Hiring the old guy

Hiring the old guy

Do you or don’t you, hire ‘the old guy’!

Perhaps I am just getting a bit older, but the IT industry seems to be more of a game for younger people these days. Although, to be fair, Police Officers are looking younger all the time too.

“As time goes by attending the various IT related annual corporate events, all the people sitting on the stalls marketing their company values to everyone and anyone that dares to glance their way for too long, are definitely much younger and seem to even dress less formally than when I did for many years.” states Craig Ashmole, founding partner at London based Interim Consulting CCServe Ltd.

I came across a piece of material by Nick Hughes, who is a Senior Programme, Project and PMO manager and all the same thoughts and views came rushing back to me and I quote him below.

Within IT especially there does seem to be more focus on younger, fresher talent. This was brought into sharp focus recently when I met with a manager at a consulting company. They were thinking of putting me into a bank, but the manager was concerned that my extensive and long experience might be a little intimidating for that client manager.

The manager also seemed a little nervous and said that I had a lot more experience than he did himself and that he hoped he did not ask any unproductive questions. This got me to thinking. Is there a perception for younger managers that hiring an older/more experienced contractor might jeopardise their own position? Or could older contractors probably be seen as ‘not as innovative as their younger counterparts’?

Is this ageist? Possibly, but for the hiring manager it could be a very real concern. From their perspective, they are possibly new to the position and want to prove their worth. Many managers want to be seen as the go-to person, that they are irreplaceable and key to the organisations success. Hiring in someone who may not only know more than you, but also may have experience doing your exact job, could lead to the manager being seen as superfluous. The deeper concern would be “Is he going to try and take my job?”

For contractors who have experience in roles more senior than the role being looked at, there can also be concerns for the manager around the contractor jumping ship as soon as the next best, or higher paying, opportunity comes along.

This presents a dilemma for the hiring manager and an issue for the contractor.

To be clear, I am not saying this happens all the time, or even a majority of times, but it does happen. When we are honest with ourselves, we all have those feelings of doubt, so it is perfectly understandable to have these thoughts, we would not be human if we did not.

So what is the answer? Does the manager “not hire the old guy”? Does he or she only hire people younger or less experienced than themselves?

If they do, then yes, they could avoid an embarrassing situation where the person reporting to them knows more than they do. But that will only be a temporary protection for your career and, to be honest, if you are so worried about your position that you feel the need to protect yourself, you will probably find it difficult to progress anyway.

But why hire the guy (I use the term ‘guy’, but it applies to both men and women) with more experience than you and who has potentially had a more senior position?

From my perspective, and with the experience I have gained I don’t actually want that manager’s job and I don’t want to settle down into a perm role. If I am applying for a contractor position, I don’t want the politics, the employee assessments, the HR hoops that I would have to jump through when you manage a team and also having to deal with any personnel issues. I am at a point in my life where I have realised I work to live, not live to work.

What I do want is to make the manager I am hired to engage with look good. I want to use my experience and knowledge to make a success of this project. I want to pass on my knowledge of short cuts that bring the project to a successful conclusion, or the ability to see through vendor marketing hype to accept only what is really needed in the business. Or to ensure we hit budgets & deliver on time.

From a interim consulting perspective it is simple. First, we get the satisfaction of a job well done. Second, we get the opportunity to pass on well-earned knowledge and subject matter experience to those younger people. But most importantly, we leave with the hope that the manager will recognise the contribution made and engage on the next project.

After all, as a contractor, one is always looking for the next contract. I have seen some contractors make themselves indispensable to an organisation, to the point where the perception is that they can’t be let go.

Experience on projects are usually quite simple. Define the scope and lock it down, establish a change control process to manage the inevitable scope creep, establish a governance process for decision making, plan the critical path and dependencies, identify the risks, establish a RAID log to manage them, set up reporting, then execute and monitor.

Once that is done the tough bit, the really tough bit, is managing the people. Getting the sponsor to truly understand their role. Ensuring other teams, who you have a dependency on, deliver in time for your critical path. Providing clarity around the impact to the stakeholders requesting a change. All the while you are doing this, trying to be as diplomatic as you can be but understanding why you were hired in the first place.

