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Iryna Viter

A Guide to Resource Planning for Professional Services

Become better at resourcing with our guide for professional services businesses, diving into best practices and advice from our experts.

All companies do resource planning. They might have a different term for it, the person who handles the resources might have a different role name, but as long as you have 'resources' as human capital (which all professional services organizations do), you're doing resource management.

In one of our recent webinars with Christine Robinson and Nora Fleischhut called "Resourcing for Success: Best Practices Every Manager Should Know", we took a dive in some of the must-dos for successful resource planning. Here, we will give you an all-in resource planning for professional services guide along with the insights we gained from that webinar.

The importance of resource planning for professional services organizations

Suppose you're just starting out with resource planning at your company and need to make a solid case for it to get company-wide approval. From the leadership perspective, it might be received as an unneeded investment or even a change in established processes, and we all know how common resistance to change is. From the employee perspective, this might be received as micromanagement or somebody coming into the picture to make sure that 'everybody is doing enough work'.

In any case, knowing the importance of professional services resource management and the value it can bring to each individual is paramount. Here are some ideas for you to get started.

Reaching strategic business goals

Resource management doesn't exist for the sake of resource management. And if project managers set out to do resource planning, it is always going to be for the greater interests of their company, to help optimize processes and reach strategic goals.

As Christine rightfully noted during our webinar, "The fundamentals of resource management are industry agnostic." Resource planning as a concept has the same goal for any industry or business: to maximize the potential of resources and help businesses reach their goals.

A successful resource management function is not successful, because resource management is successful, it's successful because it is allowing the organization to be successful through the resource management platform, allowing the process to be agile and nimble as the organization meets its organizational goals, says Christine.

Improving employee experience

At the same time, resource planning isn't there to just bring value to the company as a whole, but to each individual, too. A good resource manager will always get to know their 'resources', the human capital, see what they live and breathe, as well as what can make their time with the company more enjoyable and beneficial to them on the personal and professional levels.

Needless to say, communication is key here. Before you open any resource planning guide to plan out your people's time you need to know what it is they are actually passionate about, what kind of companies, projects, roles or teams they would like to be part of. This, in fact, is a sure way to build a motivated workforce and maximize everyone's potential.

Retaining top talent

Company turnover is an unavoidable thing. But smart resource planning can help you reduce those numbers and keep all the good talent for as long as possible. There are lots of reasons why people choose to resign, but if your company can find ways around it, that will not only help you hold onto the talent but also secure successful project delivery, decrease uncertainty, and increase project stability.

For instance, if you're a large organization with hundreds of resources and multiple projects running at the same time, that might actually give you more flexibility when it comes to resource planning.

Suppose one of your top talents wants to move together with your whole family and you happen to have an exciting project in their new location, you also happen to need an expert with their skillset in there. Instead of letting them go, you can support their drive to relocate and give them that job security right away, while also giving them another opportunity to work on and keeping them with the company.

Career growth for top performers

Career opportunities is yet another benefit that comes when professional services firms work with their resources right.

In fact, many resource managers come from an HR background, they know how to establish trusting relationships with their resources. A major part of that trust lies in the genuine interest in helping people work on the things they are passionate about, grow within their roles and outside of them, have their career aspirations met and respected.

When creating a resource management plan, you don't just look at the capacity and availability of your resources. You also need to look into their skills and passions, growth needs, and individual requests.

How to succeed with resource planning in professional services

Successful resource capacity planning is no one-person job. You need to have all the stakeholders onboard with the initiative, everyone equally interested in contributing their part of the deal. After all, even if you're doing your resource planning in Excel (which you really shouldn't), it's going to be heavy on data, and you won't be the only person logging that data in.

Get leadership buy-in

In order to succeed in resource planning, your leadership needs to fully support it and understand what benefits it can bring to the company. Namely, the strategic goals it's going to help them hit.

In the webinar mentioned above, Christine advises:

Paint the picture for leadership of how the resource management function is going to benefit the organization, is going to align to whatever their strategic objectives are. So for example, if you're speaking with a leader who is focused on doubling the footprint of their practice, that's key information that's important to know. How can you help them achieve that? Understand how they are planning to have some sort of a strategy.

Develop a value proposition for resource planning

Your resourcing value proposition pitch shouldn't just work well for the leadership — the people you will be managing should also be able to see how their interests within the company align with the work you're going to do for and with them.

