Resources Managing Their Skill Profile

Our latest version of Retain Resource Planning just got better with the ability for resources to manage their skill profile as part of a workflow. Resource scheduling and talent management depend on resources’ skills being up-to-date for easy matching of staff with projects. This is why we now introduce a workflow where a staff member can add skills to their profile, select a proficiency level, and let their manager approve the addition.

Adding skills as resources get more experienced or receive training paints a more accurate portrait. By making this information available to planners, it simplifies the task of matching resources with project requirements.

This is how to process works: Alison just completed advanced IFRS accounting training. In Retain Resource Planning, she can select the relevant skill from the list and add it to her profile. Her manager Adam will then review the request and approve. It’s as simple as that. Adam could have also rejected the request and left a comment but in this case he has no reason to. Now Alison’s profile will appear in searches where someone with this particular skill is required.

This is Alison adding IFRS conversion to his profile.

Alison can choose her proficiency level as well as industry focus:

Adam’s view: he reviews and accepts the update.

This simple workflow is designed to empower Retain Resource Planning users to centralise the relevant information thus making the process of matching resources with projects easier.

Additionally, Retain Resource Planning comes with standard skills lists but you can easily add your own and customise to fit your requirements.

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Retain International acquired by Capita.

Retain International has recently been acquired by UK based business process management and outsourcing firm, Capita Plc.

Capita approached Retain recognising our technological capabilities to provide high quality resource planning solutions. By combining resources, Retain and Capita will further enhance our value offering and continue to provide market leading software to clients across multiple sectors.

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Uniting technology and data

Compare business of 25 years ago with how it is today. Today’s business essentials such as e-mail, the internet and cell phones were barely heard of in what today seems like a very manual age.

Now, business leaders are able to make much better informed decisions with access to a greater pool of data and information. Technology – in no small part – has allowed for this.

For small or new businesses, managing data pertaining to resources and projects may be manageable, but as a business grows so does the amount of data. With data comes excessive levels of admin (for someone). But now, this does not have to be such an accepted norm. Through automation of processes, managing client demands no longer has to play second fiddle to that of handling rafts of data. It therefore comes as little surprise that there is a proportional link between increased automation of processes and that of productivity.

Increasingly, businesses are looking towards resource planning tools to minimize the time it takes to schedule a project or assignment. After all, maximizing resource utilization and ensuring an efficient and well thought out allocation of projects/assignments is a key contributory factor behind business success.

Resource planning systems provide that technologically enhanced, centralized environment where data can be easily recorded and intelligent evaluations made. By having it centralized, the scheduler can avoid having multiple disconnected spreadsheets and databases. On a similar theme, many of the time consuming, cumbersome and labor intensive processes of before can be bypassed without the fear of duplicating effort.

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Resource Planning Software vs Microsoft Excel

There’s a common acceptance. Staff are the biggest cost to an organization, but also the biggest source of revenue. An effective method of managing these staff can have a seriously positive impact on how progressive you are as a department – not to mention your profitability.

Recently, we have been talking to a number of auditing teams about their resource planning processes. Two important points have been raised time and again: a streamlined approach is essential, and spreadsheets don’t always work.

To take the latter point, whilst you may be able to create tables in which a resource is allocated to a project, does this really go far enough? How can you tell from a spreadsheet where a resource is being under-utilised or similarly where spare capacity may exist? Is there sufficient flexibility to judge this? And furthermore, how much visibility can this support?

If you want an instant graphical overview of resource allocation to jobs, Excel can support this (to a partial extent), but what if requirements change? It’s not uncommon for project demands to change with minimal notice. Through Excel, you can easily make that change but how well can you view the impact of that change, not just on resources but also other projects?

Aside from these usual challenges there are much deeper, underlying issues to be contemplated. Planning ahead is vital. When looking at forthcoming projects, striking that right balance is key. A resource shortfall is just as bad as a resource surplus. Budget/revenue forecasting and reporting, meanwhile, is a topic another blog post.

Nevertheless, these aspects combined brings resource scheduling to the forefront of many strategic thinkers minds. A structured, methodical and rationalized approach to staff planning is key in these economic times, especially when looking to maintain that competitive edge.