Us old guys (men and women) have seen this before and have dealt with it successfully. So, my suggestion to those managers who worry about “hiring the old guy” is to not worry so much but be happy to benefit from paying to get a programme delivered with SME skills that can be transferred to the perm staff. Don’t get me wrong, there are younger people who may well have the ability to be able to navigate the shark infested waters of the project world, but the old guy may well have been bitten before and survived, so has the practical knowledge of what works and what doesn’t.

So, it is up to you, hiring managers. Do you want to benefit from 30+ years of experience and dodging bullets? Do you want to have that edge to making your project successful? Having that experience that you can call on when it does go wrong – and some really do go wrong! If you do then you really should be hiring the Old Guy.


Thanks to Nick for sharing his thoughts

Having spent a majority of my career working with and supporting the Corporate CIO Function, I now seek to provide a forum whereby CIOs or IT Directors can learn from the experience of others to address burning Change or Transformation challenges.

Craig Ashmole

Founding Director CCServe

Global Employers choose consultants

Global Employers choose consultants

Over 70% of global employers now use contractors to help fill IT skills shortages

A new report found that 40% of US businesses now have a hybrid workforce of permanent and contract IT employees to fill talent shortages and fast-changing technical skill needs.

If you’re running a company in the US, there’s a good chance your next IT hire will not be a permanent member of the team. A new report from Experis found that 40% of US companies now have a hybrid workforce of permanent, freelance, and contract employees — the highest percentage of hybrid workers globally.

Hiring IT contractors has become more popular worldwide, with 71% of employers across ten countries currently using contract talent — likely due in part to increased shortages in skilled IT workers. In the US, just 41% of companies rely solely on permanent IT staff.

“Faced with talent shortages and fast-changing skills needs, companies are getting more sophisticated when it comes to workforce solutions, particularly in IT,” said Sean Costello, senior vice president of Experis, North America. “Having been through the cost-cutting of the recession, many are now re-evaluating and reengineering their workforce.”

Rather than sticking with business-as-usual, companies are recognising the need for more customised sourcing strategies, Costello said. Contractors can offer more efficiency and flexibility for companies working on tight deadline projects and innovative new ideas that require technical skills that are not found in-house, he added.

Companies in each of the 10 nations surveyed varied greatly in in-country IT hiring practices. Not surprising the countries with the highest numbers of permanent employees were:-

  • Germany (63% permanent)
  • India (62% permanent)
  • Australia (58% permanent)

When it comes to hiring IT talent overseas, employers preferred using a mix of contractors, freelancers, and permanent workers, more so than at home, the report found. Companies don’t usually have the same level of legacy infrastructure overseas as in their home market, Costello said. Many find that working with contractors or buying staffing solutions through partnership arrangements offers a fast, efficient way to ramp-up operations overseas.

Hiring contractors

One in 5 US employers plans to increase their use of IT contractors, the report found.

“Having been in the Interim contracting space for a number of years I see how the contractor model appeals to many people, particularly in the IT space,” states Craig Ashmole, founding Director of London based consulting CCServe. “They are looking for greater flexibility and variety in the work they do. These IT roles tend to attract self-motivated individuals who prioritise on-going skills development and like to see rapid results delivered.”

Companies hired contractors most often for development solutions and infrastructure service, the report found — two areas in which the technical requirements shift rapidly and require the most up-to-date skills. If a legacy workforce falls behind the curve, organisations often look to contractors to bring the added technical know-how to get the job done.

Contract work is appealing to companies because of its flexibility, the report found. “With tighter margins and tougher competition, all organisations are looking for ways to be nimbler and shift more easily as markets change,” Costello said. “Contract work offers the ability to quickly ramp-up and test-drive projects without the same level of risk. It is tailor-made for innovation in this period when companies are still a little cautious after the recession.”

These workers can also be more cost-effective: When a project has a fixed timeframe, it is often easier to find contractors that can fill an immediate need, rather than finding and training a permanent employee. Contractors can also be a way to tap underused talent, including minorities, women, and older workers, Costello said.

By implementing a diverse workforce strategy, blending permanent and contingent workers, companies are finding ways to be both more agile and cost-competitive, It’s a new way of thinking about workforce management.

The 3 big takeaways

  1. Use of contract workers is increasing worldwide, with 71% of employers across ten countries currently using contract talent, according to a new report on IT workforce trends from Experis.
  2. Contractors can offer more efficiency and flexibility for companies working on tight-deadline projects and innovative new ideas that require advanced technical skills.
  3. Some 40% of US businesses now feature a hybrid workforce of permanent, contract, and freelance employees, representing the largest such workforce globally.

