Monthly Archives: April 2007

//April

Interim Managers have never had it so good?

This week, I have had three concrete job opportunities presented to me. The trend here in Brussels is that nearly all large companies are having difficulties trying to find high quality, experienced Interim Managers.

I suppose it shouldn’t come as a surprise, especially if you follow the trends of the IT industry as a whole. Peak followed by trough, followed by another peak etc. But this time it feels different. If we are at a peak then where are the corresponding high day rates? In Brussels there seems to be a hidden consortium on pricing (perhaps instigated by the banks who are key commissioners of interim managers here)? This time around the prices seem to be remaining stable, and below 2004 rates.

On Tuesday I had a phone call from a leading agency that are looking for five interim managers, two of which need to be very experienced and posses the ability to challenge business strategy and implementation plans at all levels. The agency wanted me for my tough track record, especially with regards my ability to change mind sets and not to let company blockers stand in the way of progress.

I would be allocated a team of project managers who in turn would manage the communications, ICT, technology, business processes and other teams. But (and here comes the ‘but’) the day rate on offer was 800Euro (1089USD or 546GBP) per day (including the 20% cut they wanted to take)! Not exactly an exciting teaser away from my existing assignment…

For me the challenge is not really about money, its about what I fancy doing at any one time and what other things I have going on in my life that might affect my desire to travel, or not to be on call 24/7.

The concern for me about the rate is three fold:
1. If the Interim Manager's market is supposedly peaking, and if the market really is short of highly skilled Interim Managers, then how come day rates are not rising fast?
2. If this is the rate on the high side of the peak, there a risk that it will drop on the way down. Will all of us experienced IM’s be working for 500Euro per day in a couple of years from now?
3. Is the fee high enough to attract juniors to the profession, especially when you consider that this is the top end (excluding stand in CEO’s etc)? Juniors are being offered rates half of that offered to me and if they have to give up their fixed incomes, then the benefits start to fade away.

Obviously, I decided to stay put. I don’t like to leave any assignment until it is finished and I am not one to always compare with others. But for now I might not even bother picking up the phone next time I am interrupted with ‘a great new opportunity’!

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Good Project Managers are hard to find!

This week, I have had a number of clients ask me if I have project managers available to manage urgent projects. Companies want to expand and move forward but the lack of project managers (PM’s) is holding them back.

It really amazes me how nearly all the larger companies here in Brussels are having difficulties trying to find high quality, experienced project managers. I am led to believe that it is exactly the same in the UK and in Holland.

So what’s going on? In my opinion if a young (30-35) adult with a few commercial years of experience behind them and the necessary skills set, is prepared to make the leap to becoming a project manager – then there is no reason for them not to do it, so why don’t they?

I believe the basic skills required for a good project manager are the following:

1. A strong desire to solve other people’s problems
2. The conviction that they are the best person to solve them
3. Extreme resilience, the ability to bounce back after any setback
4. A high emotional IQ
5. A good memory for faces and names (not the case for me, thus I only score a 9 out of 10)!
6. A clear, structured approach to every task
7. A natural ability to plan (a good interim manager is always making lists)
8. A strong sense of priorities
9. The knack to sell anything to anyone (needed for lobbying)
10. A willingness to learn from mistakes

If a person has at least 8 of these attributes, then they should seriously consider, taking the plunge and re-training in project management. The money’s good, the conditions too ,and for really good PM’s there is always work, especially in the major capitals of Europe.

However I am concerned that although we are experiencing a shortage of high quality PM’s at the moment, the rates are only OK. There is no such thing as a hungry PM (assuming they have all the 10 attributes above) but they are not going to get rich either, especially if the market takes a downturn.

I am not advocating an uncontrolled rise in day rates but I am suggesting that commissioning companies need to allocate differing rates depending on quality. A really good PM should earn considerably more than a poor or even average one. Similarly interim and project management supply companies need to be aware that if they put forward poor quality PM’s at high prices, they might get away with it for now but sooner or later (and as sure as night follows day, there will be a later) the market will tumble and their reputations will suffer badly.

The trick in outsource supply is to offer your clients high quality PM’s at a reasonable price, so that no matter the climate their day rate remains constant. But what is a good rate for a really good, experienced PM? In Brussels it is somewhere between 550Euro (750USD or 375GBP) and 850Euro (1157USD or 579GBP) per day (cost to the client), the PM’s themselves are rarely getting over 650Euro (885USD or 443GBP). I am very interested to know the rates in other cities across the globe...

