We all know how important it is to be able to pivot quickly in the face of change. But many of us don’t realise how agile our business is and how agile we need to be until we’re actually staring change in the face. Businesses often rely on the professional services industry to help them improve agility.
But to provide the best service, professional services firms must be agile themselves to avoid overpromising and underdelivering. Here’s how to achieve that.
- Make an accurate estimate of a project’s workload
- Map a project’s requirements to internal capacity
- Optimise resource usage
- Centralise key data (and ensure it’s accurate)
Make an accurate estimate of a project’s workload
It’s often hard to know exactly how long a project will take until you’ve finished it. After all, who knows precisely what issues might crop up? But, you can use historic project data to estimate as accurately as possible.
Steps/stages required, how much time is required for each stage, the potential hurdles you may need to cross and how long they might take - these are all examples of information you should take away from each project you’ve completed. Centralise that data and have it pull through into a project management tool that can turn this intelligence into Gantt charts, a visual dashboard etc.
This will make it easier for your project managers to gain an accurate estimate of an upcoming project’s resource requirements and plan accordingly.
Map a project’s requirements to internal capacity
Once you have an accurate idea of how many resources a project might require, you can start creating a plan. Who will work on what task? Who has the capacity to be involved? What timeframe can you comfortably work to without sacrificing quality? Does your team even have the capacity to start with?
And even throughout the project, you should be able to track your planned consumption to the actual consumption. That data can be used to improve the accuracy of your estimates in future.
Optimise resource usage
It would be amazing if you could assign a different set of people to each project. The reality is, even the biggest professional services firms can’t do this. It’s not profitable or cost-efficient to assign a unique team to a different project. They may be over capacity or underutilised, for example.
Additionally, this approach can lead to siloed working when you actually want to encourage knowledge sharing and cross-departmental collaboration. The latter approach is what will help your business to adapt quickly to your customers’ changing requirements.
To effectively maintain the balance between workload and capacity, you must be able to gain full visibility over your projects and resources. That includes:
- The capacities and skillsets of individual employees
- The capacities and skillset distribution of each team/department
- Accurate estimates of resource availability at any given time
When you can clearly and easily visualise the above, it’s easier to assign the right people (not just skills but also availability) to the right tasks at the right time. This can improve productivity and the chances of the project being a success. It also ensures workload is evenly distributed and no employee has too much or too little work - which maximises productivity and employee satisfaction.
Centralise key data (and ensure it’s accurate)
Data is king. To make fast, well-informed decisions, you need easy access to accurate data. What you don’t want is to have to search multiple systems and versions of data just to find the one you need (or you think you need). That only increases the risk of errors.
This is why it’s important to centralise data so you can quickly find the most up-to-date information. Even better if that data can automatically pull through into this centralised system. This not only reduces the need for data entry, but also eliminates the risk of duplication and errors - making for more reliable data!
Modern project management tools also come with data analytics functionality. For example, Microsoft Dynamics 365 Project Operations features built-in analytics and customisable dashboards so you can easily understand how your projects are progressing and make timely on-the-spot decisions if necessary.
And use the data to learn. Learn what projects were most successful for your business and feed that knowledge into your marketing efforts. Support this with AI to mine the data.
Grab our advice to achieving business agility to go…
The state of the market can affect the professional services industry as much as it might affect your customers. So, your business must be as agile as you’re trying to help your customers become.
Ensure you’ve achieved that state by downloading our short checklist to business agility in professional services.