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How bad is a 60% Assignment rate in Consulting

 
#1 How bad is a 60% Assignment rate in Consulting
13/11/2013 17:13

Unsungpoet

I joined a large consulting firm late last year as a senior consultant in their technology outsourcing business. In that time I have only been on projects for about 7 months in the 14 months I have worked there.

I have worked on bid work in the time between projects and I have received favourable reviews on the projects I have worked on. My line manager doesn't seem to be bothered but should I ?

I joined the company to work on large interesting projects but that doesn't seem to be happening and I am considering moving on, advice please

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#2 RE: How bad is a 60% Assignment rate in Consulting
13/11/2013 17:53

Bushy Eyebrow Partner to Unsungpoet (#1)

Bench time can suck... I can remember as a fresh grad feeling VERY anxious when I was on the bench... wondering why on earth I was even in the office if there was nothing to do. When I had nothing to do, I felt like my life was wasting away. Even worse, there was a presenteeism culture, so I had to stay until 9pm every night even though I was doing nothing.

Then, along came the burnout projects. Due diligences and so on. Man I would never do THAT again. Life's too short, I'd rather be a postman or something.

So my advice is, use the time to keep your CV current and just keep on banking the paycheques. If you get wind that you might get the chop, use the bench time to find a new job before that happens. Bench time can be a very valuable thing to grads if they use it properly!

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#3 RE: How bad is a 60% Assignment rate in Consulting
13/11/2013 17:59

Unsungpoet to Bushy Eyebrow Partner (#2)

Only problem is I'm not a grad but in a more senior position. I'm lucky that I can work from home during this period and I am currently doing lots of self study but I am getting rather nervous.

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#4 RE: How bad is a 60% Assignment rate in Consulting
14/11/2013 10:21

Anon MCs to Unsungpoet (#3)

Hi UnP,

I agree with BEP, but from your response to him:

- Working from home too many days a week may be one of the problems. MCs are all about your network, people seeing and knowing you, some presenteeism etc. If a Managing Principle needs help straight away in the office, he may look who is on the bench in the office rather than trying to work out from a big long list. Its just easier to chat things through. Your network is key when you are on the bench

- Walking up to Managing Principles & Partners, saying that you "heard about potential project x or y" and then telling them why you would be suitable is always a good start. Again, you get to hear about these because you are in the office talking to people

- And finally... Be very very very honest with yourself. Why am I on 60% while other Senior Consultants are at 85%+? What have they got that I haven't? What are they doing that I don't? More importantly, what can I learn from their actions to help me get higher %? This is probably one of the most important aspects, identify the ones with the highest % at your level and get brutal honesty with yourself as to why you are not at their %'s

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#5 RE: How bad is a 60% Assignment rate in Consulting
14/11/2013 12:40

Unsungpoet to Anon MCs (#4)

Most of the managing consultants don't work out of the office I'm situated in so presentism doesn't seem to be the issue as far as I know.

Majority of the other senior consultants were lucky to be assigned to long term assignments before I joined or have relationships with clients they have worked with in the past.

I agree with your statement on networking though as most of the projects I have worked on have been as a result of my interacting directly with the MC on the project

I am wondering if location may be an issue, I'm London based and the majority of our work in the past year has been with clients outside the M25, so the higher ups may think it's cheaper to assign someone closer to the client

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#6 RE: How bad is a 60% Assignment rate in Consulting
14/11/2013 12:55

Bushy Eyebrow Partner to Unsungpoet (#5)

are there many people on the bench?

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#7 RE: How bad is a 60% Assignment rate in Consulting
14/11/2013 13:58

Unsungpoet to Bushy Eyebrow Partner (#6)

Not on my team, no. Technically I get off the bench next week. I have also used untaken leave to offset some of my bench days. I am just trying to see if there is a way to prevent this happening again next year.

My current assignment rate means I can't even consider myself for a promotion in the coming year.

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#8 RE: How bad is a 60% Assignment rate in Consulting
14/11/2013 14:53

Arby the Manager to Unsungpoet (#7)

I think the word "bench" is really a misnomer here. It conjures up the image of a line of junior people, sitting around waiting to be "picked" for chargeable work. Potentially for straight out of University people, this is somewhat true, but the more senior you are, the less you should be passive about being staffed from the bench. Do NOT work from home. Unless you are BEP, scratching his backside with a pasty whilst naked (or something along those lines), there is a large chance you are lying in bed, watching morning TV and doing not much else.

