The Intelligent Future Of Resource Management For Professional Services Firms

Matt Emmert

In the professional services sector, the value of strong resource management is undeniable. Quickly matching the right resources to the right project roles results in increased resource utilisation, more profitable projects and less firefighting efforts. Plus, people are happier when their talents are put to good use.  Effectively matching people’s assignments to their skills and career plans empowers staff to utilise their intellect and strengths, which is a positive way to engage the workforce and retain top talent.

The challenge for resource managers

Unfortunately, many organisations fall short when it comes to effective resource management. It’s a balance of art and science, and many variables need to be considered, including soft skills, technical and business skills, relationships and time constraints. From a resource manager’s perspective, when time and talent are limited, it can be challenging to match the best people to a project or role. Factor in availability, and engagement managers have a complex task on their hands.

Where current approaches to resource management are falling short

In the past, resource management relied on a personal network approach, using relationships, emails, and phone calls to assign people to projects.  Today, many professional services organisations have outgrown the personal networks of their project and resource managers and have implemented more systematic approaches.

For example, many organisations have tried establishing a structured skills catalogue, used by project managers to define project role requirements and by resource managers to match people to those requirements. This approach has two major flaws that limit its effective use.  First, when initially setting up the catalogue, business people across organisations must agree on how to define and rate the skills.  The result is typically a huge catalogue with overly granular skills that is often too complex to actually use.  The second problem is that people’s skills need to be constantly maintained by employees and their managers or they become outdated, and it is very difficult to get people to consistently update this information. Together, these flaws mean project and resource managers revert to using their personal networks, emails, and phone calls.

In a digital economy, professional services firms can’t afford to rely on outdated approaches. There are too many pressures and threats, especially for businesses with large pipelines to juggle. Resource managers in professional services need a more intelligent way of working.

Fortunately, through the digitalisation of talent, such a solution is emerging. 

An intelligent, data-driven solution for resource management 

Machine learning is already changing the way we live and work, and it has a significant role to play in the future of intelligent resource management. The “skills catalogue” approach mentioned above takes too much human effort to update, maintain, and mine. But this hurdle can be overcome with a smarter solution – one that’s grounded in machine learning and intelligent automation.

Imagine a platform that automatically collects the “digital exhaust” of your employees and builds a skills profile as they do their daily jobs, pulling keywords and relationships from enterprise systems like collaboration hubs, project management, learning and career planning systems. Employees could further extend their “storefront” with additional skills, interests, and CVs.  As people are staffed to projects and deliver work, this technology can learn which matches were more (or less) successful, and continuously modify the algorithm to improve future searches, helping resource managers find the ideal talent at the click of a button.

The search algorithm could even pick up indirect correlations that indicate project success. For example, a candidate with deep analytical business intelligence experience might be a good match for machine learning projects, since other people with that skillset have been successful in the past. This could also be done in a way that aligns sales and technical jargon – for example, the system could recognise that when a salesperson is asking for an expert who has experience “building sandboxes,” it will find a consultant with ‘prototyping’ experience.

This technology could also actively alert employees about project roles that match their skills, interests, location, and availability so they can self-bid and ensure they get on interesting projects.  For example, if a consultant is going to be rolling off a project in the next two weeks, the system could identify their new availability and start proposing new matching assignments for consideration.

Intelligent resource management can then be taken a step further, into process automation and guidance. One automation scenario being evaluated within SAP involves simple resource requests. In this scenario, the system identifies matching resources and either sends for approval or creates the booking automatically. This could remove a lot of the day-to-day transactional load from resource managers, leaving them free to focus on more complex staffing requirements. 

Getting started on an intelligent future 

In time, this technology could go beyond simply finding the best people to staff onto a project, and into the realm of uncovering real business insights that help with long-term activities like hiring and subcontracting. For example, predictive intelligence could identify likely skills gaps for an upcoming project and alert hiring and sourcing managers to initiate the relevant recruiting processes.

The good news is that a range of new technologies are already in place that can help professional services firms embed intelligence into their resource management processes. For example, I’m working with customers to co-innovate intelligent resource management prototypes that work with standard resource management applications. For businesses seeking to reap the benefits of intelligent resource management in the digital workplace, the time is now to get started.

Find out more about how intelligent technologies can help professional services firms outrun their competition in my previous blog: Why Growing Professional Services Businesses Should Compete With Intelligent Technologies.


Matt Emmert

About Matt Emmert

Matt Emmert is a Solution Manager in SAP’s Professional Services Industry Business Unit. He has over 20 years of business consulting, solution management, and software presales experience and has been at SAP for 11 years. In that time, he has helped hundreds of large and small professional services customers discover and realize the value of SAP’s solutions. He is currently focused on multi-tenant ERP and intelligent technologies. He holds a Mechanical Engineering degree from Purdue University.