What matters most?

In a recent study by  Techserve Alliance and Inverno  one of the questions asked was What is the most important criteria for selecting an IT Staffing or IT Consulting firm?    The top ranked answer was the Firm is on my company’s approved vendor list.  Yet finding high quality talent is what keeps managers up at night.  See my previous post about that here.

As we can see on the chart at the right, the most important thing overall  when looking at 2nd and 3rd rankings was can the firm provide highly skilled, quality talent.  So what if the firms on your preferred list, can’t or don’t provide you the talent you need?  I recently met with an IT manager that complained that his current vendor would send over about 20 resumes and of the 20, 18 were not even close and the two remaining were  dubious at best.   I encourage you to ask your vendors about their processes and about their metrics.  I willing to bet the firm the manager was complaining about had a performance measurement around how quickly they could get resumes sent out. 

Maybe I’m confused, but it seems to me we have a disconnect when managers says finding talent keeps them up.  Yet when they look at selecting a firm to get them the talent, the first criteria  they use is the firm on the vendor list.  Our goal at STAR BASE is 1, 1, 1.  One candidate submitted, one interview, one hire, anything else is a waste of resources.

 

One arm tied behind your back.

Techserve Alliance and Inverno released the results of the first of its kind study of IT Staffing firms, clients and candidates.  This is the first study of its kind to examine the flexible IT workforce from three distinct perspectives: clients, candidates and staffing firms. The findings, based on the responses of more than 700 survey participants, provide an in depth analysis of the state of the IT staffing industry.  The survey was conducted online between June 11, 2012 and October 4, 2012.

Many companies feel that engaging a staffing firm is not a preferred method of finding IT talent.  According to the study, almost half the IT professional hired were the result of a search done by an IT consulting firm.  Companies that have some sort of preferred list found talent from firms that were not on the list 27% of the time.  A conclusion that one could draw from that is that preferred vendor lists limit the talent an organization has access to.

One of the top things that keep hiring managers up at night is finding highly-qualified talent.  One has to question why companies’ put so many barriers in place when it comes to finding IT talent?  If the IT talent is secured, the biggest worry is how to retain them.  Its like trying to drive with one arm tied behind your back.

 

Survey Says Part Two

The results are in!  Techserve Alliance and Inverno released the results of the first of its kind study of IT Staffing firms, clients and candidates. 

In my previous post we got a candidate perspective.  Today we will get an end client perspective.   According to clients, the hardest positions to fill are project manager, programmer/analyst, ERP/CRM Packaged Software Specialist, Network Engineer and Java Applications Developer.  I think in the Cincinnati / Dayton market, I would substitute Microsoft .net developer for Java. 

While most IT skillsets are in high demand, these five are particularly difficult.  As is the law of supply and demand, if the demand is high and the supply is low, the compensation levels will rise, so plan accordingly.

Survey Says Part One

The results are in!  Techserve Alliance and Inverno released the results of the first of its kind study of IT Staffing firms, clients and candidates.  This is the first study of its kind to examine the flexible IT workforce from three distinct perspectives: clients, candidates and staffing firms. The findings, based on the responses of more than 700 survey participants, provide an in depth analysis of the state of the IT staffing industry.  The survey was conducted online between June 11, 2012 and October 4, 2012.  In the next few posts, I will be sharing some interesting points from the survey. 
 

This first point is from the candidate perspective and mirrors our own recent experience with a C# candidate.  Almost 1/3 of IT professionals found their most recent position in two weeks or less.  Most candidates, (84%) accepted a position within 3 months.  This means if you are hiring and you have a very qualified candidate presented, you have to move fast or you run the risk of losing out on the talent.
 

How do you know if the person is qualified or not?  One way is to work with a reputable IT Staffing firm.  You can find reputable firms by searching here.
 

Right to Represent

We recently had a situation where one of our candidates was working with more than one firm.  This is not too un-common; I have touched on this subject before in this post here.  The other firm did not do a very good job of presenting this person.  They probably slapped their logo on his resume and sent it off to the client along with a number of others that “looked good”.  The candidate did not hear anything from the other firm. 