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Retain 5 now available in French

Retain International is proud to introduce Retain version 5 in French for Desktop and Web Portal.

Retain has long been a valuable planning tool for transnational companies thanks to its handling of local holiday calendars, currency and time zone differences. Today, organisations with staff in France or French-speaking territories such as Switzerland, Québec or Belgium can take advantage of the Retain Resource Planning System in their local language.

As ever, Retain remains a most flexible solution allowing interoperability between installations in multiple languages. This means for example that staff in London can use Retain in English while planners in Paris can schedule using the new French edition. Our implementation experts are capable of setting up custom solutions meeting even the most challenging requirements. This leaves no doubt that for resource planning and talent management, Retain is the right choice!


Retain 5 maintenant disponible en français

Retain International est fier de présenter la version 5 de Retain en français pour les éditions Desktop et Web Portail.

Retain est reconnu depuis longtemps comme un outil de planification adapté aux entreprises multinationales grâce à sa gestion complète des calendriers uniques à chaque pays, des devises et des fuseaux horaires. Aujourd’hui, les organisations ayant du personnel en France ou dans les pays francophones comme la Suisse, le Québec ou la Belgique peuvent profiter du Retain Resource Planning System dans leur langue.

Comme toujours, Retain est une solution extrêmement flexible car elle permet l’interopérabilité entre installations en plusieurs langues. Cela signifie par exemple qu’une équipe à Londres peut utiliser Retain en anglais tandis que le personnel parisien peut planifier utilisant la version française. Nos experts en implémentation sont capables de mettre en place des solutions personnalisées répondant aux exigences les plus difficiles. Cela ne laisse aucun doute que pour la gestion et planification de ressource, Retain est le bon choix!


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Season’s Greetings

We would like to thank you for your custom and support this past year; we had a terrific year with many exciting developments and innovations.

We saw Retain usage expand among tier-one consultancy and audit firms, as well as establish a strong presence in new markets such as China.  We’re immensely proud to bring our resource planning and talent management solutions to organisations on every continent.

Our unwavering commitment to customers was demonstrated again by the many customisation and implementation projects which we delivered this past year. We also successfully introduced Retain Mobile empowering planners and resources to communicate about their schedules on the go.

Finally, this year of growth saw the arrival of several new colleagues enabling us to accelerate this trend of innovation and quality of service through 2013. We wish you all the best and a Happy New Year!

Warmest regards,

The Retain International Team


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Integrating with leading enterprise systems

When a large company employs thousands, the task of planning, managing and administering all those employees can be daunting. Various departments have different needs and CIOs have to provide the tools that help do the best job of making the company efficient.

Imagine a company with an HR system for managing staff and payroll. And on the other hand, project planners use Retain to plan resources and keep track of skills. But what happens when new employees join the company? Are the software systems able to speak to each other?

Retain is able to integrate with today’s leading enterprise systems such as SAP, Oracle and NetSuite. This way, when for example staff join or leave the company, Retain is updated automatically. It saves valuable time for the company and – in an incremental way – makes it more efficient. Just one more reason why Retain is relied upon by both medium-sized businesses and the leading consulting organisations worldwide.

Find out more:

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Scrum, maintenance and support

At Retain we adopted Scrum as a development methodology a few years ago with good results. Scrum is good at isolating the R&D teams from distractions during the four weeks period of focused development (a sprint). We have been able to better forecast the delivery dates and contents of new versions of our software, increasing its quality at the same time.

The isolation of the R&D teams created a few challenges on the way though: clients would have unexpected issues that would require the attention of the developers and quality assurance engineers, forcing them to be taken off sprints; annoying bugs would be found by clients that we would not be able to fix for at least a few weeks because resources were reserved to the scheduled sprints.

