Is the Technology industry pivoting
The British technology industry has flourished in recent years and through the post Brexit referendum period thanks to developments in artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics, cyber security and cloud computing. Different specialisms are emerging and in response are creating a complex demand for skilled interim professionals.
Of all of these, cyber security is perhaps the most visible. Combating such threats has risen to become one of the most pressing subjects in the board room and government.
The industry is growing quickly. Homegrown scale ups appreciate they must professionalise their operations by refreshing their senior leadership team to compete with established UK cyber firms, typically linked to large defence groups. Moreover, international (mostly American) firms continue to use the UK as a springboard to enter the European market.
As well as cyber security, artificial intelligence has also been making headlines recently. It is ubiquitous in the media, but there is a gap between the hype and the reality.
Demand for interims is changing as smarter companies use AI and robotic process automation to grow revenue exponentially, without scaling employee numbers. Many utilise these tools purely for cost reduction or efficiency. The specialist skills required in this field has led to a narrow talent pool, boosting the position of interim managers with the right expertise.
The pivot to the cloud is also creating a new wave of opportunities for interims. Many large ‘cloud-born’ digital and consumer tech businesses are well adapted to the technology, such as Salesforce, Amazon and Google. However, B2B technology enterprises have often been much slower in getting to grips with digital transformation.
In particular, software and IT services businesses continue to wrestle with the technical and financial challenges of this pivot – and so the gulf is widening. Interims are playing a crucial part in designing solutions and implementing cloud programmes within technology clients. They will also be required in supporting digital transformation – cloud born companies are digital by default, but many B2B vendors are playing catch up. Change-oriented interim managers with cloud and digital expertise will be needed to see through that change.
At a time when uncertainty is the new normal, clients are beginning to understand the concept of an access on-demand talent cloud. Across executive functions, change programmes or specialist skills such as architecture and cyber. They recognise that when an urgent need arises, interim managers can be on-boarded quickly, make an impact and leave a legacy.
One thing all these strands of the industry have in common is that they’re likely to see an increase in M&A activity over the next few years. The sector is characterised by a fragmented network of start-ups and established players – creating a market ripe for consolidation, which private equity and venture capitalists are exploiting.
Companies and investors will be looking for interim financial leaders, with the skills and experience to oversee the smooth integration of acquisitions, and the likely ensuing tax requirements. For interims themselves, these transitions mean peaks in demand for these skills.
Demand is such that I’m seeing a rise of first-time interims joining the market. They, and experienced professional interims, are attracted by the opportunity to pursue a diverse portfolio career work for multiple firms concurrently. Clients, especially in the small and mid-market, are equally attracted by the opportunity to acquire a higher level of expertise in a flexible and cost effective manner.
Other functional roles – especially HR, marketing and sales – are also highly sought after, especially within cyber security related businesses. As companies in the sector achieve scale they often need to consider more strategic approaches to larger enterprises with a more complex cloud product set. Getting the right staff with the expertise and knowledge to accelerate sales is a challenge; where interims can play a significant part.
Innovation-focused roles are also gaining traction in the market. These are all about helping to create new products and services which is essential to those that want to keep up in the frontline battle of a rapidly developing industry.
There’s no doubt that interims have a crucial role to play in the development of the sector, as companies adapt to increasing business opportunities. All this is taking place in the context of a highly competitive market and against a backdrop of political uncertainty. Whether generalists or specialists, candidates with expertise are a valued resource, whose worth is only likely to grow as the sector evolves.