Custom Work Forecasting At REW - An inside look at how things work

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So this month I decided to join our sales manager in a really fun sales contest against our entire sales team. You can read about the contest at this facebook post (please feel free to share).

As I've started to discuss projects (especially large custom projects or upgrades) the subject of the "queue" comes up. IE what is the wait time to get a project started / completed?

People are often surprised by the answer (and that is there is a pretty long waiting list) and someone today asked me to explain why. 

Because part of my contest is social media; in the spirit of transparency and because I feel I will be able to reach the most people by putting in extra effort in more robust content that I can then share for the benefit of all, I've decided to write a post about how we look at booked demand (business we have already sold / promised) as well as provide some never before insights into "how it all works" at REW. 

My hope is customers will have a better understanding / appreciation for why wait times exist at REW and also I hope to create some urgency and get them really starting to talk about their projects now instead of pushing them down the road a month, or two, or three. 

I'm also going to address the inevitable question, "What are you doing about it?" 

So here goes, an inside look into the agency / professional services side of Real Estate Webmasters Inc. 

With the help of our awesome PMO leader Aayaam Kapoor, I was able to put together a forecast based on demand and capacity and have shared with you this fancy graph to help illustrate the current reality of supply / demand here at REW. 

Below on the graph you will see 3 data points plotted on a monthly basis: 

1: Month's demand: these are the hours already sold for "that month." 
2: Capacity: this is the amount of labor hours we have available from the CORE professional services group for projects. 
3: Managed demand: this is the month's demand PLUS the hours we were not able to complete in the previous month. 

Let's talk about managed demand. This is what creates the wait list, often referred to as the "queue".

As you can see, September is already oversold by 1,674 hours. This means we have to add those 1,674 hours to October's workload. And of course October has all of its resources sold as well, so this means combined we have 5,512 of demand in that month, but only 3,520 of capacity. 

The net result, we "should" be able to complete all the carry over work from September in October, but some of October's work (1,922 hours of it in fact) must now get pushed to November. 

November is where we can start making up some ground. In November, only 2,390 hours have been sold (less than our capacity of 4,382), meaning we should be able to make up most, if not all of the "queue" in that month, and in fact it turns out we would only have 43 hours of work we had to push to December. 

Make sense? 

Now a few points of clarity (before I start making it complicated).

It's not like those 43 hours that got pushed from November to December have been waiting since September (a whole 3 months in the queue). It's more like Septembers hours had to wait until October, Octobers hours had to wait until November, etc.

The reality is, this looks like about a 4-6 week queue which is in fact very normal at Real Estate Webmasters. Once you've waited in the queue for your spot, we generally have all the resources you need available within a few weeks and complete the project shortly after. 

Projects less than 100 hours generally take 2-6 weeks to complete depending on size / complexity. 

Now here is the problem.... this is all true TODAY! 

But it's only September 6th. This means that those numbers will only go up. Every day that goes by is another several orders of tens to hundreds of hours. This means by the end of the month of September, we will likely add several thousand more hours to demand thus adding another 2-4 weeks "at least" to the queue. 

In reading this, your first instinct might be to say: Well I don't want to wait, I'll just hold off until things slow down and place my order then. This is a fair enough thought BUT as any long term REW customer will tell you, there has never been a time in our 15 year history where there was not a queue of some kind. So you're actually not saving any delay, you're adding to it. 

So can you / we do about it?

There are a few things we can do to help reduce the queue:

1: Borrow resources. We actually have a LOT more programming and design resources than just our agency / professional services group. We have programmers in product development / R & D, data feeds, tier 2 support even sales has a programmer or two! 

Of course, borrowing resources has an impact on those groups and their mandates (taking from R & D for instance delays the release of new features that would benefit all customers). So this is not an ideal solution for any significant amount of time. We are currently borrowing some resources to reduce that September number already. We have a large project with a deadline, so we're doing all we can to make that happen. So it's not actually quite as heavy as it looks for September. 

2: Hire more people! This seems obvious (and it is). We are actually always hiring great programmers and designers at Real Estate Webmasters. Unfortunately, amazing talent is rare, and our growth often outpaces our recruiting. We're working on getting better, and I do know we have several great candidates, so help is on the way!

3: Encourage you to start planning earlier! This is the big one! It only "seems" like a wait time if you don't factor in / plan around a start date. If you're thinking about doing a big project in January, let's start talking now! You can get your order in well ahead of your desired start date (so you can start on that date) and get your expenses in before the end of the year.  

4: Don't wait for a promo. Every year, we have our 12 days of Christmas promotion (we will this year as well) but we will almost certainly NOT be offering professional services as part of this year's promotion. The reason is likely obvious, it makes no sense to increase demand by offering "discounted" hours when there is a multi-month line of people waiting to pay retail. 

So there you have it! Insight into the current REW professional services queue as well as a transparent look at how we calculate / estimate wait times for our agency / professional services work. 

Any comments / questions or if you want to take me up on my free consulting for the month of September via social media, let me know! 

Cheers
Morgan

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