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5 best practice tips for successful
project mobilisation
A guide for professional services organisations
2 Access 2012. E&OE.
How can this guide help me?
What is mobilisation?
This phrase formally describes the
process of allocating resources
usually people to your project,
and completing an effective kick-off
process. Get it right and you can
quickly build the momentum required
to reach the end goal a motivated
and protable project team.
What are the challenges?
The key challenge involved in
mobilisation is rallying the right
resources to start work at the right
time. During this critical phase, it is all
too easy to rush ahead into projects
without checking that you have the
right team in place. Lack of procedure
and disjointed systems can also mean
that valuable information such as
handover documents and pre-gained
knowledge can easily be lost in
translation. Over the course of the
project, any number of real world
challenges can easily throw your
project off-course and affect your
utilisation number.
So how can best practices help? Lets
move to our rst tip.
Best Practice 1: Build
one source of handover
During mobilisation, theres so much
to be done that gathering all the
necessary information from different
parts of the business can be an extra
hassle. This creates a problem for the
project manager. The risk is having
critical information held in silos
meaning project teams start work
without the full picture.
What can I do about it?
Todays business systems can
bring together all these sources
of information and make it easily
accessible to the project team.
Once you have dened the process
that works for your business and
the individual project elements,
creating a central source not only
provides a single view of your project
information but also supports the
process, ensuring nothing is missed.
Whats the impact?
Each time documents are amended
or created, the latest information is
available to all, together with details
of knowledge gained on previous
projects, key stakeholders and any risk
elements captured in the bid process
(see guide 1). At handover, project
managers can focus and prioritise
straight away, without chasing sales
for information or re-requesting
details from the client.
Project teams go to site fully
No chasing of handover documents
Creates a solid process, nothing is
No need to re-request client
One 28m turnover software company
attributes the recent success of project
delivery to a watertight, integrated
handover process. It pulls data from the
CRM system, automatically creating
SOWs and avoiding the duplicated
effort and errors associated with
re-keying. Through this simple and
insightful process, reporting is quick
and managing the backlog is much
easier than before.
Best Practice 2: Balance
the right resources against
available resources
The allocation of resources to a project
plan is one of the most difcult in the
whole process. How do you know that
you are mobilising quickly enough,
that the right people are available, and
that sufcient controls are in place to
re-deploy resources when real world
challenges get in the way?
For example, you may have identied
that project X requires 5 days effort
from a project manager, 15 days from
a consultant and 10 days from a
designer. Now consider: do you have
people with those skills? What is their
availability? Do you have the budget
to allocate third party resources?
What signoff procedures do you need
to agree the work?
An over-reliance on Excel
spreadsheets, manual planners
and anecdotal evidence can make
the process doubly difcult. Client
expectations can also cloud your
thinking, putting pressure on project
managers to deliver the A team when
in fact your B team is more than
capable of doing a great job!
What can I do about it?
One simple yet highly effective tool
can handle this particular task. A
graphical scheduler can link up to your
back ofce project and nance data to
provide a birds eye view of all your
project activity. This is the real power
behind the mobilisation process.
Whats the impact?
While it looks simple, it serves
many purposes. At the top level, a
scheduling tool provides a visual work
plan that allows project managers
to see, at-a-glance, which projects
are on-going, complete and in
progress. Information about the client,
In the last paper, we shared
with you our proven method for
reducing risk within the opening
stage of the project lifecycle.
This follow-on guide builds on
these initial ideas to describe the
ways that you can improve the
mobilisation of your programme
or project. This is an approach that
weve used to mobilise thousands
of projects at organisations across
the UK.
About Best Practices
What do we mean by Best Practice?
Effectively, it is the ability to embed
robust tools and processes into
your business. The tips covered
here are the end result of over 20
years consultancy and project
implementations into professional
services businesses like yours.
Whether youre a creative agency
or telecommunications provider,
architect, publisher in fact, any
business where time is money
you will nd something of use here.
Whos it for?
This guide will be useful for
anyone responsible for managing
teams of professional services
resource, including project heads,
professional services/operations
directors and project managers, as
well as nance professionals.
Access 2012. E&OE.
Case study Plowman Craven
resources used, cost and protability,
should all be easily accessible. By
showing activity graphically for the
days, weeks and months ahead,
project managers can quickly identify
opportunities, white space and take
action on under-billing.
Match skills to needs
For the allocation itself, a matrix-style
grid can show all the people available
to work on a specic project, at a
specic time. This can take account
of any holidays, bookings and other
activity. The skill sets of each resource
can be matched to project needs,
taking the information out of a few
peoples heads and putting it into
a central point that can be quickly
understood by project co-ordinators.
