Consultants

Managing a consultancy is hard. This doesn't have to include managing people and work.

Consultancies are enterprises that provide specialist advice, services, deliverables or people, to assist other enterprises improve processes or develop assets. They range from 5 people to more than 50,000.

To maximise your consultancy’s performance, it’s essential you balance people, project delivery and financial outcomes. Traditionally, this has proven difficult as it requires you to predict your people’s workload, ability to deliver and efficiency. But this can be done easily.  RESRODEL gives you the opportunity to act early and ensure successful outcomes.

Consultancies are businesses where utilisation is critical and delivery performance is essential. Being based on finite people resources, robust Capability Planning and Resource Allocation is vital for consultancies to maximise their performance.   Changing people numbers in a consultancy is hard and slow, so you need the ability to predict future Demand with accuracy, which is not easily done. RESRODEL has a best in class Demand estimation module.

Larger consultancies are organised in many ways, including cross functionally, with groups of expertise supporting multi-discipline projects. RESRODEL provides Line Managers and Project Managers with the insights they need to meet their responsibilities.

People in consultancies work on many projects, activities and deliverables, at any one time. RESRODEL shows people the activities they have been allocated, enabling better self-management.

Consultancies must manage enterprise and project risk. They also have opportunities to do better. RESRODEL is highly flexible for planning your people numbers with a level of detail that matches your risks, and engages your opportunities for high performance.

RESRODEL is the ‘resource role model’ solution that embodies the new theorem we call Effort Management. Created specifically for Project Based Enterprises (PBE’s), RESRODEL empowers consultancies to efficiently plan people numbers and project work, to deliver your potential.

Typical Characteristics of a Consultancy
  • People are the primary resource and cost
  • Most work is project like (it has scope, start and finish)
  • Exact effort is hard to predict, particularly when creating something new
  • Project revenue is either fixed fee or time & expense
  • Margins are relatively high, but often absorb under-utilisation and cost overruns
  • Large consultancies have people in highly dispersed locations across multiple business units.
Enterprise Outcomes are:
  • People
  • Project Delivery
  • Financial

To predict Enterprise Outcomes effort must first be quantified in the form of Demand, Capacity and Allocation.

Project Outcomes are:
  • Time
  • Cost
  • Quality

Many secondary factors, such as scope and interfaces, do affect Project Outcomes.

Effort applied, however, is the enabler of all Project Outcomes.

Enterprises should model and analyse as few activities as needed to predict workload, ability to deliver and efficiency to enable future balancing of people, project and financial outcomes.

The problems

There are many Effort Management challenges for PBE’s. Those typically faced by Consultancies include:

1. The Consultancy environment:

  • Utilisation is critical yet not easy to predict
  • Constant evolution of project timing is hard to update
  • People resources are finite and overworking people is not a solution
  • Capacity in people numbers is inflexible compared to the fluctuation of Demand
  • Cross functional organisations are hard to inform and coordinate
  • It’s hard to find and share work and people in large consultancies operating in multiple regions and market sectors
  • Collaborative working with other parties can be hard to communicate
  • Estimate inaccuracy, optimism bias and decentralisation makes it hard to predict future Demand
  • Bidding projects can disrupt enterprise production and people’s work life.
  • Multi-task workplaces make work and effort management more complicated.
  • The mitigation of many consultancy risks lies in the efficient management of people numbers and work, yet current methods inadequately address such significant risk, let alone engage the opportunities for high performance.
2. Having too many people due to:

  • Not predicting the need to secure sufficient work in time
  • Delays in project commencement
  • Keeping people for future capability
3. Not having enough people to undertake work due to:

  • Slow update of project Demand for people by Project Managers
  • Unavailability of existing people for re-assignment and/or late recruitment
  • Premature reassignment of people
  • Lack of evidence to justify more people
4. Leading to:

  • Poor project delivery outcomes – substandard time, cost, quality performance
  • Poor people outcomes – being overworked and dissatisfied
  • Less economical use of contracted workers
  • Inefficiency from incomplete allocation of all the enterprise’s people to work
  • Management distraction from resource management issues
5. Caused by:

