The Bench

The question sooner or later hits every project organization, specifically those who deliver projects commercially.

The scenario is typical. We have a project, and we need resources with X skills for a Y cost rate.

But we have currently several senior people who have X skills and more, but the cost rate is way beyond Y.

Those senior resources are The Bench.

This is the most hated term by any professional services company management.

So sooner or later delivery partner and project manager are standing in front of the decision: Should I use senior resources from the bench?

The point of view from each actor may be different, consequences may be perceived differently.

Let us find out more.


Delivery Partner Perspective

The bench is a real nightmare for any delivery partner or a person who manages the organization's profit and loss sheet.

Any single day senior resource is not working on billable engagement is a loss.

The whole trick to running a professional services business, except to make customers happy, is to keep senior resources busy.

In theory, their experience and knowledge should be critical to keep and grow the business.  It is guaranteed engagements are delivered and so on…

But there are moments those resources are not billable. The market is changing. Engagements are delayed.

So, if we have a project which needs additional resources and we need to hire it, but we have a senior person available who can deliver why not use it?


"If we have a project which needs additional resources and we need to hire it, but we have a senior person available why not use it?

But we need to understand the consequences of the decision "


The pros of this approach are:

  • We can provide some billability to the senior resources on a bench almost immediately
  • We don't have to spend time to hire new resources, originally planned for the project (not always true)


The Cons of the approach are:

  • The billability doesn't cover the cost of senior resources at the level it was planned. In some situations, it may not even cover the cost.


Project Manager Perspective

From the project perspective, a situation may look a bit different.

The project needs a person with specific skills and cost rates to fit the project role.

If we going to get new a senior person as filling the resource gap this could be a solution, rather than waiting for a new person to join.

Pros of this approach for projects are:

  • The senior resource is probably available immediately, or at least faster than a new hire.
  • There should be a shorter ramp-up time in the project than new hire and faster a person should be productive.

The cons might be:

  • It will cost project P&L more than an originally planned resource.
  • Motivation and performance of senior person can be lower with lower than his skills project position.
  • The senior resource may disappear when adequate new engagement will come.

Those point needs to be discussed between the project manager, delivery partner, and potentially senior resources to understand risks.


Final Conclusion

Should I use senior resources from the bench?

From my experience perspective, the only answer is YES. There may be rare situations it makes a little sense.

But always make sure all understand consequences, specifically those financial for organization and project – separately.

Because the decision is only based on financials.

Understanding the original project baseline and people assignments for the project can be greatly supported by, a tool that can make it easy and transparent.






Marek Rudnicki

With over 27 years of experience in new technology companies specialized in professional service and consulting business solutions. Working for different industries like banking, insurance, telecom, e-commerce, manufacturing with a vast track of delivery of data analytics solutions. The key experience is consulting and project delivery - from presale into program management and project portfolio management and practice/portfolio governance. Most of the career working within a multinational environment, managing team, and in a very distributed model organization.