Management consultancy special: interim managers

In both the private and public sectors,
have firmly established themselves as an integral part of the UK
employment scene. In fact, a recent study of 400 business change management
assignments found that almost £50m spent on interim managers generated a return
of just under £700m.

Successfully differentiating themselves from temps and consultants, interims
play an important role in the development and success of many companies Ð
particularly those going through rapid change. What those companies have found
is that in addition to an organisation’s permanent human capital, its on-demand
supply of short-term external specialists can give a company its competitive

But when is an interim manager necessary? What do they actually do and what
extra skills and experience do they bring to the table?

When an organisation has special projects, such as those relating to
corporate governance, business process improvement or systems implementation, it
often needs to bring in external expertise for a short-term, high intensity
assignment. Alternatively, an organisation may be recruiting for a senior
finance position, a finance director for example, which typically can take a
long time to fill.

These senior roles require a combination of technical, functional and sector
expertise and someone with this experience mix is not necessarily easy to find.
Therefore, an interim can be brought in to own the role on an open ended basis,
providing continuity to the business.

Owning the assignment

One of the main differentiating factors between an interim manager and a temp
is that the interim will take complete ownership of an assignment.

Unlike temps, there is no risk of the interim accepting an offer for a
permanent post. Unlike management consultants, they will not suddenly be pulled
away to other assignments. In essence, having made a conscious career choice to
take the interim route, they provide a company with continuity – the same
experience, the same expertise, the same face throughout the length of the

Typically, interim managers have senior level, up-to-date, specific
experience in a particular field, whether that be change management, gap
management or project implementation, setting up a shared service centre or
managing a merger or flotation.

Whereas some organisations will use management consultancies for specific
projects, which look at a problem and come up with a solution in the form of a
report full of recommendations, what an interim can bring to the table is all
this plus the full implementation as well.

And often, because an interim is working as part of your own team, they will
not only address the problem your company has, but they may also investigate
whether it is symptomatic of a bigger issue. Additionally, interims will focus
on passing on their knowledge on to those working with them, giving them the
mentoring they need to handle the situation once the project is complete.

An interim is only as good as their last assignment. One of the main
advantages from an employer’s point of view is that, often, live references can
be taken while the interim is still on assignment. Interims need a demonstrable
track record of expertise and as long as they remain up to date technically, the
sector is virtually ageism proof.

Soft skills

A successful interim will not only have the technical, financial and
so-called hard skills, but will also possess ‘soft’ skills as they are often
required to handle fairly delicate situations. Take, for example, the issue of
an organisation setting up a shared service centre where five divisional FDs
need to be whittled down to one. That’s going to take diplomacy, tenacity and
first class people skills.

One advantage of having an interim manager is their independence. The
intricacies of company politics will not affect them so they are 100% focused.

There are no specific interim-friendly sectors, but any that are experiencing
rapid change tend to be frequent users. Growth and change are the two main
drivers as these sectors will inevitably throw up issues that may need external
expertise. For instance, any company that needs greater efficiency from their
existing technology, or who needs new technology to synchronise with existing
systems, will look for interim help.

The telecoms sector is a prime example where organisations are constantly
moving into new markets necessitating major systems projects. The retail sector
is also consistently reinventing best practice, hiring interims to ensure that
supply chains are the most efficient available. The public sector is another
major user of interim managers, particularly for change management projects, as
stakeholder and media pressure pushes it to impart commercial best practice.

Given the broad scope of projects, rates of pay for interim managers vary
greatly and depend very much on the role’s remit, its seniority and the specific
expertise required. One way of calculating an interim’s pay rate is to pro rata
the permanent salary for the role. However, organisations need to consider what
their budget is, what they are getting for their money and what the interim’s
experience, skills and background are worth. Broadly speaking, remuneration
rates range from £300 to £1,000 per day.

Whether the organisation is large or small, interims can provide a valuable
resource to plug skills gaps and manage projects. And for finance professionals
looking for flexibility, variety and a succession of challenges, the interim
route could just be the best career decision they could make.

Philip Griffiths is an executive consultant of the
erim management
division of recruiter FSS

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