  • Poor Capability Planning practices, including:
    • Decentralized estimation of enterprise level Demand for people
    • Poor visibility of supporting resources availability
  • Poor Allocation processes including:
    • Inability to exhaustively identify people and project work that can be shared across the Consultant’s enterprise.
    • Lack of Propose, Accept and Approve processes
  • Collation and dissemination of large volumes effort management data across project managers, Line Managers, HR and people resources.
  • Change in timing that’s constant and tedious

Our Solutions

This apparently complex challenge becomes quite straight-forward thanks to six key features of RESRODEL: 

1. Overcome the challenges of the consultancy environment:

  • Predict planned utilisation

  • Easily update activity timing manually, or automatically

  • Predict ability to deliver and people’s workload

  • Act earlier using forecasts with long planning horizons

  • Provide cross functional Line Managers (or Resource Managers) with the ability to:

    • foresee Demand for all projects,

    • check people’s upcoming total workload

    • communicate and agree people’s proposed allocation

    • track people’s allocation to projects

  • Identify work and people can be shared across the enterprise
  • Consolidate information from joint ventures or with sub-Consultants to truly understand people’s committed Availability and Allocation.

  • Accurately forecast Demand for all projects, opportunities and upcoming bids

  • Show your people the many activities allocated to them, with time and budget expectations, allowing them to self-assess workload and act if changes are needed.

  • Plan your people to a level of detail that matches your risk, or engages your opportunities for high performance.

2. Have just enough people:

  • Predict the need to secure sufficient work in time
  • Analyse the impact of delays to project commencement
  • Faster update of project Demand for people by Project Managers
  • Earlier project staffing from re-assignment and advice to recruiters or agencies
  • Reduce the need for premature re-assignment away from a project
  • Justify and secure necessary people with quantitative evidence
3. Avoid poor outcomes of:

  • Substandard time, cost, quality performance – by forecasting your ability to deliver
  • People being overworked and dissatisfied – by forecasting your people’s workload
  • Incomplete deployment of all people resources – by forecasting utilisation
  • Less economical contracted workers – by having greater confidence in your need for permanent people.
  • Distracting management with resource issues – by using the clarity of a resource management solution dedicated to project based enterprises
4. Remove process problems by:

  • Better Capability Planning practices, with:
    • Robust, centralised, consistent demand estimation/updating
    • Quantitative insight into people’s general availability
  • Better Allocation practices, with:
    • Identification of right people and work that can engaged across your contracting enterprise
    • Propose, Accept and Approve processes
    • Access for everyone, in your contracting enterprise, to contribute their data and extract decision ready data through self-service analysis.
  • Remove double handling of constantly changing schedule data, by integrating Resrodel with data from best practise tools such as MS Project or Oracle Primavera (when appropriate)

The Situation

Priorities

Consultancies are businesses where utilisation is critical to financial performance and ultimate survival. Delivery performance is essential for reputation and subsequent work. However, in consultancies dependent on the finite resource of people’s availability, Capability Planning and Resource Allocation directly affects financial and delivery performance. Furthermore, enterprises are increasingly expected to avoid over working their people.

People, delivery and financial priorities vary between consultancies, however, minimum expectations for each do exist. Like all Project Based Enterprises (PBE’s), consultancies continually balance these three Enterprise Outcomes in a paradigm we call Effort Management.

Inflexibility of People Numbers

Changing people numbers in a consultancy is hard, slow and inflexible compared to the way secured work fluctuates. As a consequence, the gap between capacity and demand often fluctuates to intolerable levels, either stretching people’s work load excessively and causing late delivery of poor product; or eroding the enterprise's margins and financial performance.

This relative inflexibility of people numbers is due to the high proportion of salaried staff, some of whom are also part owners of the business. The use of contracted staff does occur but is less desirable due their higher cost and other factors.

As a result, consultancies tend to only increase people numbers when there’s certainty of growth, or a peak in Demand and, more commonly, ‘chase and win’ work to keep their people productive.

