In an industry where the workforce is one of its greatest assets, staffing processes can be either a boost to profitability or a thorn in the side.

In an industry where the workforce is one of its greatest assets, staffing processes can be either a boost to profitability or a thorn in the side.

“To be successful, projects require the right combination of talent and need,” said David Grigsby, associate partner at ZGF Architects LLP. “The ability to assess talent, current ability, and professional growth potential and then match that with the corresponding project assignment is a high priority for us.”

With a 50-year history and a national and international design reputation, ZGF’s diverse project portfolio means that resource allocation is a huge part of achieving its goals.

“We’ve recently won three Modern Healthcare Design Awards, including an Award of Excellence for our work on Memorial Sloan-Kettering Brooklyn Infusion Center and [two] Modern Healthcare Citations. Our Portland Mall Revitalization Project has also won a national AIA Honor Award and an ASLA Honor Award,” continued Grigsby.

Holding these achievements among many others, the 470-person firm uses AE industry-specific resource allocating software as an instrument of that success.

“Being confident in our placement of staff on projects aids in our ability to utilize the right staff for the right projects. This creates the right mix of opportunity and demand that results in an environment for innovative thinking,” said Grigsby. “Resource planning [software] has allowed for the quick review of all our current plans, enabling a rapid assessment of staff utilization and types of project work that is expected or being currently performed.”

Prior to its implementation of resource monitoring software, ZGF ran into staffing challenges that made it difficult to retain the needed flexibility when it came to the firm’s ongoing projects. But with offices across the United States in Seattle, Portland, New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles, the firm found that its short-term projects (ones that could potentially bring in revenue the soonest) were being affected by these challenges.

“Our staffing challenges have always been rooted in the ability to accurately communicate very specific short-term needs along with projected long-term needs,” said Grigsby. “We also had to keep in mind the long-range goals of the office and firm while being responsive to daily project demands.”

“The current pace of changing project demands in the short term is going to usually include unexpected changes in projects. Likewise, short duration projects that have small or short-term needs made it difficult to be responsive and efficient.”

“[With the technology in place] we have more accurate and up-to-date planning data, which means we can be more responsive and nimble,” Grigsby continued.

Grigsby explained that the software complements the firm’s standard project practices: “After the project manager discusses the project’s scope and schedule, we can craft some options for the team. Once the plan is in place, it can easily and regularly be updated by the project manager and just as easily conveyed to the staffing manager.”

The firm says that plans created in the resource planner tool also bridge the gaps left by short-term changes within a project — aiding the way the firm uses other on-premise solutions, such as its current integrated accounting, project management, and marketing/business development ERP software.

“Long-term changes can be made directly inside our resource planner, but small, short-term adjustments may never make it to our [enterprise ERP]. For those situations, the resource planner’s project plan is then used as a staffing tool, allowing us to make and change staff assignments, adjust hours for budgets and fees, compare actual versus planned, and ultimately provide an accurate and timely assessment of staff utilization.”

ZGF also understands that recognizing its staff potential will continue to be a major priority amidst today’s evolving industry.

“In order to achieve maximized engagement with projects by our staff, it is essential that we have the ability to accurately assess the professional growth of our staffing base. This assessment drives the decision-making process of how to continue creating correct staff assignments.”

“Then, once the team is established, it is equally critical to remain flexible with changes in project demands and shifts in talent. Using resource technology helps us with that,” Grigsby stated.

By boosting the firm’s performance through improved resource allocation tools and technology, ZGF has proven that design innovation begins from the inside out.

“The talent that we have here is of the highest caliber and the most dedicated,” concluded Grigsby. “How we create the right environment to sustain and build this talent is one of the keys to our success. The tools that we use to communicate, manage and mentor are critical to creating the right blend of talent and opportunity.”


Bob Stalilonis is a senior solution architect at Deltek. He has provided design and best practice consulting to A/E firms for more than 30 years.