The way to get staffed is to show yourself as developing the business. Get involved in proposals, write a white paper on industry challenges, develop your capability. This shows the firm that you are capable of moving up, many partners will be happy to have you hands on on winning work, and then 60% doesn't look super bad....

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#9 RE: How bad is a 60% Assignment rate in Consulting
14/11/2013 15:13

Bushy Eyebrow Partner to Arby the Manager (#8)

LOL, well Arby, this morning I was mostly drying myself down, getting dressed and then eating a bit of breakfast whilst on a conference call. I had "Original Alpen" today - very nice. No "Costly Coffee" or "FuttBucks" at £5 a cup, just to stay awake after an early morning commute. Hehe. At the junior level, you can still get away without being in the office much, but you do have to make sure people know about you. Send them emails, call them, make sure they see you from time to time. It's easier when you have a stable team and can cultivate good relationships.

Anyway, to the Unsungpoet, I wouldn't really worry about the utilisation thing. I think we're focusing on the wrong issue here.

Utilisation within most large consultancies is a fabricated metric anyway. Time gets written off and so on.

What matters most at the junior level is, does your boss value you? Does he find you helpful? If the answer is "yes", then you're fine (subject to your department actually making a profit overall); he'll defend you if his own boss starts asking tricky questions. If the answer is "no", then no amount of utilisation will save you.

If your low utilisation is indicative of the department not being very busy generally, then I would suggest that it's time to brush up the CV.

p.s. If you really want to know what it's like to have low utilisation, try working in the public sector. Tens of thousands of folk have worked in public sector departments for 30+ years without ever having done a single productive day's worth of work. The government basically uses the public sector as a way of keeping the unemployment figures down.

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#10 RE: How bad is a 60% Assignment rate in Consulting
14/11/2013 15:56

Anon MCs to Bushy Eyebrow Partner (#9)

Hi BEP,

I think you are partly right but got utilisation item wrong - for UnP as he is at SC level his utilisation is actually very important.

Remember that MCs make black and white rules in relation to bonus % dependent on your utilisation. They also say that you need certain % utilisation for promotion. They are must haves for the bonus and promotion, while the networking / Partner buy in etc is the "grey area" must haves. The guys who get promotions from my experience have excellent figures for the usual MC requirements (bid work, utilisation etc) as well as good contacts. You need a good mix of both.

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#11 RE: How bad is a 60% Assignment rate in Consulting
14/11/2013 16:06

Bushy Eyebrow Partner to Anon MCs (#10)

Good grief, is it really that cut-throat these days? If that's really the case, then yes, make sure you get your utilisation number nice and high! But, with complexity there comes opportunity for bucking the system. Can you find a friendly manager to take a hit for you... stick your time on one of his job codes then he writes off the extra cost when he bills the client? And in return you get you and your buddies to sing his praises to every director/partner you come across?

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#12 RE: How bad is a 60% Assignment rate in Consulting
14/11/2013 17:14

Mr Cool to Bushy Eyebrow Partner (#11)

BEP - I seem to remember a similar arrangement between Arthur Andersen and Enron...

Worked well for a while, then exploded taking half the industry with it.

OP- I wouldn't be home if I was you. You have to take control.

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#13 RE: How bad is a 60% Assignment rate in Consulting
14/11/2013 17:18

Anon MCs to Bushy Eyebrow Partner (#11)

BEP,

I am shocked at your suggestion. I hope Coolio also joins soon to also show his shock / horror at your suggestion.

But then again, you are a Partner and you don't get that high in the greasy pole of Senior Management without a few tricks up your sleeve...

UnP, do not go ahead with the BEP suggestion, it will ultimately lead you to the Dark side, stay on the Light side of the force...

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#14 RE: How bad is a 60% Assignment rate in Consulting
14/11/2013 18:12

Bushy Eyebrow Partner to Anon MCs (#13)

Heh, well, my view is that dysfunctional performance management systems inevitably lead to dysfunctional behaviour... Blame the goons who built the system, not the poor employee who is just trying to survive in a cut-throat environment.

There are all sorts of tricks you can use to bypass dysfunctional HR policies. If you are fortunate to have flexi-leave, even one of the flexi-leave systems where you are limited to taking no more than 3 hours or so at a time or can only convert it into a maximum of say 5 days holiday, you can pretty much work the system so that you end up taking half the year off if you want to. I once worked for a company that had a flex-leave system and despite only having a 22 day holiday allowance, I used to take around 40 full days holiday a year even though the policy said you could only convert a flexi-leave into a maximum of 5 days extra holiday. I'd have taken more but I didn't want it to be too obvious (even though I wasn't actually breaking any of the company rules)!

