We often blog about AXIO Professional Services for Microsoft Dynamics AX and the advantages it offers for large project-oriented firms. One significant advantage is the ability to dramatically improve the management of consulting resources across projects. We’ll break this down for you in today’s post and highlight some of the benefits our customers have told us to make the biggest difference for their firms.
If you’re not already familiar with AXIO Professional Services, it is a cloud solution developed by SBS Group that integrates with Microsoft Dynamics AX and tailors AX to the needs of large project-oriented firms. This includes all of the advanced resource management, project management, marketing, human capital management, and financial management processes these firms depend on to compete.
Understanding Resource Management for Services Firms
Resource management in a service-driven organization is the process of optimizing the utilization of consulting and delivery team members to provide the best possible outcome. Profitability, efficiency, exceeding project expectations, customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction are just a few of the ways strong resource management can positively impact the organization.
Successful resource management requires more than accurate scheduling. A firm should have transparent access to information about each consulting resource, including FTE’s and sub-contractors. Knowledge of their work history (including projects and specific clients), their skill sets, career goals and more are all important data leveraged by leading services firms. Aggregating and analyzing this data is no easy task, but it can make all the difference in consistently winning and delivering successful projects and ensuring a positive experience throughout the customer lifecycle.
When is it time to adopt a formal resource management solution?
Professional services organizations, especially those in Hi-Tech fields, often deal with complex projects requiring multiple people working in concert against a detailed scope-of-work. Projects can last anywhere from a few weeks or months to years. When an organization is small, with only a handful of consultants, it is fairly easy to manage the who, what and when of staffing a project. Everyone, for the most part, understands the skill-sets of other team members and people naturally fill gaps where needed. The cost and effort of creating and managing a formal resource management solution outweigh the benefits.
As a firm grows, the dynamics and potential benefits of formal resource management change considerably. Growth can come in many forms that quickly drive additional complexities.
- organic growth
- working across multiple geographies
- employee turn-over
- silos develop
When a firm grows past the point where one person, or the team, can know what everyone is capable of, it is time to develop a “list” of skills, education and experience associated with each consultant. Most firms start with excel to collect simple data points, but ultimately discover that a more integrated approach is needed.
Why go beyond Excel for tracking and managing consulting resources?
Excel is a wonderful tool and most professional services organizations have plenty of people with black belts in spreadsheet design. Creating a comprehensive list of team members, and even creating some level of automation in Excel is easily done and the impact is often substantial.
However, growing services firms are growing more than just resource management practices. They’re adopting more comprehensive project management solutions that integrate with other key systems, like ERP, corporate email or customer collaboration portals. Consultant career advancement can be tied to skill sets, educational goals and projects completed. Availability becomes more complex as the number of concurrent projects grows and consultants become more specialized.
As consultants become more specialized, scheduling becomes a finer science and just “referencing a list” becomes cumbersome. Even minor integrations between Excel and other systems becomes a chore and falls short of providing efficiency gains necessary to meet corporate goals for project management.
AXIO Professional Services is a great example on integrated resource management.
Our AXIO Professional Services for Dynamics AX (soon to be Dynamics 365) is a prime example of a resource management solution that is tightly integrated throughout the organization. SBS Group created AXIO Professional Services as a way to tailor Microsoft’s premier ERP solution to the specific needs of large, project-oriented firms.
Advanced resource management features allow AXIO customers to create a completely customizable skills matrix that paints a clear picture of the entire consulting team. Most importantly, that information is made readily available from project planning through execution. Check out the screenshots below to take a peek at the features available:
Filtering resources by competencies such as skills, certificates, education, projects and more:
Project team and scheduling:
Project resource fulfillment dashboard:
Resource assignments at project task level:
As you can see in the screenshots above, not only is scheduling dramatically improved, but the quality of the team being fielded is improved as well. The system can reference comprehensive data from the skills matrix to ensure that the most optimal alignment of resources is utilized across all projects. When the right resource is unavailable, tasks and related tasks can easily be moved to accommodate.
What kind of impact should be expected to the business?
Efficiency gains are obvious and with efficiency comes increased profitability. However, there is much more to be expected from using the right solution along with industry best practices and alignment with proven project management methodologies.
Resource planning software will help your team to better forecast demand for new resources and improve insight into resource availability. Staffing plans will move from “we need someone next week” to long-term, strategic plans that support organization growth plans. And, your firm will be much better at helping to grow existing employees. Plans, or career journeys, can be used to develop junior consultants or help more experienced consultants acquire skills that will let them increase their value to the organization.
– Increased employee satisfaction
– Improved project profitability
– Improved utilization
– Greater visibility and resource forecasting
As an organization matures in the use of formal resource management, they are able to leverage consulting skills data alongside project, profitability and even sales data to provide additional value. Trends, causes and associations can often help an organization find the most appropriate mix of skill-sets for their business. Many times, it is much more than just a particular set of technology or consulting skills that help a consultant to be successful.
People are a professional services firm’s greatest asset. Keeping them busy on the right projects is absolutely critical to your profitability and keeping your clients happy.
VP Enterprise Solutions and Services, SBS Group
Robbie Morrison has spent nearly 20 years helping customers build and deploy elegant technology and business solutions. From start-ups to enterprise-class organizations worldwide, his knowledge of the Microsoft Dynamics ecosystem helps SBS Group customers maximize benefits from the ERP investments.
Today, Robbie serves SBS Group customers in his role as Vice President, Enterprise Group where he provides thought leadership and manages the enterprise delivery team. Robbie received his MBA from the University of Georgia, Terry College of Business.