Interim Consulting Demand

Interim Consulting Demand

IT contractor demand at highest point for over a year

IT Consulting and Interim management skills are at the highest demand in more than a year now that post Brexit has kicked off.

Demand for freelance IT contractors rose to a 14-month high in March 2017, according to the REC national index. The demand has been fuelled by several factors, including a lengthy list of IT skills that appear to be in increasingly short supply within the salaried permanent workforce. Brexit uncertainty could also be working in freelancers’ favour as employers are more likely to engage freelancers for IT contract jobs on a limited timeframe rather than the lengthier commitment of hiring new permanent staff. Additionally, those already working in permanent positions could be unwilling to take a chance on jumping ship in such uncertain waters.

REC chief executive Kevin Green said: “Economic uncertainty about future prospects is having a detrimental effect on employees’ willingness to risk a career move at this time. “Many [employers] are [therefore] reporting an increasing number of white collar jobs as hard to fill, including within the IT and the financial sectors.”

[REC = Recruitment & Employment Confederation]

Contractors and those who are willing to change employers are reportedly reaping dividends as skills on the scarcer side are attracting premiums in the current climate. The skills most in demand can vary from one month or even one week to the next however, so when you actually secure a contract can have a major bearing on whether you also manage to secure premium rates.

Digital generalists, UX/UI experts, and those with experience in the gaming field were particularly scarce in February for example. In March a variety of different IT skills were at a premium, including Java developers, Dev Ops, IT security, software developers, software and embedded software engineers, Ruby software developers, and PHP software developers.

The REC said: “Our concern is that Brexit will make the problem worse, particularly if onerous restrictions are imposed on people coming from the EU to work.”

It is a problem for employers, but for IT contractors a lack of skills in the general workforce means more opportunities.
“Experience and knowledge/exposure to Business Transformation related programmes are on the increase too,” stated Craig Ashmole, Founding Director of Interim IT consulting firm CCServe Ltd. “There are some high profile programmes in the City of London that have increased over the last 12 months driving PMO or Portfolio Management”.

Source: Consulting Hub

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

Is Interim Management Dead

Is Interim Management Dead

Is the market changing the way that we engage and work with the use of Interim Management?

In short, the answer is no, Interim Consulting is not dead!

In fact, perhaps the question we should be asking instead is: “are we all interims now anyway?”

Permanent contracts are still dominant in businesses – and it is set to stay that way for the foreseeable future. But does a senior level “permanent” position really exist in this day and age? How beneficial could it be for us all to adopt an interim mind set – regardless of our actual position?

In an age of business disruption, where there are no certainties – as macro forces combine to place intense pressure on organisations across the spectrum – there is a necessity to be agile. Business leaders have to be prepared to change course at a moment’s notice and progress is often tracked project-by-project, rather than year-by-year.

To survive in this new environment and to create competitive advantage for our businesses, we may all find ourselves needing to take more of an interim approach to leadership.

Amid technological disruption and now Brexit, we are in the thick of a revolution in the business world. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be difficult to adjust to. Even the most gifted of business leaders can find themselves feeling slightly rootless as they face unprecedented changes within and outside their organisation.

So should we all be embracing an interim approach to work?

According to the Institute of Interim Management (IIM): “Interim managers bring well-qualified skills and expertise to bear at short notice, without the overheads and shackles associated with employment. They consult, plan, advise, implement, and embed the lessons, then exit, handling a range of key strategic and tactical interventions. As businesses in their own right, they offer independent expertise, free of company politics, and take responsibility for delivering results, not just offering advice.”

Without doubt, this is an approach that we can all learn from. With higher expectations of pace and impact, reliance on networking and an independent view – an individual working on an interim basis faces intense pressures. They have to make quick, but well-thought-through, decisions within a set timeframe, in order to bring about the desired outcomes. In many ways, this is leadership intensified.

Therefore, interims need to boast specific attributes and these differentiating “hallmarks” of professional interim managers and executives from other types of temporary or fixed-term contract resources are:

  • High-impact: interim managers are practiced at making a significant difference quickly, assessing and working with the company culture and often with little in the way of a formal “brief”. They do not need time to warm up or to settle in, but focus quickly on the work in hand.
  • Independent: they remain outside of company politics and so are able to address issues from a position of neutrality. This can be particularly useful when difficult and unpopular decisions have to be taken. They also act as trusted advisors who tell it as it is.
  • Professional: interim managers are micro-businesses in their own right, usually operating as limited companies. They trade with the hallmarks of business, not employment, such as professional indemnity insurance, business email and, often, their own business website.
  • Senior: operating at board or near-board level, interim managers are managers and executives, who have gravitas and credibility. They are used to leading businesses, functions, and departments. Suitably well qualified, they advise then deliver effective solutions.
  • Transformational: interim management is often focused on activities related to change, transition, business improvement, crisis management and turnaround. Even when their assignment addresses a gap or shortage, they add value and energise the workplace.
  • Wide expertise: with a strong track record of completing a variety of assignments, interim managers typically combine depth and breadth of expertise in their chosen sectors and disciplines. Their agility gives them the wide reaching expertise to deliver results quickly.
  • Time focused: interim managers are available at short notice. Once engaged, they will focus on providing significant value within the agreed fixed-term time parameters, seeing the assignment through and for not longer than needed, to a conclusion.

Source: Guide to interim management (IIM)

“As a relative newbie to some, around 6 years in interim engagement, I very much use the interim mind set in terms of thinking: What does the business need to achieve this quarter? How am I going to get impact on transformation? What are my quick wins? How am I going to get permanent employees to move things forward with me?” states Craig Ashmole, Founding Director of London based CCServe Interim Consulting.

So aren’t these attributes applicable for achieving competitive advantage for a business, regardless of our employment contract?

Teri Ellison from BIE explains: “The interim spell definitely honed my leadership skills faster than would have been the case in a permanent role. To suddenly lead a team of people who don’t look at you as a permanent employee or their manager and to have them follow you to build teams really challenges the way you lead.”

“At the same time, you’re learning to act as a genuine business partner to the client, helping them to think about where they’re growing their business, how they are driving their business and what impact you can have on their success.”
As disruption continues to make its presence felt, the ability to flex and adapt is crucial. What can we all do more of, regardless of our employment terms? Looking to the world of interims for inspiration could be just the tonic business leaders require.

So interim management is very much alive and well – in fact, it’s thriving. As the business world continues to turn on new axes, the skills and mind set of the interim manager can help leaders to adapt to new challenges and flourish. Whether your organisation hires an interim or simply employs their attributes within their working culture, business can all benefit from what the interim consultant brings 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

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

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