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Is there a new breed of Interim Executive emerging and how will 2014 shape up?

Encouraging economic news suggests we are easing out of recession with the latest snapshot being that the UK economy is growing at its fastest rate since 2007.  This is great but we have a long way to go before confidence returns to previous levels. The Interim market is however already reacting with signs of stabilised growth and IMA member firms maintaining current levels. It will be interesting to see how demand shapes up in 2014. 

The climate over the last few years has caused a changing landscape of the Interim market and the conditions have been challenging.  There have been casualties both from the ISP’s and from Interims who have had to rethink their plans. Decision making has been slow, requirements more prescriptive, additional stakeholders have been involved in the selection process and generally more caution has been exercised.  However, 2013 has seen many assignments get underway that I think 12/18 months previously may have faltered at the start.  It would seem organisations have the appetite to move forward now and are seriously exploring growth, M&A, Business / Process Improvements and Change Programmes and recognise help is needed to kick start and deliver these initiatives.  

What remains constant is that organisations with the foresight to engage interims tend to react more efficiently to changes in their own markets, economy and environment safeguarding competitive advantage.  There is certainly a wider understanding of the benefits of engaging an Interim - albeit there is still misunderstanding about what constitutes a proper Interim need.   Return on Investment is an obvious one and there is an increasing realisation of the flexibility and speed an Interim solution offers.  When organisations make the decision or are forced into utilising an Interim, they want someone in situ quickly and more importantly, with someone who delivers and makes a difference.  Costs still creep into the decision making process but this soon becomes less important when the benefit to the business is realised.

Fundamentally the objective behind engaging an Interim Executive has not changed.  Boards still require high level, wide ranging experience to provide insight and objectivity with an Interim who will drive change, deliver, add value, provide ROI and leave a legacy.   No changes there then but it seems organisations have become savvier in utilising a flexible resourcing solution for a variety of situations and want the results the interim solution provides.  

Arguably, this is perhaps creating fewer opportunities for the ‘old school’ interim executive with wide ranging, cross sector experience.  I don’t think they are being squeezed out; more that competition for the assignments is much tougher now and organisations are increasingly utilising a flexible resourcing approach when the internal capability or capacity is lacking.  

There is also increasing interest in talent mapping of interims so organisations can act quickly when the need arises and allows planning for projects they know they will need external resource for.  This in turn is fuelling demand for specific sector experience in some cases as they have the time to undergo an elongated process to uncover niche experience.  

This development is fuelling demand for new entrants from within sectors with an understanding of similar products or service, customers, supply chain and technical knowledge.  We are also seeing an increased number of female Interim Executives being engaged on assignments (the latest  Ipsos MORI results show Females accounting for 36 per cent of Assignments – a figure that continues to increase and the highest recorded level since 2010).  

In a turnaround scenario, Boards that recognise the value in engaging a high level Interims with the ability to provide quick solutions, a different approach, an impressive track record of delivering in similar situations and the ability to coach the leadership team and steer them into safe waters can be the difference between survival or not.   Bringing someone from a competitor is more likely to provide more of what they already have when often a fresh pair of eyes is needed. 

So, will 2014 see further changes driven by increased demand? Revised shopping lists of requirements and acceptance of the emergence and demand for a new breed of interim executive is certainly creating a new career path for some.   My view is there will be more growth orientated assignments with a requirement of some sector experience coupled with those businesses that require high level business leaders with transferrable skills.   This will of course create opportunities and drive demand which is all good for the market and I suspect the ‘new breed’ might well be in demand for the former and the ‘old school’ for the latter.  

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News posted: 21/02/2014 by Steven Wynne

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