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Article: ASPs and significant employment trends

Emerging trends in soft skills

During 2003, an increasingly large band of companies elected to transfer responsibility for key IT systems to someone else. This trend is set to accelerate during 2004 and it has some potentially major consequences for the skills and capabilities demanded of both technical and commercial staff working in this burgeoning market for outsourced, managed solutions.

The demand for people to be ultimately versatile was a key and major trend Idealpeople saw when recruiting for ASP companies. Because the ASP concept was still developing and emerging in 2003, traditionally 'back-office' developers and systems administrators were expected to be able to communicate with customers and participate in requirements gathering exercises on customer site. Those traditionally involved with 'hands-off' implementation work might be asked to cut Java, VB or C++ code for software customisation or demonstrations. Many of the candidates who bore the scars of the 'dot com' boom and bust, and who had working in smaller 'dot com' companies, were best-equipped to tackle these roles as they were accustomed to having wide ranging responsibility.

On the sales side, it was no longer acceptable for business development and new business people to be able to shift licences or boxes, regardless of the size or prestige value of the deals done. HR departments as well as sales directors and VPs were quick to emphasise the importance of having 'Solutions Salespeople', and applications from hundreds of candidates were short-listed down to the select few who really understood how to articulate and sell 'complex value propositions' often in long, complex and volatile sales situations.

The demand for Pre-Sales and Post Sales Consultants continued in the ASP space. Increasingly, companies wanted to hire those rare individuals who bridged the gap between the customer and the technology. These people were able to understand the limits and capacity of the systems as well as to speak confidently to board level business directors about signing on the dotted line. As Michael Wright, Idealpeople's MD puts it "Companies wanted to hire dealmakers and technology champions in the one package and finding this fusion of skills was a serious challenge". 2003 saw the salaries of Pre-Sales Professional Services Consultants reach almost the dizzy heights of New Business Sales People in IT, often compensated by high basics of up to 80,000 and offering total packages (including bonuses) of six figures plus.

A more versatile and able customer support and technical support person was sought by ASP companies. As well as an above average customer service and quality ethic, third and fourth line technical support people had to be prepared to give advice on basic enquiries like broken down printers as well as digging down into the complex analysis of problems in significant CRM or e-business applications.

Looking to 2004 and beyond

All of these trends were consistent through the whole of 2003. Idealpeople expects to see further demand for these types of professionals in 2004 and even a major shortage of skills in some areas, especially those 'techies' that are able to get in front of customers.

Michael Wright comments: "Idealpeople's heritage in understanding the specific needs of 'new age' managed services and hosted solutions companies has positioned us uniquely to deliver to our clients needs, regardless of complexity. Frequent 'reality-check' and collaborative brain-storming sessions with Internal HR teams and hiring managers enable us to reach appropriate solutions to counter any difficulties faced in skills shortages"

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