We, on the other hand, took time to understand this person and used our Now you knowTM assessment to get an un-biased gauge of his skills.  We found him to be very strong in the skills that several of our clients were looking for.  We talked with him on where we would like to present him and that’s when we learned of a potential conflict.  A quick call to the client confirmed the client was working with another firm as well and if he was submitted by them, they would get the credit.  BTW, what’s his name?

Fortunately, we are members of Techserve Alliance and industry best practices in this case call for the candidate to decide who should represent him at the client.  We have a Right to represent form that we had the candidate fill out for this client.  That way there is no conflict. 

The moral of the story is this: If you are a candidate, make sure the firms you are working with are doing a good job of representing you and know where they are sending your resume.  We recommend that you work with no more than 2 firms.  If there is a conflict, then you should decide who is doing a better job of representing you.

If you are on the hiring side, and hiring for IT, then hire an IT staffing firm, not someone that does several types of jobs.  Don’t let them sell you on how deep their database is, according to the latest Techserve Alliance operating metrics report, less that 30% of the positions are filled from their own proprietary database.  (Ours is over 50% because we are focused on IT in the Cincinnati and Dayton areas).  We all have access to the same internet resources.  If all you needed was a stack of resumes that has been poorly scrutinized, most staff augmentation firms would be fine.  But you don’t have time to cull through 20 resumes to find the person with the real experience.  Isn’t that what you’re paying that staffing firm to do?

What cha gonna do?

Obamacare  is a topic that is usually not discussed in most IT (Information Technology) departments.  Unless your business is healthcare related, why would you?   I’m sure there is going to be more discussion about it in the coming year. 

Most people know that Obamacare will be fully implemented next year.  What most do not know is that this year is the look back year.  The look back year will determine the number of employees an employer has. This number will determine what is mandated by the law.  There is a lot of discussions going on right now in the executive suite about head count, specifically how to reduce it.  I was just in a meeting this morning where the topic came up.  IT departments are not immune to the discussion.  So Mr. IT Director, what are you going to do when you have to cut X number of FTE’s? 

Fortunately, we have some solutions like Talent on Demand and CIO on Demand

A Little SQL Wizardry

At STAR BASE, we are application developers.  Normally if an application developer has an issue with how to do something in SQL, a good developer can google it and come up with a quick solution.  But when it comes to generating and using a list of sequential numbers, it appears that the most common method used could be categorized as brute force.  That is generating a table with all known integers, or at least enough to support your application, and join to it.  However, I have found a solution, that admittedly may only work with DB2, that uses recursive SQL to solve the problem. Check this out:

with sequence (seq) as (

  select 1 from sysibm/sysdummy1

  union all

  select s.seq + 1 from sequence s where s.seq < 9

)

select * from sequence

 

This bit of SQL will generate the following response:

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

 

To adjust the ending point, change ‘s.seq < 9′ to the appropriate ending point.
To adjust the starting point, change ‘select 1′ to the appropriate starting point.
To adjust the increment, change ‘select s.seq + 1′ to the appropriate increment.

For example to generate a list from 10 to 100 by 5 you can use the following SQL:

with sequence (seq) as (

  select 10 from sysibm/sysdummy1

  union all

  select s.seq + 5 from sequence s where s.seq < 100

)

select * from sequence

 

This can be used to solve several problems including generating n random numbers, determining the missing numeric keys in a file, and determining the numbers in a range.  Can you modify it to work with your DB? 

The Personal Touch

DifferentWe recently had one of our candidates in the office to meet with him face to face.  This person has worked with other Cincinnati and Dayton IT staffing firms and I was surprised when he told us we were the first firm to have an in person meeting with him.  Other IT staffing firms did everything via email and/or phone.  A recent survey showed that most IT professionals crave a more personal touch in the job search process.  We at STAR BASE could not agree more.  Then again we do march to a different drummer.  That’s why some of our clients let us handle the entire hiring process.  It saves them a lot of time.

