When people ask me where I work, I say “in an IT company,” trying not to delve into explaining what Workforce Management is. Sometimes, however, someone decides to digress and asks what I do for a living. Then, after a few minutes of explanation, usually the caller or interlocutor quips “aha, that means you work in HR” or “aha, that means you are a Project Manager.” And here two paths appear – to deny and continue explaining the ins and outs of the enigmatic-sounding WFM, or to interrupt further conversation with a short “well, not quite, but close” and change the subject. It is difficult to explain this to a person who has not been in contact with an IT company in his professional life. Am I writing this article to send a link, in future such conversations, to him instead of trying to explain what this is all about? Perhaps.
So how do you explain to a complete outsider what Workforce Management is all about? Describe a day in the life of a WFM team? It’s quite simple. Usually, after about 21 hours of meetings a day, we paste data into 37 Excel sheets, still answering 111 urgent emails at the end. However, to truly understand what it’s all about, you need to dig a little deeper into the principles of a software company and take a peek into its kitchen. Whether it’s orderly, only Magda Gessler can judge.
TT PSC employs more than 600 IT professionals, working for more than 100 clients from around the world and running about 150 projects in parallel. Our clients represent a variety of industries – from heavy industry (automotive, aerospace, defense) and light industry (furniture, packaging), to financial services, telecommunications, the medical industry, the public sector and other IT companies producing their own software. Due to the diversity of the recipients of our services, the technologies and specialties of TT PSC’s staff are multiplying. In today’s IT world, various technologies, standards, frameworks and tools are a veritable shambles, and new ones are constantly emerging. Therefore, it’s hard to have two specialists with identical skill profiles, and choosing the right person for a given project is never obvious. We need to consider many factors before making final decisions. It is Workforce Management that comes to the rescue in gathering and weighing these factors.
A client looking for a person or team to be involved in a project specifies its requirements for the technology, tools and systems it wants to work with. He also, of course, imposes a budget and a completion time, or deadline. Added to this list are factors such as requiring foreign travel (most of our clients are located outside Poland), adjusting working hours to a different time zone (if outside Europe), restrictions on the nationality of the people involved (e.g. the military industry has strict restrictions here), etc.
The WFM is a unit that collects all the available information and combines it to get a complete picture of what kind of person we are looking for and what kind of information we have. And this is where our 21 meetings a day begin. From the sales team we find out what the client’s expectations are, from the Delivery or Project Manager we get the project plan, with the Team Managers we consult candidates who meet the technical requirements and verify what their project preferences are and whether the potential engagement conflicts with their career path. With the employee himself, we confirm her/his readiness to take part in the proposed project.
However, if we do not find that proverbial “unicorn” on the board of TT PSC, we still have several avenues of action. First and foremost, we can try to bend the client’s expectations slightly and offer them a combination of part-time positions of several people who together will meet all the technical requirements. We can delay the start of the project, waiting until the ideal candidate finishes his current tasks, or divide one person between two projects in parallel in a limited amount of time. If neither of these scenarios is acceptable to the client, we look for options outside the company. We may, with the cooperation of the HR team, open a recruitment. If the project is urgent, we contact sister companies in the TT Group, or more broadly, we check what kind of people the partner companies we work with have available to subcontract such a person for the duration of the project. It is important that ultimately the client accepts any of our proposals.
In addition to responding to current needs, a very important aspect of Workforce Management is long-term planning, forecasting the volume of demand for specialists in particular technologies and analyzing current employee involvement in projects. The more conclusions we draw from daily data, the better we can align future recruitment and team competencies with expected customer demand and with the company’s strategic direction.
To sum up, every day we put together a puzzle with 5000 000 pieces in shades of gray, and then we develop a technique to put it together better, faster and in color next time. 😉