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

CIOs benefiting from Interim’s

CIOs benefiting from Interim’s

4 key objectives CIOs can benefit from using Interims to deliver less politics, and more action

Taking charge of a programme by an interim for what’s considered a short period of time doesn’t mean the Interim can’t make a big impact to an organisation.

Full-time positions allow CIOs to get their teeth sunk into an organisation and to lead an IT-enabled business transformation but not every CIO, is a permanent role. Then bodes the question; Why should technology chiefs consider utilising interim positions and what benefits do they gain from these temporary roles?

1. Dive into challenges that are inaccessible to full-time CIOs

Reading an interesting blog from Chris Chandler, head of the CIO practice at recruitment specialist La Fosse Associates, who is a big advocate for the interim CIO role. He says that, in some instances, taking a temporary position can allow a CIO to design and deliver what they deem to be the optimal IT structure for the business.

“Such interims are often free from the politics that can restrain their full-time counterparts,” says Chandler. “Operating without such constraints can be wholly liberating for CIOs and often leads to more radical IT transformations.”

A word of caution however is to not use a transformational interim CIO to focus on BAU (business as usual) activities which often require them to conform to the status-quo of the organisation. The interim in these circumstances consequentially has limited, or no, freedom to follow his or her natural change or transformation instincts and capabilities.

Chandler goes on to say, “Experience from the recruitment industry suggests that, generally speaking, organisations are increasingly industry-agnostic when it comes to appointing interim CIOs”.

Therefore, aside from the obvious over qualified capabilities that often accompany interim positions, these appointments can offer CIOs the opportunity to dive into new sectors and challenges that would not be accessible to their permanent counterparts.

2. Treat the interim position as access to valuable learning experiences

One of the biggest benefits to any company taking advantage of bringing an Interim into their Change programmes is the multi-company experience that they bring – having the opportunity to engage in so many differing corporate environments brings skills you cannot get in the short term working in one company.

The requirements of one interim placement to the next also have extensive varying elements and this sharpens another skill within Interims and that’s complacency – they are always in a new environment having to look at the situation that they are immediately in front of so no time to sit back and relax. Interims are dedicated to finding resolution to business problems quickly, to mitigate costs, and to drive change to the company.

“In a recent assignment I was engaged with, the company was on the verge of signing a contract with a global Outsource supplier and they wanted someone to come in and give them a second opinion,” states Craig Ashmole, Founding Partner of London-based IT Consulting CCServe. “I came in, assessed the geo-markets, built an ROI business case and recommended an alternative solution that presented more than $20million savings over a 5-year period”.

In total, Ashmole spent five months building the business case, gathering all the BI data to put together a report for the board. He advised that certain geo-markets were easy to follow into from an outsourcing perspective, but that other considerations like Customer Service levels and access for company directors to keep close to the Centre of Excellence were quite different to what was initially thought.

“My job was to provide the company with a viable compelling strategy,” says Ashmole. “The strategy demonstrated that the global market knowledge he brought to the table opened up other avenues not previously thought of. The Board agreed with the strategy, signed it off and he was then asked to remain for an additional 13 months to implement, and manage the transition of a 700 seat Shared Services centre.”

3. Make a difference and avoid the strain of corporate politics

The interim role provides benefits in a range of key areas. First, being temporary provides an escape route from the swamp of organisational politics all companies own. You will be surprised just what you can learn and then fix when you have a perspective from outside the organisation, whilst also performing a key role within it.

One of the key skills Interims develop is to look beyond the corporate politics that every company has and to in fact get to understand quickly ‘who wants what done, and who does not’. This then builds a strategy path for the Interim to manage the respective individuals so as to get the best out of them and also to achieve the goals of the assignment.

Interims have the natural opportunity to make a big difference, without being seen as a threat to entrenched operational territories and empires. Interim often use this political awareness as an opportunity to forge alliances across the organisation, and to deliver results directly through brokering and partnership of executives whom may all have differing agendas. These are skills a good interim will possess if they have the experience of engaging across multiple businesses and one you cannot learn from a classroom.

Interim CIOs can become a change catalyst by delivering quick and highly visible results that map directly to their contract objectives. Unlike some permanent positions, interims are often given short-term targets and are presented with the entirely realistic prospect of leaving an important legacy behind.

4. The High impact Change injection

CIOs run highly technical disciplines and usually come from technical backgrounds. Their strength is in knowing the details of IT work. This gains them respect in the eyes of their staff and enables them to use projects to drive improvement. Nevertheless, IT management responsibilities have changed substantially over the past few years. As more IT processes become automated, CIOs must become more business-savvy. CIOs also need strong people, as well as good communication and other soft skills. In this new world, CIOs must embrace new roles and skills as markets change.

Interim skills are often used as a means to this end as a quick injection of high visibility change or transformation especially where a CIO has brought an interim in to assess areas of skill shortage or to drive a particular change element.

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

Failing Corporate Recruitment Processes

Failing Corporate Recruitment Processes

Top Frustrations for Interim Consulting and the Divide between the Corporate Recruiting Process

Are Corporate HR addressing the hiring process for Interim Consulting staff in a manner that befits their experience levels and capabilities?

The gulf between hiring Interim Consultants vs Permanent employees

There is a “gulf of expectation” between employers and contractors over how long the hiring process should take. A white paper by a top London recruitment specialist firm looking at maximising the value of Contractors, surveyed over 500 self-employed workers and hiring managers across the UK, it found 95% of interim contractors expect the hiring process to take no more than three weeks. However, over half (52% of employers) expect the negotiations to take much more than this, leading to frustration among the interim and self-employed candidates.

