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Determining the Scalability of Your Project Partners

By John Alley and Stelios Hiotakis | January 14, 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to change how we live and work. Municipalities, provincial governments and others responsible for large facility portfolios are adopting new management strategies that blend technology and facility operations to meet the shifting social infrastructure needs of the post-pandemic world. Some portfolio managers are adapting to change by delivering new projects through outsourced project management services.

Outsourcing can support owners by alleviating internal strain due to increased or fluctuating operational demands and capital projects. Owners considering outsourcing would be wise to assess a vendor’s ability to scale up capacity to meet fluctuations in market demand.

Scalability measurements should be included in a Request for Proposal (RFP) to allow owners to better evaluate and select a project partner able to meet flexible project requirements and get projects completed.

Determining Vendor Scalability

To best determine vendor scalability, owners should evaluate a vendor’s:

  1. Bench strength
    Bench strength measures the number of employed, fully qualified individuals on stand-by or readily available for project work. For a portfolio owner, a vendor with good bench strength will be able to meet peak service demands. To assess a vendor’s bench strength, owners can consider factors including the vendor’s current staffing, and its ability to leverage resources internally or through joint venture partnerships. Independent contractors can also provide supplemental specialist resources, however relying only on independent contractors does not provide true bench strength – and is an approach that is vulnerable to changes in the labour market.

  2. Ability to mobilize resources
    Vendor scalability is often determined by an organization’s ability to quickly and effectively mobilize well-trained resources. A commitment to cross-training expands the resources that can be deployed. A vendor with a larger workforce will be able to activate resources rapidly, but size isn’t everything. Activating resources also involves the ability to attract new employees.

    Today’s employees want to work for firms that make a difference and value their staff. Firms that have active, modern recruiting and employee engagement practices will win in the pursuit of talent. These firms also prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion; staff training and development; health and safety; flexible work options; use of appropriate technology; quality of work; and comprehensive compensation packages.

  3. Flexible work environments
    It should come as no surprise that flexible workplaces are here to stay. The evolution of technology has given employers and staff in almost every sector the ability to work in a way that best suits their personal needs – be it onsite, in the office, at home or in a nearby café.

    Remote work arrangements also make it possible for vendors to access a wider pool of resources and expertise that was previously considered unavailable due to distance. These resources don’t negate the need for local presence, but remote arrangements with the help of technology solutions can enhance a vendor’s ability to deliver specialized services. In addition, vendors that embrace flexible work practices are more likely to secure the best talent and expertise for the project, regardless of physical distance.

  4. Local presence
    Although many organizations are moving to more flexible, remote work environments, there will always be functions like site investigations or condition assessments that are best done in person.

    Owners often evaluate vendors that have a local office or resources but should also consider firms with resources located within a reasonable travelling distance. For firms with strong and flexible work environments, the office location may not be as important as the home office location of individual staff. If response time is important, owners need hard evidence of how long it takes for someone to arrive on site.

    Where office location is important, be wary of promises to open new offices. Opening new offices requires a substantial investment. While it may be tempting to accept a vendor’s promise that it will be opening a local office soon, owners should seek additional assurances, such as the vendor’s demonstrated ability to establish new offices quickly and track record of opening physical offices.

  5. Quality management technology and software
    Vendors need technology to support remote work and quality control trends. Project management requires accuracy and control to ensure quality measures are present, as well as tools to monitor and record project delivery.

    Technology and software play a large role in an organization’s ability to adapt to change. Software platforms like Zoom or Microsoft Teams were rarely incorporated into professional meetings prior to 2019, but are now common – and even expected. It’s essential to have the tools – and protocols to effectively use those tools – to ensure those who can’t physically attend a strategy or site meeting can still participate and share their input.

    Technology can also offer unprecedented record-keeping and analysis tools for job sites. Live video feeds, 360-degree photo archives and drones enable vendors to provide the benefits of full-time site presence at a fraction of the cost. These tools can also provide a visual record of site activity that encourages transparency on the work site and minimizes costly delays or change orders.

    As part of a post-pandemic recovery, there will be an increasing demand for project management services. Existing vendors will move quickly to expand their workforce to serve new clients, or form partnerships to address the increased demand. Facility owners will need to ensure they engage service providers that have the right expertise and capability to meet their particular project needs. When considering capability, owners will need to confirm that the scalability of the vendor’s service matches their targeted service levels and response times.