A good system will also reveal any
mismatches between scheduled
projects and skills, putting the project
manager rmly in the driving seat.
Reduce rekeying
Quality information is key to the
success of any scheduling tool. Yet
inefcient processes can compromise
speed, accuracy and overall
usefulness. Timesheets for example:
in many companies we visited, this
is still a manual process involving
rekeying from Excel or paper copies.
In order for a scheduler to work
effectively, it must synchronise with
information entered into other areas
of the business system. This way, the
project manager can simply go to
the scheduler at the end of the week,
click on any completed projects and
pre-populate the nance system
safe in the knowledge that this gure
represents all the costs incurred.
Having access to skilled and
specialist resource is critical for
this leading chartered surveyor.
Operating worldwide, it needs
to know that it can deliver the
right people at the right time, no
matter how large or complex the
project. With its Access solution,
it can do just that.
The challenge
The company was using MS
Project for project management,
spreadsheets for resourcing
and a bespoke system for
timesheets. Lack of integration
between the three different
systems made it difcult to
plan resources effectively;
errors could creep in, affecting
reporting and performance.
In addition, managing three
different software vendors made
it difcult to keep the system up-
What we did
Access FocalPoint was the ideal
solution for Plowman Craven.
A web-based project portal
featuring a range of professional
project management modules, it
allows non-nance professionals
to submit and interact with
nance data. Fully integrated,
it would put an end to rekeying
issues and provide the company
with the real-time information it
was looking for.
Dynamic information
Instantly, reports are more
accurate as David Norris,
technical director, describes.
Before, we would have to wait
24 hours for management
information; now information is
updated dynamically. This gives
us a better indication of our
upcoming workload.
Clarity of resources
Managing projects is also
easier. David continues, Using
Resource Scheduler, we can
plan our resources much more
effectively than when we were
using spreadsheets. Our project
teams have their own global
resource pool, but we share
resources across the business.
We now have global visibility.
Timesheet efciency
The process of inputting
timesheets is now much
faster. Timesheets are now
pre-populated with project,
sickness or leave information
thats pulled from the Resource
Scheduler. This information is
more accurate compared to
before when staff were entering
timesheets based on their
recollection from the previous
By implementing FocalPoint,
Plowman Craven has
simultaneously reduced
rekeying, improved its pipeline
analysis and resourcing and by
choosing one software vendor
for the complete solution saved
money. Weve reduced costs
because were working with one
supplier. If we want to upgrade
the system, we can do it very
simply with Access, concludes
We can now plan our resources much more effectively
than when we were using spreadsheets. Our project
teams have their own global resource pool, but we
share resources across the business. We now have
global visibility.
David Norris, Plowman Craven
4 Access 2012. E&OE.
Key benets
Take on xed fee projects with
Be proactive, not reactive to
changing needs
Assign competencies on fact, not
Simplify the allocation process
Reduce rekeying and errors.
Since implementing a new skills matrix
for resource allocation, a 13.5m
turnover training provider has seen a
15% increase in customer satisfaction
relating to project delivery. The whole
process now requires less manual
intervention, since its very easy to
match the right person to the right job
and the projects team is running more
efciently than ever.
Best Practice 3: Track the
cost to complete
The day-to-day roundabout of client
meetings can often mean that stat-
based project reviews get overlooked.
As client demands change, the picture
becomes ever-complex, especially
with many projects to manage and
deadlines to meet. Extra costs creep in
unnoticed which is problematic for all
involved once the nal costs are totted
up and the gross prot contribution
is down.
To run successful, protable projects,
you need to know exactly where you
stand against budget and be able
to anticipate the effort required
to complete. In many businesses,
department heads simply dont
have an easy way of accessing this
What can I do about it?
Weve learned that project managers
nd it very useful to see budget in
terms of days. The cost to complete
gure can be established by capturing
cost budgets electronically, allowing
you to build a baseline that you can
schedule against.
Whats the impact?
As requirements change, additional
resources can be added as required
(see point 4) and budgets and
forecasts updated automatically.
Alerts can also advise department
heads when prot is at risk. This
allows them to quickly prioritise
projects that are in danger of
exceeding budget without the effort
of time-consuming calculations.
Key benets
Quick, easy access to KPIs
Take action before prot is
Understand cost to complete in
meaningful terms.
Best Practice 4: Standardise
your change control process
This is closely related to the point
above. Any variations to the spec,
whether internal or client-driven, can
quickly affect your overall margin.
