As we are changing our business model and putting more emphasis on deliverable-based, consulting engagements, I am frequently asked the question by prospects and clients, “Do You Have a Bench?”

This is a tricky question to answer. It’s not a hard question but one that requires some insight on how organizations like UDig work. From the client perspective, the bench question comes from a desire to better understand how quickly our team can ramp up to meet future business demands. They want to know what our mix of consultants looks like and do we have the expertise to deliver time sensitive, business critical projects.

It is an appropriate question and a challenge for any organization like ours. A bench isn’t about having consultants sitting around and waiting for their next assignment. A bench is about building a team of consultants that can mobilize quickly with the appropriate skill sets and experience to attack customer problems. The bench consists of team members that are finishing client engagements, working on internal projects for the company, recently recruited team members, and team members that are sharpening their skills by training on new technologies or processes.

From a business perspective, it is costly to maintain a bench. In our business, all non-billable hours increase our operating expense. At the same time, we can’t build new practice areas and technical skills without training and learning the latest technology trends. The concept of 120% time that Google and Yahoo implement and many other Silicon Valley firms utilize is hard to implement in the consulting industry. Asking consultants to work on side projects after spending 40 to 50 hours on a client engagement doesn’t work. Having balance in your life and disconnecting from work is as important as training and client work. Many of our best solutions and insight into client problems come after a period in which we remove ourselves from the problem.

A strong bench with diverse skill sets is paramount to a consulting organization’s success. How you structure that bench, provide people the opportunity to learn new things, and take breaks from client engagements are also very important. I left my last consulting company in the late 90’s because I didn’t have that flexibility. I was very profitable on a client engagement that was tied to older, uninteresting technology that I knew very well. I wanted a chance to grow but there wasn’t an opportunity for me to retool. Ultimately the client ended up offering me a position in a new area they were creating. That gave me the opportunity and exposure to grow my skills in technical strategy that I still utilize today.

We believe we can differentiate from our competition and attract high quality consultants with the approach that one size doesn’t fit all.  By offering a range of engagement models – including consulting, off-site delivery and traditional staffing, we can offer consultants challenging work in the model that works best for them while providing clients with top talent.

So yes, we have a bench. The bench is a critical component to delivering for our clients, growing our consultants and having an organization with a fun and balanced culture.  We are currently seeking consultants for our growing practice.  If you are interested in helping to build an organization where your technical expertise is valued, you are engaged on exciting and challenging projects and work in a fun, supportive environment, please get in touch!Andy Frank

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