Management in Practice

Beyond the alphabet soup of PRINCE2, MSP, MoP, PMBOK, ITIL, Agile

The resourcing conundrum


In almost every organisation I have worked, I have seen the dilemma of resourcing in an optimum manner. Every services organisation will try to get maximum utilisation of their staff. This is how you make good money. As Murphy would have it, there is never the perfect synergy. Either you have too much work and not enough people, or the exact opposite – too many people sitting around twiddling thumbs.

Sometimes you wish work comes in a less lumpy fashion. However, there are practicalities of procurement that get in the way. Where work is of less immediate urgency, you can try and get your clients to accept delivery at a time suitable to you. However, your clients too have certain timeline. And then there are times before the end of the financial year when people have money to spend, but your capacity take on the work may be compromised, as there is too much work.

In trying to make your pipeline less lumpy there is the chance of your customers becoming dissatisfied with you and going to the competition. So that is a delicate balance to tread. One option many organisations utilise is using contractors. My experience with contractors is mixed. I have worked with some excellent ones and some that have been on the lookout for the next contract or worse intentionally making work for themselves at the expense of the project.

Alliances and business partners could come in quite handy in these scenarios. In essence, these are the same as contractors, but an organisation rather than individuals. While you may encounter some of the same risks, you are more likely to get better quality work out of them. It is in the interest of that organisation to provide quality output. The risk comes more by introducing potential competition to your customers. What is there to stop them going to them for the next project?

If you have read this far expecting concrete suggestions, I will have to disappoint you. It will always be a judgement call based on the size of the project, the customer and their likely reaction, threat of competitors and availability of contract organisations or individual contractors. In some cases you may have to go for a combination of these or compromise an existing project to get through. I am risk averse in deliveries and prefer control of resources.

I generally prefer partnerships with organisations over individuals and mitigating risk by engaging with an organisation with different strengths to avoid future direct competition. What approaches has worked for you? Have I not considered options that you have successfully used?

Be careful not to try and squeeze every last bit of capacity out of your team. Leave some space for unstructured experimentation and self learning to ensure they keep ahead of competition. In reality you will get many fold more productivity out of them than the time they use for this.

Image Credit: LightningArt.Com

2 responses to “The resourcing conundrum

  1. Percy Stilwell (@percystilwell) August 29, 2012 at 4:03 am

    Nice article Shoaib – we’ve recently launched a resource scheduling app to help with this exact problem. Using the ‘Utilization reports’ and ‘Waiting List’ features should help with future capacity planning. Take a look if you get a chance http://resourceguruapp.com

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