Who are FERA?
Fera is a joint venture (JV) created in 2015 between Defra (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) and Capita. Fera provides scientific solutions, evidence and advice across the agri-food chain to government and commercial customers. The JV supports policy development, growing more and using less, protecting the environment, ensuring a healthy, high yield crop, and bringing chemicals to market through the regulatory process for the public good in the UK and overseas. Fera is based at the National agri-food Innovation Campus near York employing nearly 400 scientists. Fera also plays a key role in the UK’s ability to respond to, and recover from, emergency situations affecting the food chain and rural economy.
Our focus at Capita is on providing the very best service and results for clients, utilising our people and our resources as efficiently as possible. By harnessing the power of a dedicated solution such as the Retain resource management system, and by building its toolsets into our way of working, we can ensure that we continue to maximise operational efficiencies and deliver optimum value.
Andy Parker, Chief Executive, Capita
With a clear remit to provide increased effectiveness of Fera’s workforce through resource planning, a detailed analysis of Fera’s operations was carried out. The key issue discovered during this phase was the lack of a core tool to facilitate future planning of resource usage and availability, with a lack of visibility around staff skillsets compounding the challenge to plan ahead and effectively schedule pipeline and committed projects.
Retain International’s resource planning solution (‘Retain’) was selected as the system of choice for Fera. Retain International is a Capita business, having been acquired in early 2014, specialising in the implementation of planning systems for major commercial and governmental organisations.
Retain is a cross-organisation tool providing skills and availability management for all levels and type of staff, enabling forward planning and visibility of utilisation, cost and capacity. MI reporting is tightly integrated to ensure that key managers and leaders have access to real-time data to assist in planning resource use, planning project activity, and actively managing performance. A key focus of Retain is utilisation improvement with the philosophy that even a small, conservative improvement can lead to considerable profitability enhancements.
For front line staff
- Greater visibility of projects they are planned to work on – with early warning of potential overbooking to help even out peaks and troughs in work.
- Visibility of comments in the project booking status that can include detail of the input required – encouraging discussion to clarify activities.
- Integration with Outlook calendars, giving a simple overview of bookings, appointments, and annual leave.
For delivery leads
- Ability to view pipeline and all committed projects, with the tools to compare ‘planning’ against ‘actuals’ to build ongoing improvements.
- Ability to combine capacity and competence searches in order to make judgements for best fit available staff for projects.
- Visibility of planned time and resource for the duration of a project, including specific personnel over configurable time periods.
For team leaders
- Ability to understand the demands on teams’ time, enabling proactive management of ‘evening out’ during periods of under- and over-utilisation.
- Ability to understand team skillsets and put in place strategies to cover areas where talent falls below desired levels.
Implementation of Retain continues, and is focusing upon deeper integration with complementary systems and even better data intelligence. In terms of integration, a direct interface between Retain and SAP will bring more live data into play and will ensure resource plans are updated to confirm actual time used for pre-population of timesheets. This integration will also see more effective project management by pushing Retain time and cost forecasts into SAP for comparison of financial plans v actuals. In terms of data intelligence, Retain and SAP will combine to provide live MI dashboards – bespoke to Fera – including a suite of accessible, fit for purpose reports with tailored information. Demand modelling is an exciting future opportunity, exploring how Fera might use data in Retain to improve overall understanding of the nature of demand.