Optimal Staffing = Increased Efficiencies + Cost Savings
I have been working at Kenway Consulting for 11 years, and for the past 4 years, I have been a part of our Client Delivery Leadership Team. This means that we are accountable for staffing our consultants optimally at each client so that we can successfully meet the objectives of project work across all our clients. Today we have 41 employees and 16 active clients whose projects range in size from one to two-week assessments to multi-year programs. The needs of the projects span all three of our capabilities (Project Lifecycle, Enterprise Transformation and Information Insight) and the multitude of services that fall under them. Anyone that has been involved in staffing across a company knows that doing this is no easy feat.
Kenway was founded in 2004, and at the start, I will admit we were not staffing our client projects optimally. While our clients were extremely satisfied with all the work we were doing, we were not functioning in the most cost efficient manner for them. A need would arise, and we would present a single consultant. That consultant would tackle the initial scope of work and when our clients found additional scope, that same consultant would jump in and tackle that scope as well. This cycle continued for months and at some clients, years.
As we grew in size, we began to see the flaws in our process. First, some of our consultants were doing work that wasn’t necessarily in line with their expertise. For example, we had scenarios where the consultant was initially staffed to do Project Management, but had shifted to performing Business Analytics work to accommodate the new scope, even though they were not an expert in Business Analytics. Second, so as to avoid idle time for consultants, we found our clients were clamoring to find 40 hours of work each week to retain a consultant for fear that the absence of that 40 hours would result in losing that resource and all the subject matter expertise that had been built. Third, as Kenway identified new projects, we were often hindered in staffing them because many of our consultants with the right expertise were tied up on 40 hour/week assignments. Finally, our employees often felt as though they were “stuck” at the same client and same project indefinitely.
We decided we needed to find a better way to help our clients, so we developed a new model that has provided tremendous benefits to our clients and our employees: Kenway Consulting provides clients the right skills at the right time in the right volume for the right duration, resulting in the best possible solution for the lowest cost.
This model has allowed us to considerably lower the total cost to our clients while raising the quality of our work and ensuring we mitigate key-person risk across our projects. We often use the analogy of a dimmer switch: as projects naturally ebb and flow across the life-cycle, we can lower or raise the effort/hours our employees are dedicating. We have become adept at flowing from (for example) 17 hours of capacity for a few weeks to 38 hours the next or whatever track the ebbing and flowing of the work takes us. This brings a large cost savings to our clients as it no longer forces additional work to be found as the work dims.
We also commit to our clients that no matter how low that work dims (i.e. 10 hours per week, 5 hours per week, 2 hours per week, etc.), we can easily maintain the scope. The biggest benefit to our clients with this commitment is the sustained subject matter expertise. Often times, our clients are faced with budget cuts mid-project, forcing initiatives to slow considerably and pause for a period for time. At most consulting firms, this would mean that resources would roll completely off the project, taking all their subject matter expertise with them. But at Kenway, our ability to continue in very small value add ways ensures that our clients are able to hit the ground running again once that project resumes.
Further, unlike many companies, we can take on new work no matter how small. Many companies believe they need to find enough scope “to justify a person” for services such as Project Management, Quality Assurance, or Business Analysis before being able to leverage consulting help. And in fact, many consulting firms do require a full time equivalent requirement. But at Kenway, we don’t require a full time equivalent for services. In fact, more often than not, our employees are working less than a full time equivalent on their client projects. Needless to say, this is a huge cost savings to our clients. It is also a huge benefit to our employees in that they find increased diversity in the industries and clients with whom they are working.
While I am not going to claim that this approach has made staffing an organization of 41 a piece of cake, I will say it has made my job a lot easier. Most of all, I am proud that we have learned to help our clients and our employees in a better way. If you are interested in learning more about Kenway and our approach to staffing, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.