Rise of the interim: What Sydney’s growth sectors mean for the executive gig-economy
Infrastructural growth in Australia is nothing new, but with $55billion of government funding on the horizon, the current surge in rail, road and housing projects offers us a window into the future development we can expect to see in New South Wales. A similar level of growth is being felt across the public and financial services sectors as authorities strive for digital transformation and specialist lenders muscle their way into the market. The demand for short-term expertise at a senior level is therefore rising and as a result, executives and senior managers are increasingly picking and choosing the roles they want to work in.
It’s a situation most acutely felt in the transport sector. Ongoing rail developments across the Northwest and Southwest Sydney districts have seen organisations draw heavily upon the shallow pool of talented programme managers and project directors for two to three year implementation projects. Such individuals are hard to come by but for those capable of delivering these initiatives it has offered a growing number of interim opportunities. With projects including the Western Sydney Airport and the M4 upgrade in the pipeline, the need for short-term senior leaders to carry out large-scale implementation is only going to grow.
Underpinning these projects is digital transformation; something that is gaining increasing momentum in the public sector as the government looks at how it can adopt digital best practices. For transport in particular this has meant bringing the sector into the modern era and offering commuters better service through, for example, apps that offer live journey updates and disruption information.
In other areas of the public sector this has meant deep organisational and cultural change. A recent assignment with a government justice agency involved the restructuring of their technology team to understand and best use the skillsets available within the force. A role that couldn’t have been appointed internally, the force brought on board an interim to interview the 500-strong team across a 6 month period to see how they could best use the skills on offer. As a result, the force had a more streamlined digital approach, giving officers on the ground more accurate information much faster. It’s a trend replicated throughout the public sector and is seeing more and more public authorities draw upon private sector skillsets in its pursuit of digital transformation. A primary driver for this is the dearth of skills internally and it’s offering interims with traditionally corporate backgrounds the opportunity to try their hand in the public sector.
That’s not to say that the private sector doesn’t offer a wealth of opportunities for interim leaders. In the fallout from the Banking Royal Commission, banks are scrambling to implement practices and technology that will ensure they are fit for the future. It will give customers a single port of call at their banks, creating a more integrated service. However, with massive digital transformation of this kind comes massive organisational and cultural change; something that lends itself to interim work.
Bridging the gap between the customer experience and the digital experience is an ongoing trend in the financial services sector and is merging traditionally siloed roles. Programme directors across the IT and Technology functions are now commandeering all aspects of the transformation of an organisation. Likewise, finance specialists are moving into programme director roles where they are needed for digital transformation. It’s a development mirrored at the lower end of the market. The Banking Royal Commission has left a vacuum which is rapidly being filled by emerging specialist lenders and brokers who are undergoing their own digital transformation projects and are in need of specialist skillsets for a fixed-term period.
Over the last three to four years there has been an evolution in the transformative nature of work, with a big focus on change. These developments have forced organisations to look externally for the skills they need, which in turn is driving interim work. All sizes of companies are witnessing this change, and where historically the biggest users of interims had been mid-sized firms, we’re now seeing the ASX 100 also turn to interims over the traditional management consulting firms.