Actually, this is fascinating.

As we're talking about how to "play the game", what little tricks have you guys learnt? I'd be interested in ways of using HR policies to one's advantage, or even any little gambits one can use to make an assignment more profitable or easier to deliver. There must be hundreds of good ideas out there!

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#15 RE: How bad is a 60% Assignment rate in Consulting
15/11/2013 09:02

Unsungpoet to Arby the Manager (#8)

Arby, I fully agree with your suggestion regarding developing the business while on bench which is what I have done a lot of in the past year. I have supported on quite a lot of large bids, I have developed service specifications and also supported my boss on several of his initiatives.

According to my reviewer my boss sang my praises at the last people review. Regarding working from home, like I already mentioned the majority of the managing consultants don't work out of the same office I do although I make a point of contacting them regularly and helping out with their initiatives

And yes BEP, it really is that cutthroat these days bonuses and promotions are dependent on maintaining a utilisation above 85% even sometimes it's totally out of your control

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#16 RE: How bad is a 60% Assignment rate in Consulting
15/11/2013 10:29

Anon MCs to Unsungpoet (#15)

UnP,

Apologies but something is not matching here, if your boss is singing your praises / you are doing lots of excellent bid work / you are networking well / you are good at what you do

then this should not be matched with a 60% utilisation... unless there a lot of SCs with low utilisation and if so then that is your answer, you either;

- need to join another firm that has lots of work and hence needs all the SCs it has (as yours is likely to be booting some out soon if all have low % utilisation)

- need to stick it out,there are lots of you on the same boat and there are big pieces of work coming through soon

However, if you represent a minority of SCs in your MC who have ~50-60% utilisation, then I will go back to my original comment about being really honest with yourself and look at how you can match the 85% boys. What are they doing that you are not. I really don't think it will just be "oh yeah they were here before"

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#17 RE: How bad is a 60% Assignment rate in Consulting
15/11/2013 11:21

Unsungpoet to Anon MCs (#16)

Hi anon, part of it has has to do with timing, one of the projects I was due to be assigned to was cancelled at the contract stage and another was pushed back. Resourcing is telling me that they don't want to assign me to smaller pieces of work at the moment because some big assignments are coming up and they would like me to be to be available for those.

I also do not currently have the required security clearance to work on some of the projects my colleagues are able to.

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#18 RE: How bad is a 60% Assignment rate in Consulting
15/11/2013 11:34

Mr Cool to Anon MCs (#13)

BEP,

I am shocked at your suggestion. I hope Coolio also joins soon to also show his shock / horror at your suggestion.

BEP - I am shocked and in horror at your suggestion.

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#19 RE: How bad is a 60% Assignment rate in Consulting
15/11/2013 12:51

Anon MCs to Mr Cool (#18)

Ha!

Good, I have always seen you as the Luke to BEPs Darth...

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#20 RE: How bad is a 60% Assignment rate in Consulting
15/11/2013 18:28

Mr Cool to Anon MCs (#19)

But I hate BEP! He killed my father...

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#21 RE: How bad is a 60% Assignment rate in Consulting
18/11/2013 12:04

Anon MCs to Mr Cool (#20)

No no no Coolio,

He is your father!

Where do you think your fairly bushy eyebrows come from!?! It is not a coincidence!

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#22 RE: How bad is a 60% Assignment rate in Consulting
18/11/2013 13:18

Rollercoaster to Anon MCs (#21)

Unsung poet - Are you based in Victoria? Sounds like that company a lot. Long term security clearance required projects = high utilisation, profit and promotion.

Networking is key, cross practice if so.

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#23 RE: How bad is a 60% Assignment rate in Consulting
18/11/2013 17:05

Unsungpoet to Rollercoaster (#22)

nope, not that company.

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#24 RE: How bad is a 60% Assignment rate in Consulting
18/11/2013 23:45

Mr Cool to Anon MCs (#21)

No waaaayyyyy! My father was Mr Bump and that sadist BEP put a roller skate at the top of the stairs with inevitable consequences....

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#25 RE: How bad is a 60% Assignment rate in Consulting
19/11/2013 12:19

youngbuck to Mr Cool (#24)

Reading this thread made me a little nostalgic so I thought I'd share my experiences, maybe you can use a couple of my tricks.