My colleagues found a potential solution to the challenges a couple of months ago. We decided to create a maintenance and research sprint, manned on a rotation basis by two developers and a quality assurance engineer. The objectives of the maintenance sprint would be:

  • Be the designated team for third level software issues investigation
  • Work on hot-fixes and patches of software modules that aren’t the focus of the current main development
  • Investigate technologies, tools and practices that could improve our products or ways of working
  • Develop prototypes for new functionality or products
  • Allow the QA engineer to work on automated testing
  • Developers and QA engineers work on the full range of our products


We have now run the maintenance for three sprint cycles and the outcomes are good so far. The main advantages are:

  • From a R&D perspective, the main development sprints are not  likely to be distracted when third level issues arise
  • From a software support group perspective, there is a designated team they can talk with about issues they need help with or software bugs that would be useful to solve with a quick turn-around
  • Products and modules that are not currently of high priority are progressed never the less, rather than staying in the “some day we will do it but right now we don’t have the time for it” limbo


The main obvious disadvantage is that you don’t have the same amount of work-force available to work on the core products Scrum sprints. This in turns could potentially slow down the release of new versions of the top-priority software.

The delay is likely to be low, though, because it happens less often that a member of a team sprint has to leave it in order to deal with the inevitable issues encountered by our clients.

It will probably take a bit longer to be definitely convinced that the maintenance and research sprint is the right path to follow, but the signs are encouraging and for the moment we will stick to it.

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How actual vs. planned reporting can make it easy to manage your staff

You may have seen our previous blog examining how professional services firms can identify if resources are being misallocated by comparing actual versus planned client activity reports. In this blog we explain how, by using the same methods, professional services firms can motivate their staff and improve efficiency.

With better visibility of the project pipeline and variance levels, employees are able to plan their own time more effectively. This can be particularly beneficial when employees are paid on a performance-related basis and therefore need to ensure they are not left on the bench for an extended period of time.

Making this information available to staff also provides them with first-hand experience of the planning process and enables them to provide more accurate estimates for similar projects in the future.

Furthermore, with the visibility actual versus planned reports give managers, they can see how each department and even each individual is performing. They can then transfer best practice accordingly.

Finally if a team is regularly showing as fully booked but then subsequently billing less than expected, closer analysis of their performance can enable internal management departments to approach the project manager and the team to ask why this is happening.

Please visit our website to take a look at our range of resource planning solutions that can help your firm better manage its resources through actual versus planned reporting.


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Can effective resource management benefit your accountancy firm?

For accountancy firms, where skilled staff represent both their biggest cost and biggest source of revenue, effective resource management is critical to creating client value, enhancing profitability and maintaining a competitive edge. Clients want the best possible service at the lowest billable cost, while having all work completed before any deadlines.

As such, accountancy firms need complete visibility across their business. Work must be planned, resourced and executed in a way that allows a firm to find the right combination of team members and skill-sets. They also need to be able to look for clients safe in the knowledge that they have the headroom to deliver on what they have agreed.

Some firms may be running many resource planning spreadsheets serving different service lines, offices and regions, which means potentially business critical data is being stored in seperate silos. Without a consolidated database at a group level, senior management has no way to identify where resources are being under-utilised or where spare capacity may exist. This leaves the business vulnerable to spikes in demand if more work is won.

Accounting firms need to look at ways to efficiently manage the distribution of client matters amongst their professional staff. If they are able to match the right resource to the right job, firms can optimise resource utilisation and adjust allocations as and when required.

This can also empower staff with greater visibility, ensuring team members are more proactive in putting themselves forward for new undertakings. It also allows staff to better prepare for future work by seeing who else has put themselves forward and ‘buddying up’ with those that have already undertaken similar roles. Being able to use new projects to expand the capabilities of employees and enable them to grow as individuals not only means they can be charged out for more in the future, but that staff remain motivated because they have the opportunity to diversify.

By operating a much leaner operation with optimum staff utilisation, client expectations can be managed efficiently and delivered upon to agreed service levels, without being exceeded and thus impacting on profitability. At the same time, work that is in danger of going over-budget can be identified early on, allowing the firm to reallocate resources wherever necessary. This ensures that a high standard of client service is maintained.

In addition, the ability to mix and match skill-sets and experience allows accountancy firms to benefit from allocating the most cost-efficient resources to work, as well as providing opportunity to further the development of staff. In what in an increasingly competitive market, this is vital for ensuring the long-term sustainability of their business.


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