Staffing Rationale

How the number, type, and mix of personnel you propose offers the best value to the customer

How many staff members does it take to turn a widget running at 1,000 miles an hour?

A staffing rationale explains how the number, type, and mix of personnel you propose offers the best value to the customer. A convincing staffing rationale improves your proposal score and mitigates the risk that the customer will find a weakness in your staffing approach or the basis of estimate (BOE) used to develop the price. A good staffing rationale can improve your proposal score by explaining how the number, type, and mix of personnel you propose increases productivity, decreases operations costs, eliminates skill gaps, supports work surges, and improves the customer experience using quantitative and/or qualitative data to support the estimate.

To explain how many widget turners you need, you can use several complementary estimation methods:

  1. Historic data points. Using historic data, you draw analogies between the work you have completed and the work you propose. For example, “On Project ABC, we used four senior and two junior widget turners to operate a widget running at 1,100 miles an hour under similar conditions.”
  2. Expert judgement. You can use the expert judgement of your staff or other recognized authorities to estimate the number, types, and mix of personnel needed. For example, “Dr. James Smith, an IEEE Widget Turning expert estimated you need four senior and two junior widget turners to operate a widget running at 1,000 miles per hour.”
  3. Staffing models or tools. You can use industry tools, models, and techniques to estimate the number of personnel needed (note: most models are industry specific). For example:
    1. SEER for Software (SEER-SEM) helps estimate the resources required for software development projects.
    2. Agile Story Points help estimate the number of points per story and include relative size or “t-shirt sizing” (small, medium, large, extra-large).
    3. Erlang Calculator helps estimate the number of agents used to support a call center.

You can strengthen your staffing rationale by using two or more methods. For example, if you explained how you used historic data points to derive the first estimate, how you used expert judgement to derive the second independent estimate, and then explained how the two independent estimates supported your rationale, the customer would have more confidence in your estimate.

To further strengthen your staffing rationale, describe how you will recruit and retain personnel, as well as provide an adequate number of them (even during work surges). Strong recruiting rationales consist of several concurrent strategies including internet-, professional organization-, and colleague-based recruiting combined with incentives if the candidate is hired. Likewise, strong retention rationales consist of multiple methods to retain personnel including competitive compensation packages, professional development plans, morale boosters, and work/life balance plans—many customized to the individual.

In summary, strong staffing rationales consist of multiple overlapping methods to estimate the correct number, type, and mix of staff, as well as how to recruit and retain them in adequate numbers.

By Brenda Crist, Vice President at Lohfeld Consulting Group, MPA, CPP APMP Fellow

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