Wednesday, June 9, 2010

How to justify for the ROI to get more staffs

An old colleague of mine invited me for dinner the other day, and apparently she was in some kind of trouble at work. She works for a Software Vendor and is the Support Manager based in a big bank in Malaysia.

One of her staffs was leaving and the already shrinking team may lose another one of its team members as the morale of the team is very low. She has put in request for more head counts but the management has told her that the goal of her team is supposed to be making the most money with the least resources.

And her request was denied.

So I asked her a few questions:
1. How many staffs does she have now? - Answer: 2
2. How skillful are the staffs? - Answer: Not enough
3. Are they occupied now with their tasks? - Answer: Yes
4. What are they busy with? Answer: - Fixing bugs, there are new enhancements coming
5. How many bugs are there to be fixed? Answers: About 43

When she was questioned by the management, she told the management that there were three problems without giving them the perspective:
1. Insufficient resources
2. Need to do knowledge transfer for the leaving staff to the new staff
3. Low morale?

When these problems are presented to management, they would of course think that - well, this is what you are hired to do, no? Just get them solved and I have got bigger problems to deal with.

However, if the picture has been projected differently, then the situations may have been different. And the following are my thoughts. If the management are made aware that:
1. The enhancements are worth more than a few hundred thousands
2. Right now our team are not able to take on the enhancements yet because they are tight up with bug fixing
3. There are in total 43 bugs in the system, and it will take us 250 man days (for example) to address all of them.
4. By the time we have fixed all the bugs, the business dynamic might have changed and the enhancements are no longer required.
5. Right now, the customer is really dissatisfied with our slow on response. They are very concerned whether we can continue to do a good job as a company to provide good support. This can only be addressed with additional head counts with good skill to expedite the problem solving.
6. Otherwise, the customer may look at other alternatives as they are getting increasingly impatient. In that case, we may lose out the maintenance contract, which will be a blow to the company - financially and as a reference site.

Once the numbers for potential revenues are put on the table, and the number of the costs to tackle these problems are put on the table, we will know immediately whether there are profit to be made.

I believe the management will embark on recruitment immediately the moment they see that profit can be obtained with so little head counts.

Just my two cents, and I am writing this story in the hope that it can help others too. The most important thing is that - for managers, we ourselves need to understand the business dynamic as well. Our communication must be clear and this is not a time to throw tantrums at management if they fail to see your point of view.

Management only sees facts. So we present facts.

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