6 min read

A simple guide to project resource planning

  • Business transformation

Jack Parkhouse

Business Development Consultant

A project leader considers his resource planning options

You’re ready to mobilise your project team, and have determined the number of people you need, with what skills and when, plus your available budget. How do you then assemble your all-star team? In this article, Jack Parkhouse considers the different resource planning options available to project leaders.

Different transformation projects require different capabilities and experience, and the necessary skills cannot always be found in-house – maybe you’re configuring a certain technology or need experience of a specific regulatory framework. Challenges in accessing the right resources have a detrimental impact on the timeline and budget of a project, with considerable ripple effects on the overall objectives of the organisation and for separate teams who may be reliant on those project outcomes.

In the same way Premier League managers will sign new players or draft in loan support to bolster the squad, project leaders must often bring in expertise from outside the organisation. Making the right signings during the transfer windows is a crucial part of the road to silverware for any team, and the same is true for project leaders driving successful delivery. Whether you are Pep Guardiola or a head of transformation, attracting and retaining the highest calibre professionals is critical. The difference with delivery teams, however, is that these can (at times) be almost entirely made up of outsourced talent.

Resourcing is not always easy, and must be managed while balancing multiple priorities with the demands of the project and wider organisation. Which outsourcing model fits best will ultimately depend on your circumstances.

Hire a permanent team

The first option normally considered would be a permanent hire, whether that is through independent networks, an internal talent team or a recruitment agency. This would be most useful when you have multiple transformation programmes on the horizon so that resources can continue to be useful.

For an especially strong candidate, retention is key and hiring them for a permanent role with the right career progression, culture and financial incentive should ensure quality talent is kept on board. However, there are some drawbacks.

Often it is harder to find niche skillsets as the more specialist professionals will likely be contractors who have spent their career delivering these projects for multiple clients. The process of advertising, shortlisting, interviewing and then onboarding will take longer and can cause delays where notice periods will almost certainly be longer; for a permanent employee this will likely be 1-3 months whereas a contractor can normally be available within 1-4 weeks. It is also worth noting that this may not be an option when companies implement a headcount freeze, as we have seen across the market this year.

Work with a traditional consultancy

When approaching the project delivery phase, many organisations have already been working with a traditional consultancy to help with the strategy and planning. It might therefore make sense to continue with them to execute delivery. A traditional consultancy will carry a bench of qualified professionals ready to be deployed almost immediately. This is a great option for urgent requirements to parachute in experienced consultants to rescue an in-flight project.

Engaging a consultancy also gives you access to wider support, expertise and points of contact alongside the individuals assigned. This can all come with a hefty price tag of course, and the bench does not always mean the best. There is no guarantee people will have the exact skills required, and the exact time. There is also the risk that the best consultants will be rotated onto other assignments and replaced with a B-Team before delivery is complete.

In our recent interview with change professional Clare Savage, she explained that she has sometimes witnessed friction when external consultants have imposed their own methodologies that conflict with the established working practices of the internal team. This route therefore might suit organisations at the beginning of their change journey, but can be more challenging for more mature programmes.

Hire a temporary contract team

A third resource planning option is to hire contractors through a recruitment agency. This is a more affordable way to quickly recruit high calibre candidates who will match more niche and specific requirements. A trusted recruitment partner is a valuable relationship, both from a hiring and a candidate perspective.

Your organisation’s approach to IR35 tax regulation can make this more complicated; if you are hiring through a recruitment agency then the status determination and any potential liability rests with you and some compliance departments will take a strong stance on that risk. Attracting and retaining quality talent for an inside IR35 role is more challenging and can require higher day rates to incentivise the best candidates.

Additionally, when a contractor is engaged via an agency there are often some blurred lines around line management responsibility, and it can leave contractors uninvested in your outcomes and harder to hold to account. Unproductive contractors who don’t fit your culture racking up day rates can be costly and a real administrative headache.

Engage a professional services provider

It is therefore becoming more common for project leaders to enlist the support of a professional services provider that acts as the delivery partner. They can use their contractor network to find the best talent, build bespoke teams and act as the ‘assistant manager’ for the duration of the project. These providers often offer a payment model that incentivises achievement of deliverables and because they are classed as a ‘fully contracted-out’ service by HMRC, tax liability rests with them and not you as the end-client.

Your project resource planning options summarised





Permanent hire

Internal talent acquisition, independent networks, or a recruitment agency.

  • Individuals have better accountability, cultural fit and ability to influence.
  • Able to retain strong people for future projects.
  • Longer recruitment and onboarding processes.
  • Adds to headcount.
  • Redundant skills at the end of the project.


Bench of a traditional consultancy.

  • Expertise in strategy and design, and rescuing in-flight projects.
  • Can be deployed quickly.
  • Access to wider support and consultancy knowledge.
  • Expensive.
  • Do not always offer the exact skills required.
  • Risk of losing the best consultants to rotation.
  • Often impose own methodologies which can cause friction.


Hired via a recruitment agency.

  • Quick access to specific skillsets.
  • More cost effective.
  • Easy to onboard and offboard.
  • Unclear or additional line management responsibilities.
  • Harder to motivate and less incentivised.
  • Potential for poor cultural fit.
  • Overly cautious approach to IR35 limits access to best talent.
  • Potential tax liabilities if you get IR35 status determination wrong.


Contractors supplied by a professional services provider.

  • Ability to quickly deploy specific and niche skills.
  • Flexibility to scale up and down.
  • Clear line management and support.
  • Accountability for deliverables and proper incentivisation.
  • Clarity around IR35 status.
  • Onboarding a new supplier can be a bureaucratic process through procurement and HR.

Ready. Set. Go.

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