively, you could see this as the catalyst for highly targeted recruitment, or a longer term people development strategy – building up a cadre of talent with the specific skills that are most in demand.

A better balance of people and projects. A smarter long-term people strategy. Fewer conflicts between project managers. And fewer delays in delivery. All of this is possible, once you have true visibility into your resources, their skills and their workloads. So if your goal is to be more strategic in your resource management, the first thing you need is a platform that gives you that visibility.