Features Ideas

A Universal Problem: Combating Feast or Famine

By Chris Lee on February, 2 2019
Chris Lee

Chris is a co-founder at Carv and resident blogger. Chris also leads new partnerships, market development, and sales.


Engineering a pipeline to solve resourcing

The best time to solve a resourcing problem is before it exists. Once the problem has materialized, there is little to do except wait for the pinch to subside. A team can only be shuffled so much and adding/removing staff takes time.

To preemptively solve resource problems an agency must integrate resourcing in their sales and proposal process. To be effective, this requires a capacity forecast as long as their hiring and sales cycles. For many agencies, this means at least six months. Resourcing forecasts for this period give the business ample time to adjust sales efforts, outstanding proposals or expand their team to maintain consistent workloads, margins, and cash flows across time.

Creating and maintaining this pipeline becomes as easy as adding a resourcing model to a prospective project early in the sales cycle and then adjusting the model as you create a proposal. In aggregate, the individual project models can be rolled up to form a dynamic resource forecast. Updates to the aggregate forecast and modeling projects become an interlinked loop that enables sales and project teams to collaborate on a project pipeline. This process creates better outcomes for the business, which is ultimately a function of how well sales and project team work together.  

At Carv, we’ve coined this activity “Pipeline Engineering.” As described above, engineering a pipeline allows a business to plan future projects at a high level so together they mesh with the company’s team and ability to hire. This method is in stark contrast to the scenario where the project team must support whatever stream of work if sold, small or large. This disconnect is a leading cause the feast or famine phenomenon that not only affects margins and cash flows but also leaves employees in states of boredom or being overwhelmed.  Businesses should manage their sales pipelines to fit into their forecasted capacity and ability to hire to avoid the phenomenon.

Why don’t agencies engineer their pipelines?`

Current tools don’t adequately help managers move project models for sales prospects from their heads into a shared workspace. As a result, resource planning is owned by the sales side until it makes sense to kick-off detailed project planning. Due to a lack of tools, resourcing is a distinct second step after contracting a project, and the details are locked in. Unfortunately, at this point, a business has forfeited at least 75% of their ability to optimize their resourcing models.

Pipeline Engineering Needs Tools

Existing tools like CRMs and project management apps sit on either side of the problem. CRMs are too high level, project management apps are too detailed, and the two apps don’t communicate. These deficiencies mean the sales team sells and the project team executes in their respective silos. Engineering a pipeline requires both of these teams to at minimum have clear lines of communication and ability to.


Enter Carv

The Carv app is a toolkit designed to bridge the gap between sales (CRM) and execution (project management). By bridging this gap, that app allows a business to engineer their sales pipeline to support business goals and the project team’s capacity and hiring constraints. The app's tools are laser-focused on making it easy to design resource- and budget-aware project models and then aggregating these models into a super intuitive forecast. In other words,  Carv allows businesses to model projects so they fit neatly into their project pipeline and still fulfill a client's requirements so they can win a bid.

The simplicity of the app allows resource management and sales to collaborate during the sales process through an objective exchange of data. Both team’s data is transformed into an editable charting tool that allows businesses to engage in pipeline engineering as described early. Connecting the dots between resourcing and sales, allows resourcing to become an active (instead of passive) stakeholder in the process which is the first step to proactively solving resourcing problems.

What businesses are doing in the app:

  • Smoothing workloads across teams and time by identifying resourcing issues before projects are confirmed.

  • Aligning salespeople’s incentives to encourage selling certain project types given capacity forecasts.

  • Using time log data to critique past proposal and improve future ones.

  • Adjusting project proposals to increase the likelihood of project success and increase margins.  


Examples of Customer Success

This agency is forecasted to go from an over-committed April, into a slow May and then back into a crazy period starting in June. With this insight, the business has been encouraging its salespeople to pull June start dates forward. As of the time of this post, they’ve pulled one start date forward by 2 weeks and started looking for a freelancer to help in June. 

Feast Famine Pop Up
The forecast for this agency shows classic feast or famine cycles. The horizontal yellow line is the agency’s capacity.
Here is an example of a healthy engineered pipeline:
Stable Growth Popup

 Above shows an agency maintaining consistent utilization near capacity (horizontal yellow line), with expected growth 3 months out. The agency has time to start looking for extra help to accommodate the forecasted growth. 


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