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2020 in review: the Business Transformation and Technology market in Scotland

​As 2020 comes to a close (phew, what a year!) we are seeing positive signs of growth and continuous change in both the Business Transformation and Technology recruitment markets in Scotland. Below, we round up some of the key themes.

Talent trends

The market in Scotland has continued to be subdued over the last few months but we’re definitely now well past the mass contractor cuts and permanent recruitment freezes of Q2 at the height of the pandemic; plus, there were far fewer redundancies at the end of October than we were expecting from the doom and gloom reported in the news and social media. There has still been a very significant focus on permanent and FTC hires over day rate contract hires and we expect this to continue, the risk being that these contractors leave their permanent positions if the contracting market picks up again next year.

More talent available on the market has without doubt resulted in positions receiving higher applications and interest. However, many professionals within employment are fearing that a career move now could spell disaster if it does not work out and they’re left unemployed. As a result, attracting top talent away from their seemingly safe jobs has become more challenging. Add to that the fact that candidates are expecting more tailored perks to suit their individual circumstances, attracting the very best talent certainly isn’t plain sailing.

Salaries & day rates

We have noticed that technology permanent salaries continued to rise this year, despite the pandemic. We expect that these statistics are slightly swayed as those companies that continued to hire have been looking for exceptionally niche experience that comes with a naturally higher salary, rather than hiring junior staff which normally drive down the average salary of hires. Day rates seem to have decreased. There are simply more contractors available at the moment, meaning organisations don’t have to pay a premium to secure them.

Flexible working

Remote working is here to stay! Many of our clients have now decided to operate fully remotely, permanently closing their offices and ending leases, with other large-scale companies scaling back their office footprint and planning for more flexible, collaborative and social spaces when staff eventually return. Working from home flexibility is, of course, now viewed as an expectation and not a benefit; therefore those businesses wishing new hires to work full time in an office post-pandemic are struggling to attract the best talent.

Growth areas

Interestingly, we’ve noticed that consultancies have grown at a really fast pace as organisations have used this as a loophole to recruitment freezes, due to existing contracts being in place prior to the pandemic. However, this may result in a future issue for organisations who may end up with a reliance on consultancy staff rather than building their own in-house talent. Also, we have recently seen a rise in technology projects as organisations need to use up budgets before the end of the fiscal year and pick up on lost work, particularly in the public sector. This has meant more demand for skills.

Since the start of Q3, we saw companies hiring within Infrastructure Transformation, particularly an increase in those looking for Azure/Office 365/SharePoint experience to fully embed their new working from home practices. Most of our larger clients have continued to move away from on-premises solutions and towards cloud platforms, AWS and Azure, resulting in large Cloud or Data Transformation programmes. Interestingly, Google Cloud doesn’t seem to have gained as much traction in Scottish businesses as is has down in the London market, possibly due to regional skills shortages.

ESG regulations are coming in thick and fast and many organisations are much more aware of their CSR obligations, both mandatory and from a good corporate citizen perspective, so it’s likely that we’ll continue to see a demand for those skill sets in 2021.

Agile is still growing

Organisations are realising the importance of embracing agility as they want to make changes quickly and successfully when launching new products, platforms and services to meet the needs of their consumers. Agile methodologies provide companies with a simple and effective framework to use during uncertain times and last quarter we really saw it become more incorporated into business strategies at an enterprise level - across 90% of our clients. These clients are implementing Agile Operating Models, using the Agile Spotify models (squads and feature leads), and using the Scaled Agile SAFe model.

Digital transformation

As expected, we’re now seeing the impact from those businesses who have been heavily investing in digital transformation during the pandemic. CFOs and business leaders are starting to see real benefits of this, having given their organisations the best possible chance of emerging from Covid-19 with greater resiliency and a more positive outlook. These investments have resulted in a big increase in market share in a few cases and fancy new websites and platform launches for others.

On the other hand, our clients within Finance and Operational Transformation have continued to struggle to give their businesses the forward-looking information they need. The pandemic has highlighted that these processes are heavily reliant on manual tasks and this extends particularly to those which require significant collaboration between teams and the use of on-premises back-office systems. We’ve seen an increase in specialist hiring and transformation projects in these areas to support.

Mergers and Integrations

There are still a number of our clients who have yet to complete large scale enterprise-wide integrations as the result of acquisitions. A number are set to complete platform mergers so there will likely remain a big demand for these types of skillsets well into 2021 and beyond.

Technologies & Job titles in demand

A good number of companies have taken 2020 as an opportunity to explore and migrate to new technologies. Companies that have done so during a slow year for hiring are setting themselves up to maximise their appeal to candidates in a post-Covid market. The technologies growing in demand include:

  • Python, React/Vue and Java

  • DevOps

  • Information Security

  • Azure and AWS Cloud skills

  • Agile Coaches

  • Scrum Masters

  • Project Managers & Business Analysts with particularly niche project experience

The effect of IR35

Since the delay of IR35, the majority of our clients have fallen into two main categories. The first being clients deciding to continue with these changes in 2020, moving most of their contract staff to umbrella PAYE contracts and stopping the mass use of Ltd companies. The rest of our clients have chosen to delay the changes until April 2021. It’s fair to say that the latter have had the pick of the best talent in 2020 by offering the very sought-after Ltd Company contracts. However, we have observed that those who chose to move to Umbrella PAYE anyway have actually done a remarkably good job of steadying their contractor population and converting contractors to Permanent or FTC.

As we get closer to the new IR35 date of April 2021, more businesses are preparing to do the final changes and stop allowing the use of Ltd companies. Whilst some candidates have come to accept this and prepare to move "inside", some of the more in-demand skills such as cloud and software engineers know how in-demand they are. This has led to many seeking out SME businesses that can support outside IR35 contractors, driving some of the best talent away from the larger financial and corporate organisations. As it looks increasingly likely that the government will implement these changes in April, these tech contractors have begun looking at alternative options such as consultancies that offer them the option to remain outside IR35.

Dare we say it, there is a small school of thought that the UK government might delay IR35 all together again! Wishful thinking perhaps, but watch this space. We’ll continue to keep our clients and candidates fully updated and guided throughout the proposed changes.

If you’d like to discuss any of these themes in more detail, or how they are impacting your business specifically, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

Posted 8 months ago
About the author:
Scotland's Business Transformation & Technology team

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