The ‘gulf’ is in the HR functions recognition of remuneration method between Interim versus Permanent. Permanent roles once hired enjoy ‘gardening leave’ income waiting to start new roles. Interim Consultants, on the other hand only invoice for working days actually delivered, while also easily being disposed of without typical employee benefits if programmes are stalled or shut down. The recruiting process fundamentally forgets these key differences when delaying decisions take place.

weeks graph

It’s natural that experienced seasoned Interim Consultants view this approach less favourably. We understand seasoned Interims are typically on the upper end of consulting day rates but often more qualified than the role, which brings real additional value for an employer. If Interims were being placed quicker could these day rates become a little more competitive? Well that’s an interesting angle. Employers risk losing high-skilled, specialist Interim candidates if they drag their heels during the hiring process.

The Hiring process of Interim Consultants and full-time employees should certainly be looked at separately with regard to decision process, delay and skills requirements from both the in-house HR and recruitment firms.

The Pigeon-Hole approach

Something quite common in the corporate hiring process is the HR list of skills and requirements for a position, but sadly this has created what we all know in the recruitment game as the ‘Pigeon Hole’ effect often phrased as ‘the computer says NO’!

Recruitment agents are good at pigeon holing candidates, after all it suits them to place candidates in the ‘holes’ that their clients are looking for because that is when they get paid. It’s also easier to have a robot application throw out 90% of the applicants. I often find recruitment agencies, just don’t get it, when you have a conversation on soft skills like personality management and ability to deliver, which cannot be placed in a category. Agencies, however tow the line HR departments lay out as the competition is so high. The focus on finding senior level personnel or Interim Consultants who can actually get the job done with the ‘right’ business acumen is more often clouded by tick box lists of  superfluous certifications or skills often only required for staff that “actually write the code”, so as to speak.

Corporate HR pushing CV’s back into the Recruitment process

An activity often found in the corporate HR function is; pushing CV’s of candidates received directly from their careers web portal back into recruitment firms to process, and dare I say it, to be “pigeon holed” again, but this time paying an exorbitant extra marked up cost for the privilege. Where’s the logic in that? Please remind me, what was the HR function established to do again!

While accepting the different levels of candidates required for hire across an organisation there should, in my humble opinion, be a more recognised respect within the HR process for the senior end of the spectrum especially with regard to Interim Consulting roles. These roles often support the executive CXO layer or head of departments, so perhaps a little more respect from the HR function as if they were hiring their own Executive layer. It’s not  difficult to pick out the quality of seasoned Interim Consultants, especially those that might have approach firms directly. Interims very often spend substantial time researching target clients, before reaching out to key members of the organisation for consideration. The HR function seems to have missed an opportunity here, and that’s to use basic common sense in recognising which CV’s need to be pushed out to recruitment firms and which should be channelled directly to the HR Director – there’s a massive cost implication to corporations based on the action taken here.

So is hiring the right skills too robotic?

The 2015 recruitment market is certainly a buyers’ market and sadly that depicts the way skilled resources are being treated today. In my experience, including views from many Interims I have spoken to, we all feel the same; There’s very little respect of the experience and skills Interim candidate can bring by both HR departments and the recruitment firms.

The buyers’ Market has tarnished the Interim process too, as agencies become more blasé and have less time to read the true value of soft skills Interim candidates bring. As an Interim Consultant, I often try to establish and build a relationship with agencies that one sees as professional enough to put your resume and credentials forward, but that’s becoming an impossibility when one cannot even get a call returned. We are seeing a washing away of valuable soft skills like executive layer stakeholder management, empathy and people impartiality so often required in programmes to get the ‘job done’.

I would go as far as suggesting that senior level Interim roles require more than the 40 second CV scan more junior roles get from agencies today. Along with this, the demand for CV’s to be short means Interim CV’s are harder to garner the wider capabilities, usually due to the number of roles they have typically engaged. I very often find myself following up with a skills matrix and a more detailed introduction letter to try to raise profile visibility.

Who are the winners and who are the losers?

Well that’s an interesting debate indeed. Trying to put a fair spin on this I would suggest the recruitment firms are really the winners, the losers are the corporates. Corporations tend to pay way over the odds for the senior layer of employees or Interim Consulting resources. Remembering that the interim market look reduce gap between assignments, so added delay in the hire process will inevitably get reflected in day rates. You will always get more qualified Interim than what’s actually being sort so corporates should look to take advantage of that, but pushing CV’s back unnecessarily into recruitment firms to process will increase day rates to justify all the recruitment firm activity.

“This is not a witch hunt on the recruitment firms out there,” states Craig Ashmole, Founding Partner of London based IT consulting CCServe. “I have many good colleagues in that field, but I do question the lazy approach the corporate HR function takes for not recognising senior level skills that come to them in the first instance.”

Many executives have said, ‘The rates that Interim Consultants charge makes hiring these skills so much more difficult to justify’, which does pose the question, what will be the ramification to Consulting? I fear that the losers with be the corporations for not getting their HR house in order, from a cost and access to skills perspective.

Balancing the argument, recruiters and hiring managers are often not on the same page. Yes, there are the small percentage of hiring managers who are savvy about hiring and deeply involved in the process. However, the large majority of hiring managers could do a much better job of “participating in their own roles” and understanding the processes. The amount of times I have heard a corporation has gone out to source an Interim role draining both candidate and recruitment firm time only to say; “We have decided to source internally”.

Hiring managers, the corporate recruit firms and the HR function all working together can lower the cost of hiring, improve the quality of skilled resources while reducing the time to fill.

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

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