Organisation and Management

Consultancies are organised in many ways – by region, market, expertise – and often cross functionally. Each of these business units are ‘sub-enterprises’ within a whole consultancy, acting as a business within a business. This is particularly true of large consultancies operating in many regions and market sectors.

Some consultancies have a large range of expertise and offer clients a ‘one stop shop’ service with the ability to deliver multi-discipline projects. People’s expertise is often grouped into sub-enterprises that provide cross functional support to multiple projects, whether people are working full time or part time. Furthermore, people must reside in a physical office, but increasingly the project work exists in other offices.

Similarly, there is a rising trend in collaborative working on project by project basis. With mixed staffing from joint ventures or with sub-consultancies, it is hard to confirm people’s availability and communicate their Allocation.

Line Managers responsible for sub-enterprise groups are often accountable for:

  • ensuring their group has sufficient capability to deliver the enterprises future projects
  • the group’s utilisation
  • the welfare of the group’s people

Enterprise Managers and Enterprise Leaders have similar responsibilities and accountabilities to that of Line Managers, but at as an aggregation of multiple sub-enterprises with in the consultancy.

Alternatively, dedicated Resource Managers might be employed to administer the capability planning and resource allocation to aide managers achieve their accountabilities.

Project managers (or account managers, design managers etc) have a very keen interest in ensuring there is sufficient provision of people for the work, as they are responsible for project outcomes of time, cost and quality.

RESRODEL has been built to aide Line Managers, Resource Managers, Project Managers, Enterprise Managers and Enterprise Leaders surpass their expected accountabilities.

Estimate Inaccuracy

Accurately estimating Demand required for each Role for a single activity, is not so easily done. Being wrong by more than +- 20% for each activity occurs regularly, but consultancies have so many project activities that they usually achieve an acceptable average result through ‘swings and roundabouts’ when actual effort exerted is compared to Demand. However, enterprise underperformance does still occur when estimates are low balled due to “optimism bias” from the pressures of a competitive marketplaces and pre-existing workloads.

Accurately estimating total Demand for all Roles, for the whole consultancy, requires Demand data to be centralised, consistent and up to date.

Multi-Tasking

Consultancies often produce a high volume of deliverables from concurrent activities in multiple projects. Accordingly, people in consultancies are often allocated multiple activities.

People undertake work activities in varying ways. The simplest way, and sometimes the preferred, is working fulltime on one a single activity from its start to its finish.

The more common way is to work part time on multiple activities. This is particularly true where the development of deliverables pauses as they move through cycles of draft-review-update, or are developed in unison with other deliverables. (Reviews by other teams, or clients, require communication of drafts and receipt of comments, which all take time). As a result, many activities are not undertaken fulltime and, to keep people productive, must be undertake concurrently. While this is more efficient for the enterprise, it also makes the managing work more complicated.

Like all PBE’s, Consultancies have activities that are not project related but must be undertaken. For example, people are often asked to prepare tender submissions and people in middle and upper management are rarely ‘productive’, as they have ongoing management and business development obligations that are needed to drive the enterprise.

Bidding multiple projects occurs randomly, sometimes resulting in simultaneous bids, and it is hard to plan the teams that will work on bids. Furthermore, with zero compromise to the quality and timing of submissions, people often work excessively hard to complete the bids. As a consequence, bid work can cause major disruptions to the enterprise’s resourcing and people’s work-life.

Having several activities ‘on the go’ at any one time, is more the norm, and ‘fitting work in’ is often the mindset. A multi-task environment!

Risk and Opportunities

Consultancies have enterprise risk, as well as project risk to manage. They also have opportunities to do better. Consultancy priorities are often driven by the nature of the its work and the way their clients share project risk for time, cost and quality. Forms of client engagement and project risk to the consultancy include:

  • Secondment – no time, cost, quality risk
  • Time & expense – time and quality risk
  • Upper limit fee – cost overrun, time and quality risk
  • Fixed fee – cost, time and quality risk

The mixture of these forms of engagement vary between Consultancies, some experience just one, others experience them all simultaneously.