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Operation transformation: making the most of big changes

As different sectors evolve, there should be plenty of job opportunities in Ireland

Janis Heather and Paul Toner of KPMG: the concern about new skills gaps could create opportunities for Irish expatriates to return home

The emergence of new skills gaps is occupying the minds of business leaders at home and abroad, according to the latest KPMG Global CEO Outlook Survey. However, according to KPMG's Paul Toner and Janis Heather, this could also create opportunities for Irish expatriates to return home.

Of course, making predictions can be a dangerous business as economists, weather forecasters and football pundits often find. But there is still a strong appetite in business to anticipate the operating environment and to plan accordingly. One area of particular interest is the impact of change and disruption and predicting how it might affect future performance.

The KPMG survey of 1,200 chief executives around the world found business sentiment to be generally positive. However, company transformation was highlighted by many chief executives as a major boardroom concern, with 29 per cent expecting their companies to be significantly different entities in three years’ time. However, just over half (54 per cent) of those surveyed believe they have the right talent in place to deliver success and three in ten expect a skills gap to emerge in their companies in the next three years.

According to Toner, who is head of consulting at KPMG, one of the drivers of this concern about talent is the fact that technology is upending business models and lowering barriers to entry.


“CEOs are trying to plot a course through severe technology-driven disruption; in many cases they’re leading long-standing organisations faced with competitors who didn’t even exist a few years ago,” he says.

Toner cites sectors such as banking where the main players are emerging from the financial crisis facing not just a reengineering of their own systems but a whole new set of disruptive challengers. Toner, who leads transformation projects in various organisations, references the changing environment and competition.

“Often new threats can come from outside an organisation’s core industry; take Uber or Airbnb as well-known examples of disruption. Their business models are driving a pan-industry effect on consumer expectations about speed, security, payment and method of delivery and you ignore these at your peril – even if at first glance you are a million miles removed from those sectors.”

Increased demand

It’s in the context of such disruption and transformation that the consulting business in


is seeing increased demand for its services. Toner highlights consulting firms’ multidisciplinary capabilities as one of the catalysts for this growth.

“Taking a piecemeal approach to transformation is hugely risky,” he says “You can’t tackle cyber risks this year and then say we’ll look at the customer experience in the new year and maybe data and analytics when we get a chance.”

It’s on this basis that large organisations tend to call on external expertise for help. “There’s a big organisational learning curve on major transformation projects and boards know they are not the type of projects they can afford to practise on when they’ve only one chance to get it right.”

He also makes the point that there is a litany of areas that tend to need attention while also emphasising that: “Risk and regulatory issues are not siloed from areas such as technology and cyber concerns.”

Not surprisingly this growth in demand for consulting services has driven a requirement for certain skills and expertise. Heather, a KPMG recruitment specialist,says there has been a marked increase in Irish expatriates considering a return home.

“There’s a lot of opportunity in Ireland for experienced advisers with process, performance and enabling technology skills. Typically people are looking for advisory roles in innovative, fast-paced environments where they can put their technical and management experience gained abroad to good use,” she says.

Toner agrees: “Managing teams, communications skills, the ability to engage with clients and having a solutions-driven mind-set are all essential qualities in addition to the standard technical capabilities.”

So does Ireland have enough talent to meet the market demand? Heather has noticed a positive shift in attitudes recently.

"Typically the UK and markets such as Canada and Australia have attracted a lot of Irish talent. From lifestyle to career opportunities and a desire to see the world, there are lots of compelling reasons to travel as part of career development," she says.

“However, there is definitely an increasing number of people looking to come back to Ireland. The upswing in the economy and the clustering effect of certain sectors here are both important. It means that in many cases you can now develop your career here at home in a way which mightn’t have been possible say five years ago. There are also a huge range of businesses in Ireland looking to effect massive transformation projects and that makes for many highly attractive assignments.”

Positive aspects

She also points to Ireland’s improved reputation and very positive international press along with the benefits of living and working here. “We hear a lot about the good life abroad but by any standards Ireland competes strongly; for example, we score very highly in quality of life surveys and maybe that isn’t always appreciated until people travel and have the chance to make comparisons.”

Toner agrees: “For anyone considering resuming their career in Ireland, one of the most positive aspects of recovery is how many organisations have reaffirmed their commitment to Ireland through investment and an increase in headcount. To secure their futures they’re also effecting major strategic reforms which are creating tremendous opportunities.”