Effectively Managing the Human Touch in the Service Sector
Managing resources adequately is core to business success, but never more so than when those resources have two arms and two legs.
In years gone by, service organisations used resource planning methods that were informal and ad hoc. Everybody “more or less” knew what everyone else was doing, and getting the right people in the right places at the right times was a matter of experience, intuition and perhaps the occasional use of an email, a conversation or even a spreadsheet.
Service delivery in 2019 is more complex and intricate. At the same time, in today’s super-competitive environment, businesses need to leverage every internal efficiency they can, and it is simply not good enough to leave such a crucial element of service delivery to chance. The risk associated with getting things wrong is far higher than it used to be, so for every service, businesses need to think hard about its resource management tools and processes.
Service companies lagging behind
None of this should come as any real surprise to anyone in the service sector. However, knowing is one thing and doing is another. Last year’s State of Professional Services Report by the Technology Services Industry Association showed that a mere 59 percent of service businesses have a specific resource management function. Sure, this was a US study, but there is no reason to suppose that the statistics for UK businesses should be markedly different.
Resource planning in the service sector is not so different to manufacturing. In the latter, resource managers control the supply of components and materials to fulfil production needs as swiftly and efficiently as possible. In the service economy, the same supply chain approach needs to be adopted to align the required resource skills and availability with client needs.
A four step approach
The following steps will help convert the theory into reality and get that all-important resource management function up and running on all cylinders.
1) Define your resource pools
The first step is to ensure accurate and current visibility of the people at your disposal. This must encompass skills, availability, experience, location and cost or billing rates. With those basics in place, you can add further value by providing employee work preferences and development needs. This ensures you are doing more than just defining your resources – you are providing a platform to enhance them.
2) Implement a resource management function
Resource management will only be effective if it is properly managed. A typical resource manager will add value to the business by improving efficiency, reducing project management costs and enhancing on-time and on-budget completion. That is a role that is too important to leave to chance, so fully commit to a dedicated resource manager.
3) Start early with soft allocations
Sealing the deal on a project and then starting to work out the resource allocation is a classic recipe for disaster. The resource planning process has to be part of the sales / negotiation stage. That way, there is a far better prospect of managing resources in a way that will increase overall profitability.
4) Monitor, manage and improve
No innovative process or function is going to be perfect from day one. Be prepared to learn from what goes right as well as what goes wrong, and use insights from the coal face as well as analytical data to identify ways to improve the resource management process.