What can I do about it?
The ability to monitor on-going
forecasted effort against your baseline
will give you the information needed
to spot potential issues before they
Whats the impact?
Having a consistent process for
managing change complements
the process. A centralised business
system should be the focal point for
variations whether its a large-scale
build or creative project. Inbuilt sign-
off workows eliminate any grey
areas, giving stakeholders full visibility
of budgets when granting change
requests. This way, project teams
dont start work until its been fully
authorised protecting your budget,
productivity and morale.
Key benets
Full visibility of change requests
Changes properly reviewed prior to
Client fully aware of costs to be
No nasty surprises at nal billing!
Best Practice 5: Monitor
tangible utilisation targets
As a project company, your people are
your revenue. Its up to you to utilise
them as best you can. Yet an extra day
here, a higher-paid consultant there
these decisions are easily made and
can quickly affect your prot.
What can I do about it?
Todays business systems change
that mindset. By starting to see your
people in utilisation terms (effectively
as stock) your time becomes
altogether more valuable.
Whats the impact?
Lets start with the basics: utilisation
targets. Your industry doubtless
has a benchmark. In order to assess
whether you are near this gure, you
need good source data, preferably a
business system that updates in real-
time. Budgets, timesheets, expenses,
purchases: in fact any cost relating to
any specic project should feed into
one central place for timely, accurate
Representative data
Next: consider whether the data
youre using to monitor utilisation
targets is actually representative of
the work your people do. Does the
gure youre looking at account for
the nuances of exible working, travel
time and ofce admin? A good system
will break this information down to
show exactly how time is spent as
well as giving you the overall gures.
Tangible baseline
Finally: does your utilisation gure
represent something tangible, that
you can actually work against?
Looking at your % against the number
of working days in a month for
example gives you a more realistic
baseline than a rolling 30 days.
To complete the picture, you need
a set of reports. The ability to lter
your results by different areas for
example, ofce, resource, project and
team enables project managers and
other key stakeholders to focus on
problem areas, understand where/
why white space exists and spot
problems early on.
Key benets
Create a realistic benchmark for
your business
Understand exactly where/how
people spend their time
Spot under-utilisation and take
early action
Establish a baseline for continuous








Since changing the structure of
its reporting targets to reect net
available days, this 9m turnover
consultancy is now able to dene
and meet utilisation KPIs much more
effectively. Forecasting has improved
considerably, together with the ability
to accurately report performance
against the plan.
How can implementing best practice
around project mobilisation deliver
results for your business?
This guide has described how
combining robust procedures
(centralised information, cost
capture, workow) and tools
(resource scheduling, reporting, KPIs)
brings compelling benets to the
mobilisation stage of the project
Cost savings: resources are
matched appropriately based on
skills & experience no more costly
Time savings: smooth handover
between pre-sales & project ofce
no hunting for documentation, or
chasing clients for information
Greater prots: visibility of cost to
complete - allows project managers
to take action on underperforming
Improved utilisation: understand
how/where people spend time
- and establish a baseline for
continuous improvement
Happier clients: robust change
control processes ensure delivery
matches expectation.
Get in touch
We hope that youve found this
paper of use and we wish you every
success in mobilising your next
project. For advice on how we can
help you to implement any of the
best practices covered in this guide
please call 0845 345 3300 or email To see
information about Access solutions
for project based businesses click here
or visit
Coming next
Part 3: Managing cost capture & WIP
Managing Work in Progress (WIP)
is a real headache for FDs, MDs and
project managers alike. The next part
Access 2012. E&OE. 5
of our Best Practice series explains the
challenges and key tips that you can
implement to measure and reduce
WIP in your organisation.
Piers McLeish
Consulting Services Director
Once a specialist in technology
and service delivery for Andersen
Consulting (now Accenture) working
with clients such as Barclays and
Marks & Spencer, Piers went on
to spend nine years at MBNA
International Bank. There he led a
joint business and technology team
responsible for turning strategic
business issues into funded I.T.
projects before joining Access in 2004.
Aidan Bartlett
Director of Professional Services
With over 15 years experience in the
software industry and prior to joining
Access in 2001, Aidan served as FD
at QuoVadx Inc. and then Future
Dynamics. During this time he was
responsible for setting up global
subsidiaries and obtaining investment
of over 8m from a major U.K. Private
Equity Manager. Aidan started his
career at Access as Senior Project
Manager and successfully managed
over 70 implementations before
joining the board in 2004 as Strategic
Planning Director.