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

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