[Johannesburg, 7 March 2008] - Information and communication technology (ICT) is a key component within business. It underpins the way each department works and, ultimately, keeps the data, network and systems that they rely on in working order. In most organisations, if ICT shuts down, so does the business. This puts the importance of the ICT department into perspective – it is crucial to the effective and efficient running of a company. However, staffing the ICT department appropriately is a challenge given the dearth of ICT skills in the local market.
Skills scarcity, low salaries result in high churn
Businesses are regularly confronted with the challenge of sourcing ICT staff with the right competencies, i.e. knowledge (qualifications and experience), skill sets and attributes (including attitude, mindset and personality traits, to mention a few). The lack of competencies in the local market has made the ICT sector an extremely competitive one, which has resulted in high staff turnover and huge salary bills. This has a knock-on effect – where companies don't offer sufficient remuneration for their ICT positions, they fail to attract the right people. This makes it difficult for companies to retain specialist staff and finding a replacement can be problematic, not to mention disruptive. Outsourcing may be the panacea to this problem.
There are, however, certain considerations to bear in mind when outsourcing the ICT skills within a company.
ICT competencies are acquired through both certification and experience. It is therefore important that the outsourced resource provider ensures that its 'labour pool' is not only equipped with the necessary knowledge, skills and attributes, but that each resource is correctly matched to the customer's requirements and company culture.
Having a company that can provide the necessary screening and training through certification greatly assists businesses to focus on the issue at hand, namely finding a suitable candidate that can complete a project or slot into the existing ICT environment with minimal transitioning and training and, most importantly, the right degree of skills and attributes to match the level of the project.
BI Planning Services have recognised this requirement and, in conjunction with its subsidiary Dexford Learning Academy, will train and certify the resources on specific vendor products that the company makes use of. In addition, BI Planning Services and Dexford Learning Academy utilise the services of a HR specialist to assist in sourcing and selecting suitable 'apprentices', thus obtaining an independent evaluation with valuable input being provided for setting development goals specific to each individual.
The selection process includes a Phychometric Test Battery (utilising ability, personality and motivational questionnaires) as well as a structured interviewing process. The outcomes of the selection process will enable a far better match to be made between candidates and client companies. In addition, our HR specialist will be well positioned to assist the client in the design and application of structured interviews. Finally, we will help you identify the 'apprentices' that fit your needs best.
Our holistic approach is designed to bring an invigorating supply of 'fresh blood' into the ICT skills pool, creating a bottom or foundation layer for the development of more skills in the market. It also allows companies to take on resources that are not over-qualified for their projects. It's a sad and wasteful fact that all too often, due to a lack of resources, high-level ICT specialists are forced to execute simpler tasks that should be costed to a lower-level person.
Reduce risk, gain flexibility and meet targets
A distinct advantage of outsourcing ICT skills is that there is little risk to the customer. Stringent labour laws make it difficult for companies to replace incompetent or unsuitable staff and outsourcing, although rarely exercised, means that businesses can assess the performance of an outsourced skill and, if it is found to be unsuitable, can request a replacement. This said, when selecting a suitable candidate, our HR partner will assist in ensuring we find the best possible fit of competencies and project requirements, making this the exception rather than the rule. Service Level Agreements (SLA's) also provide businesses with the necessary 'guarantees'. This raises the issue of projects.
When a company embarks on an ICT project, there is usually a high demand for increased resources while the solution is being implemented. On completion, this demand drops off. An outsourcing partner is ideal for these short (or long-term) projects as they specialize in delivering skills as and when you need them.
Making leaders through mentoring
Mentorship is an important component of skills development. Outsourcing partners should look at providing a 'mentor' for resources placed with a client, thus providing guidance, direction and assistance in technical, business and softer issues. This assists to develop the person from a holistic perspective, often reducing the time needed to gain skills, experience and an appropriate mindset, or outlook. A complementary option would be to have our HR partner train mentors in your company so as to supplement the focus on integrating staff (contractors or permanent) more effectively in order to ensure they add value as quickly as possible.
Try before you buy - a win/win for all
Although resources are often only required for a project, where the contract is for a fixed period of time these resources will often 'gel' with the business. As they add immense value, they are often considered for permanent employment once a project is completed. Outsourcing therefore provides companies with a 'try before you buy' component, ensuring that when a contractor is taken on as a permanent staff member, they have already proven their expertise and ability to deliver. This 'staff augmentation' greatly assists with successful placements of candidates without any repercussions.
Until the ICT industry bounces back from the skills shortage - and even by the most optimistic of reckonings this will take many years still -, outsourcing can play a significant role in resourcing, development, projects and support. The important thing to remember is that although there are many company's that offer this type of 'human resourcing' service, it is prudent to select a partner that deals with the whole person rather than one that might adopt a 'plug n play' approach. Hence, do your checks and balances, ensuring they live up to their promise.