I’ve been speaking to many firms over the last few months to get a better understanding of how companies that live on service revenues are managing and optimizing the allocation of people to teams. And as part of this, how they know the skill gaps that exist within their firms. I am hearing three key things over and over again.

  1. Knowing talent availability is not enough to win work – companies have to be able to know and to demonstrate skills at a granular level
  2. Team elasticity is a key strategic goal for services companies – they must be able to scale up and down quickly in response to market demand
  3. Despite large investments in talent management, companies do not actually know the skills of their extended talent networks – they cannot assess what skills are used on which projects and what untapped skills are available

Put these three things together and you have a good summary of the reasons so many services companies struggle to deliver on growth and profitability and are often forced to choose on or the other.

In almost every conversation, availability comes up as a key consideration when putting teams together. Anyone who has had the role of assembling teams knows that availability is not the best criteria when trying to deliver good results. Availability is a limiting parameter; you can only get a person on a team if they are available.  But using availability as the prime consideration impacts not only speed of delivery but introduces project and service risk. Think about it, as a customer, would you be a happy if your service provider assigned a consultant primarily because he or she happened to be available? Probably not. Customers hire consultants for their expertise and proven ability to get the job done right.

In today’s on-demand economy, services companies cannot remain competitive if they rely on availability as the number one criteria for assigning people to teams. But having customer requests and projects put on hold because the right people are not available to the team is equally unacceptable. Customers expect great service when they need it and if you do not have the right talent to deliver, they can easily go to a competitor.

One competitive response has been service partnerships. These partnerships combine large vendors with small often highly specialized companies that focus on business problems like security or content marketing, or on specific software platforms like Microsoft SharePoint or the Force.com platform from salesforce.com.

The partnering pattern is not just between large firms and small highly specialized firms. A number of small firms may work together to deliver a project that would normally have gone to a larger firm: a SharePoint SI may work closely with a security networking firm, as well as an industry domain expert in order to get a project done.

Partnership alleviates one of the key operating needs of a services firm: the team elasticity. Elasticity refers to an organization’s ability to grow and shrink in response to demand. Higher valued IT consulting services are typically complex and require specialized knowledge. It makes sense to engage partner firms and specialized resources to enable your team to get quality work done.

The core challenge comes back to “How does a person looking for expertise to execute on a task find the group of people who can work together and then really validate that these people have the track record, education and experience to get the job done?”

The founders of TeamFit, Amar Dhaliwal and Steven Forth, have a long history in the skills and talent management space. Amar’s previous company Saba was a key player in the first generation of talent management. Even though significant investments have been made in these systems, virtually all companies are unable to get a complete, accurate and up-to-date picture of actuals skills applied by their internal teams. And if you think your company is one of the exceptions, see if you can answer the following questions:

  1. What skills were used on our projects last month? What were the most commonly applied skills? What were the rarest skills?
  2. What skills were we using six months ago that we are not using now?
  3. What skills are common inside our organization that we do not use?

As businesses organizations have a greater dependency to extend these teams with partner and contractor resources, the ability to do see the view of these people’s skills and projects also becomes essential. TeamFit exists to help you to do this.