Companies hired contractors most often for development solutions and infrastructure service, a report from Experis has found — two areas in which the technical requirements shift rapidly and require the most up-to-date skills. If a legacy workforce falls behind the curve, organisations often look to contractors to bring the added technical know-how to get the job done.

Craig Ashmole

Founding Director CCServe

Shadow IT and the CIO

Shadow IT and the CIO

Do CIO’s just turn a blind eye to ‘Shadow IT’?

The debate goes on as many CIOs remain the ‘IT Technology Gatekeeper’ versus embracing ‘Shadow IT’ to become the innovation leader

IT governance in the era of shadow IT is one of the most important CIO change areas for the 2020s as lack of control or focus on Shadow IT growth will create further insignificance for the CIO role.

Interestingly by 2020, more than 35% of organisations’ technology budget will be spent outside the IT department, according to estimates from analyst Gartner.

This trend will have profound implications for the role of IT professionals and the IT team.

The growth of “shadow IT”, as it has become known, has been given impetus by the growth of consumer technology and cloud computing, which make it increasingly easy to deploy technology without going through the corporate IT department.

At the same time, businesses are under pressure to adopt new technology quickly, and realise they can often deploy more rapidly by bypassing the IT department.

“IT suppliers are also part of the shadow IT problem because they will bypass the CIO if they can see a faster result,” said Craig Ashmole, Founding Partner of London based IT consulting CCServe. “Talking with a CIO recently over coffee, he told me that he had learned from a chance conversation with one of his suppliers that his company was spending a substantial sum on a new IT system, when asked who they were dealing with, he was told someone in Procurement.”

Now that got his attention. Ensuring that shadow IT is managed and governed properly is a challenging task for CIOs. If you know why there is shadow IT, you can do something about it so make sure you put the tools in place to address that root cause.

Don’t ban shadow IT

Banning shadow IT is not the answer, using a policing term if you ban Shadow IT you will find it will just go underground and purchased secretively or departments will creatively purchase in small quantities or under supposed project costs to get what they want.

The biggest usage of Shadow IT seems to be in three areas:

1) Mobile phone data and photo usage which includes tablets and home PCs and general MDM

2) Chatter, Social Media or Communications apps like, Yammer, Chatter, iMessage, Facetime, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or WhatsApp etc – A huge choice here!

3) Cloud based applications for data storage or project sharing and such as BOX, iCloud, Dropbox, SOS etc

Embrace innovation and stimulate employees to share ideas or concepts that would improve working conditions or make their job easier or even enable costs to be reduced – these are the core ideas that could be consolidated into internal IT development to see the practicality of business improvement. This will also instigate an element of wanting to enable the IT department to make new ideas work rather than being seen as a gatekeeper and preventer of technology usage.

The role of the IT department should be to set expectations for employees, not to control the way they use technology by treating employees in this growing Gen-Y environment as technology savvy. Treat them like you would executives in the business, with trust, while educating all staff on best business practice and how to control data leakage, just as you would a CFO in the pub watching his favourite team not to discuss sensitive fiscal details with his mates. Building this inner trust with staff is stronger than telling them what they can or cannot do. It should be clear however the ramifications should someone fail this trust and that’s often a better approach.

Marketing people don’t really want to run IT systems. The CMOs just want their systems to scale and to work; they don’t want to have to maintain IT systems, or take responsibility for them working. So they are usually more than happy for the IT department to step in and provide support.

Move from in-house to cloud

Organisations should be moving away from providing IT in-house and towards buying in standard services. We should be using the cloud to put in place a platform, an ecosystem that you can offer to the business for a unit price and with well-understood service-level agreements.

The role of the IT department will not be to deliver the systems, but to work with external providers to offer the service quickly, for the best cost. Utility services can also be moved out and managed by outsource service companies that can often provide these services better and at lower costs. It is this speed to market and ability to scale that dramatically reduces the need for shadow IT.

“The skillset of IT professionals will change and is already doing so. Rather than being technology experts, their role will be to work with business professionals to evangelise the benefits of IT and assist innovation while being an IT enabler.” Comments Craig Ashmole. “This is possible when basic non-revenue generating IT utility services are managed by third parties, so that the core in-house IT function can focus on innovative improvement.”