I joined a mc company at a consultant level around 3 years ago and I was worked like a dog. Long hours with no compensation etc etc. When appraisal came I got good feedback from my assignment manager but to my horror received a 'Rarely meets targets' review (4/5, 1 being the best, 5 the worst). I was then put on the infamous PIP and had to jump through the stupid hoops wasting a lot of time, energy and generally feeling stressed.

I then found a mentor who taught me how the appraisal 'game' worked. I was lucky due to a change of top management that I was able to change line managers and in my 2nd year appraisal got a the highest rating possible. This was done despite going into the office no more than 10 days over the year, waking up at midday regularly and billing only to internal work.

So how did this genius plan unfold?

Earlier on during the year there was a large round of redundancies where many people I know left. I therefore took that opportunity to write feedback for myself on their behalf, without them even knowing! Obviously the feedback was written impeccably - correlating general quotes with quantitative and qualitative data and evidencing how I had gone over and above the call of duty in delivering work, integrating the team and fixing problems.

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#26 RE: How bad is a 60% Assignment rate in Consulting
19/11/2013 12:19

youngbuck to Mr Cool (#24)

Reading this thread made me a little nostalgic so I thought I'd share my experiences, maybe you can use a couple of my tricks.

I joined a mc company at a consultant level around 3 years ago and I was worked like a dog. Long hours with no compensation etc etc. When appraisal came I got good feedback from my assignment manager but to my horror received a 'Rarely meets targets' review (4/5, 1 being the best, 5 the worst). I was then put on the infamous PIP and had to jump through the stupid hoops wasting a lot of time, energy and generally feeling stressed.

I then found a mentor who taught me how the appraisal 'game' worked. I was lucky due to a change of top management that I was able to change line managers and in my 2nd year appraisal got a the highest rating possible. This was done despite going into the office no more than 10 days over the year, waking up at midday regularly and billing only to internal work.

So how did this genius plan unfold?

Earlier on during the year there was a large round of redundancies where many people I know left. I therefore took that opportunity to write feedback for myself on their behalf, without them even knowing! Obviously the feedback was written impeccably - correlating general quotes with quantitative and qualitative data and evidencing how I had gone over and above the call of duty in delivering work, integrating the team and fixing problems.

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#27 RE: How bad is a 60% Assignment rate in Consulting
19/11/2013 13:13

Bushy Eyebrow Partner to youngbuck (#26)

LOL... thatta boy, youngbuck. More ideas like that one please!

Consider this: If your company makes up case studies and testimonials, there would seem to be no reason for them to object to that sort of thing...

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#28 RE: How bad is a 60% Assignment rate in Consulting
19/11/2013 14:07

Anon MCs to Bushy Eyebrow Partner (#27)

Dear me Coolio,

I see a blossoming relationship beginning between the young apprentice YoungBuck and dark arts master BEP.

Better make sure those contracting relationship are solid before those two get anywhere near one of our programmes!

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#29 RE: How bad is a 60% Assignment rate in Consulting
19/11/2013 18:06

Mr Cool to Anon MCs (#28)

Yes Anon, an apprentice the dark Sith Lord has taken...

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#30 RE: How bad is a 60% Assignment rate in Consulting
19/11/2013 18:06

Mr Cool to Anon MCs (#28)

Yes Anon, an apprentice the dark Sith Lord has taken...

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#31 RE: How bad is a 60% Assignment rate in Consulting
20/11/2013 10:54

Anon MCs to Mr Cool (#30)

Hmmmm,

I'm trying to work out which character you (coolio) would be.

BEP is most definitely good ol' Darth. His rise to Partner has left a trail of bodies even though at the start as a young MC he was a fast track winner who cared about the environment and his clients.

YoungB reminds BEP of himself and is ready to take and improvide anything taught by his new mentor BEP

I reckon Coolio is more of Qui-Gon Jinn, experienced old hand that everyone listens to but ultimately unable to match the dirty tricks and tactics of BEP...

Alternatively, BEP could also be Jabba the Hut, with YoungB as his Bounty Hunter. Yes I think this one works best considering the amount of client dinners and outings BEP must go to!

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#32 RE: How bad is a 60% Assignment rate in Consulting
20/11/2013 11:37

Mr Cool to Anon MCs (#31)

Hmmm...

My grammar and spelling suggests I'm yoda

My mercenary focus on day rate suggests Boba fett

My good looks and charm suggest Han Solo

My aged wisdom suggests Obi Wan Kenobi

My weekend wardrobe suggest Princess Leia

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