The Value of a BA: Project Scope vs. Solution Scope

ScopeMost application software development team members are aware of and work within the framework of Project Scope, but few are aware of the importance of Solution Scope. Project Scope is usually defined by the Project Manager and defines the boundaries of the IT business solution project. It defines what areas will be in scope and what is out of scope for the project. Project Scope may also document the assumptions and constraints noted for the project. For example, an organization, with manufacturing facilities in Cincinnati and Dayton, is considering an enhancement to its customer invoicing application; the project scope could state that “this enhancement is to change the cosmetic look of customer invoices produced by the customer invoicing system”. It could state that this enhancement will affect only one, or a set, of customers and not other customers. The project scope statement should also declare what is out of scope for the project. Such as, “this project will not consider Order Entry and other Customer Service or customer complaint systems, as well it will not consider Accounts Receivable and other financial systems”.

The Solution Scope defines the new capability that the IT business solution will contain. The purpose of the solution scope is to conceptualize the recommended solution in enough detail to enable stakeholders to understand which new business capabilities an IT business solution will deliver, or in other words Create Shared Vision. By creating shared vision concerning the IT business solution at this point in the project you can decrease focus of the project to that solution scope, reduce scope creep, that can reduce project timelines and free up project resources sooner, increase stakeholder satisfaction at the end of the project. This increases the probability that the project will be deemed a success.

Take our example above, the solution scope will state exactly what is changing about the cosmetic look of invoices, such as “the company logo at top of the invoice will change to the newly adopted logo, the bill-to customer name and address will print to the right of the ship-to customer name and address on the invoice as well as the date printed will change to Day, Month, Year format (i.e. 15 August 2011) from its current Month, Day, Year format (i.e. August 15, 2011)”. Just as Project Scope declared what was out of scope for the project, the solution scope declares what is out of scope in relation to the IT business solution. “This enhancement will not change any calculations as to price or discounts that customer receives. This enhancement does not change how data is displayed on the invoice or how it is retrieved from the database except for the changes defined in this enhancement, meaning that item descriptions, quantities, unit of measures displayed will not change.”

So engage the Business Analyst early in and throughout the project to define and manage solution scope to keep the focus of the project, This helps the organization gain the many benefits stated above.

The Value of a BA: Identifying Business Need

Business NeedOne of the critical roles of the Business Analyst (BA), or Enterprise Analyst (EA), in the area of Enterprise Analysis is to identify business need. There are many factors, or many ways that the BA can identify what the business needs. It can be a result of market research or an identified new opportunity brought about by actions of a vendor or competitor.   It could be derived from a strategic goal or initiative of the organization.  It could have come from a business user complaint about a current system issue and/or the subsequent Root Cause Analysis. It could also be derived from an Enterprise Analysis activity that the BA performed, such as Capability Gap Analysis, SWOT Analysis or Product Feasibility Analysis.

If this vital role is not performed than the organization in Cincinnati, Dayton or other business community would not realize the benefits of identifying some business needs that need to be addressed, possibly gaining greater competitive advantage, possibly achieving strategic goals or taking advantage of an opportunity presented by the market.

Once identified, the business need should be documented in the Business Case of a project to develop a solution for this business need. The business need defines the problem for which the business analyst is attempting to find a solution. The way the business need is defined determines which alternative solutions will be considered, which stakeholders will be consulted and which solution approaches will be evaluated. One pitfall that many business analysts fall into is trying to define the business need by the solution. They start with the solution first instead of the problem first. This reduces the solution alternatives that receive consideration and may bring a lesser valuable solution to deployment than what could have been achieved. So starting with the business need (problem) and solution scope, then developing alternative solutions will bring the most valuable solution to the organization, and the business analyst’s recommendation, to light. 

We all learn from our mistakes, what pitfalls to developing the Business Case have you encountered in your career?