Having spent a majority of my career working with and supporting the Corporate CIO Function, I now seek to provide a forum whereby CIOs or IT Directors can learn from the experience of others to address burning Change or Transformation challenges.

Craig Ashmole

Founding Director CCServe

IT Consulting Straight Talk

IT Consulting Straight Talk

Do Businesses need more “Straight Talking” IT Consulting?
There’s one thing that’s in short supply in almost every organisation, at every level, and that’s straight talking – business frankness.

It’s business’s biggest dirty little secret that in most companies, most people would hide or spin the truth rather than openly share it, making it harder for decision makers to bring the reality of the situation to the surface in order to fix it.

That’s human nature of course, and we all have an innate instinct that tells us from a young age to prevent awkwardness and avoid hurting people’s feelings. Or possibly we’re afraid of the very real organisational consequences of being candid in a company culture that doesn’t welcome openness.

But, assuming your organisation wants it, getting that frankness right – with your direct reports, your peers, or your management line – is a skill that could make or break a career or even a consulting engagement.

“Getting the overall approach ‘right’ as an interim transformation or change consultant is a key part of the no nonsense ‘straight Talking’ professional approach I do on a daily basis.” says Craig Ashmole, Founding Partner of London based CCServe. “Getting this wrong can however have profound ramifications, but experience learned over time, avoids these mistakes”.

The two biggest challenges I come across, especially in interim IT consulting assignments, is the management of political change – for example; a senior executive or head of department looking to make major change will touch many other areas or people within that organisation — this naturally becomes a political ‘hot potato’. Being sensitive to people and listening to feedback is a key element to managing this process.

The other challenge, is being able to professionally but candidly tell the very leaders of the company whom have brought you into their business that their people, structure or operational process are failing the business. Ensure that the message is sensitively, factually and accurately articulated and address the issues head on, which is easier said than done.

Non-IT roles now control many of the most interesting and innovative aspects of corporate IT, while the CIO is being saddled with a massive portfolio of “utility” technologies that only generate interest when they fail. In addition the “death” of the CIO role has long been discussed and predicted, often due to the role disappearing, rather than the decrease in the number of people interested in filling the role.

There’s now a legitimate need for operationally-focused IT leaders who can manage a squad of staff that “keep the lights on” while also formulating a strategic IT digital change and vision. Where the CIO role is inherently flawed however is that it often expects the same person to be equipped to handle both these diverse disciplines.

At the executive level, companies should consider separating the operational and strategic disciplines, depending on the needs of the company. As cloud services and the ability to outsource many operational or back office functions, there’s an opportunity to accelerate this shifting separation. Even without resorting to external parties, savvy companies can equip CIOs with the appropriate authority and discretion to build effective operational staff, and stop expecting that CIOs should be equal parts strategist and technician.

Essentially, the CIO role becomes an ‘executive level internal consultant’ who charts the future course for corporate IT, and leverages internal and external resources to execute that vision of IT Business make over, while addressing business issues, needs and social agendas with the ‘right’ use of technology either on-premise or in the cloud.

“Countless years exposure with the CIO layer has convinced me that many CIOs even now in the digital twenty twenties need broader business experience than has typically been required in the past – more commercial business acumen than the typical deep technical expertise of the past,” Craig Ashmole goes on to say. “The CIO needs to be a board level business led executive with the acumen to utilise technology to drive revenue growth”.

The no-nonsense “Straight Talking” approach is about quickly understanding the underlying issues the CIO is facing, while being agile and articulate but delivering quick short term change programmes that make immediate differences to the business.

Very often this is quite a different approach to that of the ‘Big 5’ consultancy houses. The Big-5 typically throw a large number of junior graduates at their business client, who typically provide hundreds of pages of ‘nice’ reports, only to predict there will be better operational improvement in future months to come – so long as the client signs up for months of committed engagement – well synically that’s what you would expect.

CCServe is a London based IT & Business Transformation Consultancy helping CIOs and Executive business leaders globally to move their IT into the 2020’s and beyond, quickly and cost effectively. We bring the ‘right’ resource to the table.

Having spent a majority of my career working with and supporting the Corporate CIO Function, I now seek to provide a forum whereby CIOs or IT Directors can learn from the experience of others to address burning Change or Transformation challenges.
Craig Ashmole

Founding Director CCServe