Using A Weighted Sales Pipeline To Make Better Resourcing Decisions
By Stuart Gallie
“…you can’t please all of the people all of the time”
Anyone who’s ever worked in resourcing, capacity management or talent deployment within a services business will recognise the words of poet John Lydgate.
When allocating people to engagements and projects, “all of the people” can include clients, sales executives, account managers, delivery management, project managers, and the consultants and delivery specialists themselves.
So it’s virtually impossible to please everyone.
And nobody likes leaving revenue on the table, so “all of the time” means all engagements in the later stage of the sales pipeline. Not just those that are formally won.
In turn, that means some resources might be tagged to more than one pipelined engagement, with sales and account management hoping that all of them will be closed as won deals, and resource management secretly hoping that they won’t be.
That’s because they know they’ll struggle to resource them all, unless they have the budget to create enough advance ‘bench’ capacity, which could prove expensive if a number of the opportunities are subsequently lost.
If the challenge of managing capacity wasn’t enough, there’s also a need to resource and deploy without eroding ‘sold as’ margin through the contract market or third-party suppliers, which might be at a higher price than your sell rate.
How can you overcome this?
Working to a sales pipeline that’s weighted by a percentage probability of win/lose and the expected start/mobilisation date can help reduce these challenges.
It allows your resourcing function to improve forecasting by reviewing the aggregated percentage demand across the entire pipeline at a very early stage, so you can make some early decisions about the future need for specific skills or experience.
A simple example
Let’s say you have 10 opportunities all at 10% probability, all with start dates in the same quarter.
Each opportunity needs a Project Manager with experience of the same platform/technology.
And all of your current PMs who fit that profile are due to be working on existing engagements (and it’s not quicker or cheaper to train others with similar skills or experience).
In this case, your resourcing function can make the early decision that at least one out of 10 opportunities will become a win, and so you should start lining up permanent or contract candidates for interview as soon as possible.
This approach is even more invaluable when it’s mapped and managed against realistic lead times for procuring specific skills and experience in the permanent and contract markets, as well as your internal interview and approval processes.
But everything can be efficiently and effectively managed by your resourcing function from an early stage, by providing information driven by underlying data, rather than ‘gut feelings’.
This approach takes discipline
Pragmatic and consistent weightings need to be applied to pipeline opportunities and increased or qualified out as they progress through the various phases and stages of the sales process.
The person leading the sale will need to define the skill and experience profiles, and the probability weightings – along with timely and realistic win and start dates – will need to be regularly reviewed, challenged and discussed.
Your sales, account management, resourcing and delivery functions might clash on this, but it’s better to have healthy, manageable tension early in the process than leave it too late, get it wrong and leave revenue on the table or erode margin.
A final word of warning
All of this is reliant on the availability of timely and accurate information.
Otherwise, you’ll waste time on resourcing meetings just to wade through and reconcile out-of-date pipeline opportunities with inaccurate capacity forecasts.
We have plenty of pragmatic, real-world experience across the various functions involved, and can provide practical advice on how to design, review and implement your processes and support information systems.