All reactions welcome!

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Haircut – a joke about Interim Managers!

There was a good old barber in Brussels. One day a florist goes to
> him for a haircut. After the cut, he goes to pay the barber and the
> barber replies:
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> I am sorry, I cannot accept money from you; I am doing a Community
> Service. The Florist is very happy and leaves the shop looking very smart indeed.
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> The next morning when the Barber goes to open his shop, there is a
> "Thank You" Card and a dozen roses waiting at his door.
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> A Confectioner goes for a haircut and he also goes to pay the barber
> he again refuses to take the money. The Confectioner is also very happy and leaves the shop looking great with a very professional haircut.
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> The next morning when the Barber goes to open his shop, there is
> another "Thank you" Card and a dozen Cakes waiting at his door.
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> An Interim Manager goes for a haircut and he also goes to pay the
> barber, and again the barber refuses the money saying that it was performing a community service.
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> The next morning when the Barber goes to open his shop, guess what he
> finds there......
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> Scroll down for answer... . . . . . . .. . . . ...
> (Believe me it's worth it!!!!!!!!!!)
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> A Dozen Interim Managers waiting for a free haircut... with Printouts
> of forwarded mail mentioning about high quality free haircuts.
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The Importance of Prince2 or PMI certification for Interim Managers

I have been working as a project and interim manager, in one shape or form for the last 27 years. But only recently have I worked for an organization that has adopted a fully mature Project Methodology throughout its organization. For example, if you are talking with a Finance Director and he asks you what stage your project is at, you can simply quote the relevant stage and he, or she, will immediately understand where you are.

When the methodology runs through the entire business, the structure enables a much better 360º quality of decision making and helps ensure what the business required (via it BREQ’s or Business Requirements document) is actually delivered. Scope creep can be avoided (or at least controlled) and budgets can be followed extremely closely.

But what do you do, if your client (or employer) does not have an established Project Methodology? From an interim management perspective, unless your assignment is to introduce a project methodology, then all you can do is ensure that the assignment you are working on has a good structure and that you have a Project Charter, Scope Document, Road Map and other basic documentation that that can be easily shared and understood with everyone involved in the project – Including the company’s senior management team. (Some templates for these documents can be found on my website WWW.Making-a-Difference.be, they accompany my book, ‘Making a Difference’, due to be released in September 2007).

Prior to working in my present assignment, I took notice of potential candidates for the group practice, of which I am a Partner, ‘The Bayard Partnership’ (www.BayardPartnership.com) but I did not consider it a must. In recent weeks my position is changing and I believe that the discipline that these certification programs try to establish, is far superior to the sloppiness by which many companies try to carry out their product and services development projects.

Thus, if you look at it logically, an interim or project manager, with the necessary intelligence, personal characteristics and a certification from Prince2 or PMI, is always going to be top of the list in the recruitment stakes and also in the top 10% of net worth income, for their field.

More information on Prince2 can be found here: www.prince2.com
And PMI here: www.pmi.org

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What is an Interim Manager?

I define an interim manager as someone who has been hired to carry out an assignment that lasts for a predefined length of time and that has a specific goal or target.

Although 'Interim Manager’ is sometimes used to describe a manager who temporarily replaces a departmental head (during sick leave or a sabbatical for example), nowadays the term is used in a much broader context than before, especially when businesses do not want to publicly admit they have a serious problem by advertising for a crisis manager!

Typically Interim Managers are brought into companies to solve three main kinds of problems:

Recurring problems: problems that for some reason keep coming back, despite efforts to resolve them. (Common examples of these include quality, customer satisfaction, personnel issues, disappointing sales or financial results and cash flow difficulties).

Opportunistic problems: problems that require taking hard decisions: crossroad decisions where often there are only two or three options, each with its own complex or even undesired consequences. These are often ‘one time, no return’ decisions linked to a problem that can sometimes be considered as a genuine opportunity.

Change problems: problems linked to the need for a business to change. These may be triggered by the emergence of new competition or by the introduction of new technologies in order to remain competitive, etc... Change problems are usually handled in the form of projects.

To fing out more about Interim Mangement go to www.making-a-difference.be

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