Considering the fact that resource planning and management are not yet well-developed at most companies, a lot of your introductory work will be educational. In a way, you need to set the stage for successful resource planning and make sure every individual stakeholder understands their benefits in it. For instance, it could be that some top performer who constantly gets overbooked will finally get a comfortable workload with enough free time to pursue their passion. For leaders in very volatile businesses it might mean getting some stability and security into the picture, reducing constant business risks.

Keep reading: A Value Proposition for Resource Management

Get the right tools

There's only so much you can do with resource planning with no adequate resource planning software. Achieving a truly strategic approach to resource planning becomes an uphill battle, considering the amount of data you need to process on a daily basis.

To unlock the full potential of resource management, resource managers should not be tied down with mundane administrative tasks that can easily be automated by the right tool. Ideally, this tool should seamlessly integrate with other systems across your organization, ensuring real-time data accuracy. Moreover, it should possess the flexibility to capture critical business information, whether it pertains to skill sets, certifications, or proficiency levels. Naturally, it must cover all aspects of scheduling and adapt to the dynamic elements of your workforce, accounting for factors like flexible work arrangements or part-time employment, ensuring that your resource planning remains agile and responsive.

On that, Christine advises that everyone really takes the time to choose the tool that aligns well with the characteristics and needs of their business situation:

Get a tool that can meet you where you are - not only in terms of the capability that you need from it from an organizational standpoint, but also where your organization is in its maturity path, and in terms of what data is even available in your organization. I've seen leaders and resource managers alike fall in love with the idea of a shiny new tool that is going to solve the world and all the problems.

Now, there are some really nice tools out there that do some pretty cool things. And I am a huge supporter of investing in your own toolbox. But what I would say is a word of caution. You can't just get a tool and go off to the races and expect everything to work. You need continuous iteration. The tool is just a base. You need leadership buy-in, continuous improvement, constant check-ins. You need to understand your people, and understand the direction of the business. That's what's needed to drive a really successful resource management function.

Build a personal bond with your people

As mentioned above, personal connections are key for successful resource planning. Any resource or project manager needs to start their capacity planning only after they have had a look into all or at least most of their people, whether the insights will come from real-life conversations or a profile recap by their resource planning tool. Effective resource planning is not only done for the greater good of the company, but also the people growing the business.

After years of working in resource management and studying various resource management processes, Christine notes:

The resources that are being managed are people, and so establishing that relationship with the people that are very talented, that are being aligned in different ways, and really understanding how they are motivated and what they aspire to, that's going to be the key to success across the board. Again, an industry agnostic best practice, truly listening. So having a keen and acute understanding of what the pulse is of the organization, what is driving people right now, what are they looking for, in terms of perhaps diversity of experience or the evolution of where they are in their career?

Embrace 'The Story of an Hour'

In other words, this means cherishing your data. If there's one question many resource managers in the professional services industry often get to answer is "why do I need to register time?" or "why do I need to keep my schedules up-to-date all the time?"

Contrary to popular belief, time tracking, all of those labeled hours, are not only needed to see how much time is being spent on doing specific tasks. This data is also invaluable when making educated predictions about upcoming projects, how much time they will take to get completed, and how many productivity hours your people will need to put in to get them to the finish line.

Project time tracking is also a great way to avoid overloading your people — when you know how many hours you need to plan out it's also easier to make an accurate estimation of how many people you need to have on the project without overstretching existing resources.

Be prepared for frequent uncertainty

Resource planning as a whole is ridden with uncertainty, change, and stressful situations. Reliable project management software will reduce the volume of stress coming your way, but knowing how to handle force majeures is crucial for successful resource planning.

The ability to be comfortable with the unknown is paramount. If you're the type of individual who really enjoys having a mapped out layout of exactly how your day is going to go, or you become very flustered if one piece is out of context, this is probably not the field for you. Successful resource managers are able to roll with the punches. And being comfortable with this sort of the Rubik's cube of the situation, it's having that personality where there is a puzzle that you're putting together, but you don't have all the pieces and you're trying your best, and you're gonna put something together, - says Christine.

Now, do you feel ready to get started with your human resource planning? There might be just one thing you're missing!

🛠️ Elevate your resource planning game with Runn! Take control of your data, streamline your operations, and supercharge your strategic resource planning. Start your journey today with a free trial!

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