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My View of Opportunities for Senior Project/Program Managers

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Strong Eagle
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My View of Opportunities for Senior Project/Program Managers

Post by Strong Eagle » Wed, 04 Sep 2013 3:02 am

At least a couple of people have contacted me privately, wanting advice about the job market for senior IT professionals in the project/program business.

My response here is based upon my experience as an independent supplier of project and program management services to mostly MNC's with operations throughout Asia. I am no longer in Asia, the reasons for which are supplied below.

In summary, my view is that if you are a senior IT program or project manager, looking to make it good in Singapore, then you are going to need a sh*tpot of luck to make it happen. This is due to a confluence of phenomena that reduce Singapore's desirability as a place to set up a regional center to run large projects and programs.

Consider some history from a corporate perspective. Ten years ago, even though a large MNC might have operations in Asia (and typically, divided into North America, South America, EMEA, and APJ), there wasn't exactly much in the way of real integration of each of the regions, nor was there really central control of the IT/IS function... there was still a great deal of autonomy for each region. As a matter of fact, within the region, there might be a central planning function but much of the implementation and operations work was done locally in each country. This meant that there were opportunities in each country, and regionally, for project and program managers to do their IT thing.

Fast forward 10 years. The degree of IT integration between global regions is much tighter that it was a decade ago. More importantly, the locus of strategic and tactical control has moved to a global position, usually located near corporate headquarters. Common PC platforms, common MPLS cloud and network architectures, common servers and common software are all being specified by the global PMO. Demand management, design, and build are all being done on a global scale which may have a global team, based upon skill sets, but not based upon geographic location.

Combine this with another trend. MNC's are more and more beginning to treat IT services like the electric utility... plug in a CAT 5 cable and get all the basic services. Everything is being outsourced... from physical infrastructure (give it to BT or C&W)... to servers (plug them all into someone's mega datacenter where I person can manage 3000 servers)... to basic software services like email, document management, etc... to user support... outsourced help desk, onsite support, tier 2.

Combine this with yet another trend. Service suppliers... any of the above areas that I have mentioned... and more... are all leaving Singapore in droves... it costs too much. Call centers in the Phlippines, Malaysia, India, China... and as soon as Vietnam gets its political act together, probably there as well. Software development outsourced everywhere.

Providing professional services like high level project and program management is a relationship business... both to convince an executive that they can trust you and your company to follow through, and to have a network for referrals and recommendations.

So... my first piece of advice is that if you don't have a strong network or the ability to develop one, you are not going to make it as an independent professional. I know of people that spent years, trying to get that first contract.

Second, and equally importantly, the business model is not what it once was, and it is one of the chief reasons I gave up my Singapore business... it was no longer relevant to the new IT/IS ecosystem.

Consider: MNC's are cutting, not expanding their design and build staffs in Asia (exceptions are the few companies that are actually headquartered in Singapore). Demand management, design and build are all moving to global teams located in EU, UK, and the US. The "run" part is moving to Malaysia, the Philippines, etc. So, even if you build a network within the MNC's, you'll find that all sorts of technical talent (not just project managers) is no longer in demand... the demand is now elsewhere... and reduced because of economies of scale.

That leaves the suppliers. If you are lucky, you'll be able to hook up with a global supplier that needs top technical talent in the Asia region. But, they are moving in the same direction as the MNC's they support... a global PMO that interfaces with the global offices of the MNC's for command and control purposes, leaving only a need for much lower level project managers.

When I first started my project management business, I could put lots of people to work at $800 per day, a $1000 per day, $1500 per day, and yes, even $2000 per day with the right skills. In 2011 and 2012, the norm was much closer to $500 per day, and often less.

The MNC's don't need you in the region any more. The suppliers pay less than the clients. And the skills required to manage a complex, multi country, multi-faceted project just aren't needed... that talent is found at the global level.

I'm not saying this is a great model... in fact, I've seen some real horror shows where global people, with a lack of understanding of regional needs, hire suppliers at too low a contract price, who, in turn, hire people that are too junior (but cheap), who then proceed to entirely screw up a project.

But, this is the model... and you would be well advised to search the job listings of both MNC's and their IT/IS suppliers to get some sense of what the job market is like.

Nearly ten years later, there is no way I would consider starting the business I started ten years ago.

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Post by Wd40 » Wed, 04 Sep 2013 6:19 am

I also got a PM from a similar/same person. But this guy has already planned his trip to come to Singapore, so keeping that in mind, this is the advice I gave:
Hi xxxx,

I suggest update your profile in Linked In and try to connect with as many recruiters based in Singapore as possible.

The recruitment agencies that deal with Investment banking IT are Robert Walters, Hays, Aurec, Kellys, Robert Half, Ashton Carter etc.

Connect with recruiters from these companies and also join Linked In groups specific to your domain/technology.

Also update your CV in EfinancialCareers and Monster.

Good Luck!

I agree with much of what SE has said. Personally, I know couple of banks that already have hiring freezes in place. The others do very little hiring of permanent roles, if any. I almost got an offer for a permanent role in a bank and due to the hiring freeze, they wanted me to take up a contract role instead, which I refused. The disappointing thing was the interview process took 2 months and went into the final director round, and then I had to wait for another month only to be offered a contract role. So I agree, its not going to be easy and you need to be very lucky and very skilled.

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Post by sundaymorningstaple » Wed, 04 Sep 2013 6:46 am

And that's why I referred him to the both of you. :cool:


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