Don't discount an interim solution

The task of providing more for less is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve. Technology has helped for many years but...

The task of providing more for less is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve. Technology has helped for many years but purse-strings are getting tighter, writes Ross Bentley.

So can you make the "more for less" system work with staff? Employing an interim manager is one answer, according to Jeff Hitchins, director at Turnoak Interim Management.

"Interim management started in this country in the early 1990s but still is not well known or understood," he says. "At senior levels in the IT department there are three resourcing options. The first is permanent staff which, in the long term, is the cheapest option. However, they will aspire to doing the job you have promoted them to or recruited them for, rather than being able to deliver on day one. They are also political - they want a career and all that brings.

They may not be as cheap as you expect. "A permanent member of staff with a salary of £75,000 costs as much as an interim manager on £600 a day in the first year. Similarly someone on £100,000 is equivalent to £775 a day in year one.

The second possibility, says Hitchins, is to use a consultant, say from one of the big consulting firms. "This option is generally the most expensive on a day-rate basis," he says. "And ultimately they report to a partner rather than to you and will look to 'sell on' - themselves and others.

"When you are seeking advice regarding, say, the latest e-commerce technologies, developing strategy or situations where shareholders or the board may require a known name, a consultant may be the best option. But not always."

Hitchins' third suggestion is to use an interim manager. "They are not as cheap as a permanent member of staff but they are generally cheaper than an equivalent consultant and can represent good value for money," he says. Using an interim manager can create the change you thought impossible in the short term, reduce the risk inherent in your most important project or resolve your biggest headache at an affordable price, says Hitchins.

So what is it like having an interim manager on board? "Imagine someone very like yourself," says Hitchins, "working independently for you, for a limited period to achieve a defined goal. They would be sensibly over-qualified and hit the ground running. Assuming the chemistry is right (an important point) they would follow your lead, do your bidding - and in an apolitical way. They should require no training or reviewing, indeed they could mentor their colleagues in a way that you might like to do yourself if only you didn't have to manage them. And when the job is done, they leave."

He concludes, "I am not saying that the interim manager is IT's panacea for the 21st century, but that most modern IT departments should consider the mix of all three options that suits them best and change that mix over time."

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