New kids on the block

IT departments have been used to the coming and going of short term labour - temporary workers, contractors and consultants - for almost as long as they have been in existence. In recent years a new breed of freelance professional has arrived on the scene: the interim manager.

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Highly experienced and consequently highly rewarded, interim managers are playing an ever-increasing part in the development and maintenance of systems in organisations as diverse as charities, government bodies and hedge funds.

More closely involved in the aims and ambitions of their clients than the average consultant and far more senior than the average ‘temp’, they are able to pick and choose amongst lucrative and challenging assignments and to earn as much as £2,500 per day. But who exactly are they and why is their use currently proving so popular across the IT arena?

Interim managers tend to be senior IT managers or directors who have stepped off the corporate treadmill to become guns for hire, moving from assignment to assignment.

Operating through their own personal services companies they provide a short-term injection of heavyweight knowledge and experience focused on a specific set of packages, a particular industry or a defined corporate project such as the establishment of a shared services centre. In so doing, they allow organisations to throw a huge amount of skills and experience at a problem for a relatively short amount of time without the fear of a long-term burden on the payroll.

For the harassed director or HR department , they can supply the ideal way of plugging a senior staffing gap, perhaps caused by an unexpected resignation or maternity or sickness leave.

However these are not necessarily the roles when the interim can provide the very best return on what can be a fairly hefty financial investment. Instead their real value often lies in their ability to successfully manage the process of change and ensuring that projects are delivered on time and to budget. And the message about how to extract this maximum value seems to be getting through to potential buyers, according to the Interim Management Association, the industry’s own trade body, the market for interims will exceed £1bn next year.

One of the key reasons for choosing to hire an interim manager over a conventional contractor or consultant is the fact that they don’t just provide strong technical expertise but also sharp political and inter-personal skills.

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