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Coping with the peaks and troughs of consultancy

Dean Lewis
April 13, 2012

Responding to ebbs and flows in market demand presents a continuous challenge for consulting firms tasked with creating bespoke solutions for project delivery. Client extensions, change requests and other project ‘peaks and troughs’ also make managing resources across multiple bids and engagements a complex task.

Having the right people in the right place at the right time is critical in people-focused businesses such as consultancy firms. Demand for professional services is tied to the shape of the economy and ongoing market development, making it extremely challenging for consulting firms to be able to plan with certainty in the face of an unpredictable new business pipeline.

What’s more, project requirements are subject to alteration once delivery has commenced, making the ability to both flex and rationalise resource allocation crucial in meeting moving targets and, ultimately, satisfying client expectations.

The uncertainty created by external market factors makes efficient planning and organisation-wide visibility essential for consulting firms internally. Today, many use spreadsheets or enterprise resource planning (ERP) software to plan project delivery and allocate resources, meaning visibility across the business can be difficult to achieve.

Conventional spreadsheets tend to create ‘silos’ of information specific to individual business units and/or different functions, an issue that scales in line with the size and geographic scope of the firm. Most spreadsheets also lack forecasting and reporting functionality.

Meanwhile, ERP systems are designed to address the needs of the entire enterprise, but don’t necessarily allow users to marry specific skill sets and business processes to individual project requirements.

Here, staff planning software can provide a solution for professional services firms, but many systems lack scalability and are unable to integrate with other business systems serving functions such as finance and HR.

This whitepaper ‘Coping with the peaks and troughs of consultancy’ (downloadable in PDF form), is about how software can help smooth the journey for consultancies working on projects.

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Dean Lewis
Dean Lewis is the general manager of Retain International, which supplies resource planning software to professional services organisations.
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