Empower Your People to Develop a Long-Term, Data-Driven Resourcing Strategy
"Right-Sizing" is a common and uncomfortable exercise for the Creative industry, especially for project-based agencies whose pipeline may fluctuate over time, even with a steady client portfolio.
If you’ve ever asked yourself the following questions, then you know the struggle that comes with not knowing the “right size” of your agency’s workforce.
- Do we have enough people to work on this incoming pitch?
- Do we need freelance help or should we hire a full-time employee?
- Do we need to do layoffs?
You already know that it is important to be able to deliver signed work and fully utilize a lean staff – that’s the first step in best practice process for optimizing agency resource management. But it is just as important for you to build on that by planning resources for potential work ahead of time. This is what gives you the ability to determine your agency’s “right size,” and build a long-term resourcing strategy.
Once you’ve achieved the ability to manage utilization, the next step in best practice resource planning involves integrating your pipeline and revenue forecasts for full visibility. This gives you valuable insight into future resource needs months in advance, as well as your agency’s ability to financially support filling those gaps, either by bringing in freelancers or hiring additional full-time employees (FTEs).
This is one of the most difficult balancing acts for a project-based agency to accomplish, and it can be extra challenging to manage this process with a distributed team. But by empowering your Client Service Team and Resource Managers to understand their responsibility to the big picture and providing them with the right processes and tools to get it done, it is exponentially easier to identify resource needs in advance and build a long-term planning strategy, regardless from where your team members are working.
Empower Your Resource Managers:
In order to achieve a long-term overview of your resourcing needs, start by assigning resources to any incoming jobs from your Pipelines that have reached the Quotation or Opportunity stage. At this point, the job has reached the threshold of 75% probability of becoming billable, which triggers the need to plan for its eventual kick-off. In order to do so, your Resource Managers can either book Named Resources or Group Resources in order to reflect the need accurately, both in terms of skillset and hours required. Best practice suggests this process occur on a regular basis, but depending on your agency’s workflow and Resource Manager bandwidth, this can be done either as soon as the opportunities come in, or once a month.
The Weekly Schedule gives you a color-coded detailed view of resource requirements for both Pipelines and live jobs, while the Capacity Status Graph gives you a ten-thousand-foot view over a 12-month period in one place. Just like the Weekly Schedule, any over-bookings are highlighted in red, Pipeline or Opportunity work in yellow, free capacity in blue and vacation time in orange. With one glance, Resource Managers can identify unfilled resource gaps and for the length of time those needs persist.
When faced with an abundance of over-bookings, Resource Managers have the ability to make strategic decisions by running scenario tests. By adjusting the team's capacity percentage up or down, they can assess the real need over time. For example, a five-month period of over-bookings can be minimized by stretching FTE capacity to reflect Basic time (40 hours/week), or Basic + 25% Flex, which would allow you to cover the gap with (1) a small amount of employee Flex time* (overtime) from your full-time staff and (2) a small expenditure on freelance help for one or two months rather than a five-month stretch. *According to your settings, WorkBook will self-calculate a maximum capacity of Basic + Flex time that cannot be exceeded.
Over time, as you balance resource needs with pipeline and revenue, you will learn your agency’s optimal freelance ratio, or the amount of freelance hours budgeted over a specific time period. This metric is valuable for agencies that require a flexible workforce in order to easily react to the ebb and flow of a project-based pipeline.
Best practice suggests that in order to optimize resource forecasting and build an informed hiring strategy, Resource Managers should compare this long-term overview of resource capacity with your agency’s revenue forecast. The revenue stream of a project-based agency can fluctuate significantly over time, so that is why it is important that you are able to identify resource needs ahead of time. With that kind of visibility, Resource Managers are empowered to make better decisions based on what the revenue stream is telling them is affordable.
The ability to evaluate Net Revenue Forecast requires that your WorkBook package include the finance module. If you have the finance module, then it is possible to allow non-finance personas, such as Resource Managers, visibility into the Net Revenue Forecast. The Net Revenue Forecast provides a full picture of potential revenue, broken down by signed work and potential work in the pipeline. Using the Net Revenue Forecast in tandem with the Capacity Status Graph provides you with a complete picture of your resourcing needs across all work, as well as a complete picture of revenue streams. This allows you to decide if you have the revenue to hire additional people, or if you’d be better off with freelancer help for a short time. For example, it may be the wisest decision to utilize freelancer help for a 3-month period, if the pipeline and revenue forecasts don’t show enough work beyond that point.
Empower Your New Business and Client Services Teams
Feed the Pipeline
The New Business and Client Services Teams hold an important role in forecasting workload, resourcing needs, and revenue. It is their responsibility to track and enter opportunities from organic growth and/or new clients accurately, which is what feeds the rest of the agency with the information they need to fulfill their responsibilities. In order to do this properly, best practice suggests that the person responsible for the opportunity enters the most important information into the Pipeline, such as duration, probability, and expected revenue, in order to initiate accurate resource and revenue forecasting.
When a Pipeline reaches the Quotation or Opportunity stage, Client Services has another valuable role to present an accurate Price Quote to the client, which enables the rest of the agency to deliver a successful project. However, they don’t hold this responsibility alone. At this point, it is crucial that the Client Service Manger work closely with the Project Manager and Resource Manager to first build the ideal project plan, and then convert that into the Price Quote, which the client approves. Conversely, if the client provides a budget with which to create the Price Quote, the team can simply convert that into a schedule and then assign resources within budget. Either way, the project plan they build should include a schedule for the full duration of the job, as well as all booked task assignments, either by Named Resource or Group Resource as described above. That way, the Resource Manager has visibility into resourcing needs for both current and potential work, as evidenced on the Capacity Status Graph, and can make strategic staffing decisions for the future.
When Pipelines are managed properly, not only do the New Business and Client Services Teams play an impactful role in feeding information to the Resource Managers, they also provide valuable information to the Finance Team so that they can accomplish important month-end tasks like revenue recognition.
Evaluate and Update the Pipeline
In order to provide an accurate picture of the Net Revenue Forecast, best practice suggests that the Client Services Team evaluate and update Pipeline information weekly and monthly – especially in terms of expected revenue. WorkBook makes this process easier with insightful dashboards (available in the Power Launch configuration) and by allowing you to set up an approval workflow for Net Revenue Forecast, which assigns a person to be the "NRF Responsible" and notifies them to update expected revenue at a specific time, in order to ensure an accurate Net Revenue Forecast. This ensures that the data that both the Resource Managers and Finance Team are using to make strategic hiring decisions, is up to date and accurate in real-time.
By empowering your team to take an impactful role in long-term resource planning:
- You can be confident that you have the “right sized” workforce to deliver current and future work
- Your agency is agile enough to weather the resourcing needs of a project-based pipeline
- You can save money on freelance by making more cost-effective hiring decisions
- You have plenty of time to find the best talent when you need it
- You can avoid unnecessary layoffs