Interview with Corry Prohens of IQ Workforce
If there was once clear statement made this past Tuesday with the election and overwhelming mandate given to President-elect Barack Obama it was that people around the world are concerned about the economy. In fact, it feels as if we’ve gone well beyond President Clinton’s “It’s the economy, stupid” statement back in the early 90’s and have arrived at “It’s the economy, period.”
Given the number of conversations I have had with web analytics professionals lately about layoffs, offered severance packages, buying slowdowns and the like I wanted to check with a friend who works directly on the front lines of the web analytics economy: Corry Prohens from IQ Workforce.
Corry is giving a presentation at Judah Phillip’s Web Analytics Wednesday event in Cambridge on November 12th and in since I can’t make it to Boston for the event I recently asked Corry a handful of questions about web analytics, the practitioner market, and IQ Workforce’s new Contractor Exchange. Corry is a great guy and I’m sure he’d be happy to answer any questions about his responses if you want to pose them in the comments section following this post.
My questions are posed in bold and Corry’s responses follow:
Corry, one thing on people’s minds is how investment and use of web analytics is being affected by the economic downturn. What are you seeing out there?
We are seeing a shift in the market away from hiring and toward contract / interim talent. Many companies have official or unofficial hiring freezes in place. Those that don’t have added steps to the approval process for new hires, making recruiting processes much longer than a year ago. In the meantime, the work has to get done and there is a pretty consistent drum beat out there for more measurement, accountability and improved ROI. The result has been an explosion in the contract / freelance market.
At the same time, supply is increasing. The web analytics community is maturing, so there are more and more practitioners that have reached the point in their career development where they are qualified to “go independent”. Even people that are gainfully and “permanently” employed are looking for part-time freelance gigs on the side in this economy.
This is creating a perfect storm of both supply and demand. It is tying up more than 50% of my team’s time these days, whereas contract work used to be about 15% of our business.
On the perm side things are steady and unspectacular. Demand is still strong, but there are snags and delays and fits and starts with almost all of our jobs as our clients reevaluate and redefine their needs repeatedly before making hiring decisions. I don’t think you would find a huge drop in the number of web analytics jobs out there, but there is no doubt that the average time-to-hire has skyrocketed.
Do you have any bold predictions about how the market will change in 2009 for A) experienced web analytics practitioners looking for new jobs, B) web analytics consultants and C) companies looking to hire experienced web analytics talent?
I don’t think these are very bold, but here goes…
- The market for interim talent will likely continue to grow and thrive;
- The permanent market will likely stay relatively strong. It will not be anything like the mania that was out there for the last few years, but make no mistake about it – web analytics is still a hot skill set. Demand will far outpace the rest of the job market;
- Remote / virtual office positions will continue to grow more popular;
- Convergence between site analytics, optimization and offline analytics (and mobile analytics??) will continue in jobs and practitioners’ skill sets.
The rest will depend on how quickly and how sharply the rest of the economy improves.
Speaking of practitioners, there is an odd conversation going on in the Yahoo! group about qualifications for web analytics practitioners. What are the top five things YOU are looking for when you get resumes?
I can understand why this is a major debate because there is a lot of variation in web analyst jobs. Depending on where web analytics resides in the organization, the structure, the size of the company, the culture, the tools, etc. the top 5 will shift quite a bit. There are not that many vanilla web analyst jobs – many of them are tied in with testing & optimization, offline & customer data analysis, search marketing, ad serving, database skills, etc. In general, the smaller the company the bigger the job (the more things skills they are looking for / hats the candidate will wear).
Companies also look for specific vertical market expertise, or experience in their “type” of site (subscriber, free media, ad driven, Internet retail, lead generation, etc.)
Unrealistic expectations are common. Many companies still don’t get web analytics. If they are relatively new (as a company or as individuals) to web analytics, there is a tendency to lump hard-to-find skills together into a mountain and create impossible-to-fill positions. We try to be good consultants on this issue, but sometimes a job has to stay open for 6-months before a company reevaluates their requirements. HR people, in particular, seem to have a hard time distinguishing between requirements and wish lists.
In general we look for someone that has tool expertise, communication / interpersonal skills (these jobs are increasingly front-office), analysis & presentation skills and some complimentary kicker (testing, SAS, SQL, search marketing, development skills, search marketing skills, etc.) based on what our clients need at the moment. One of our biggest gaps to bridge is location – not skills. There are lots of great people out there and we are often working out ways to get them relocated or set up in virtual office jobs.
If you had to pick only two criteria likely to help practitioners land great jobs in this economy, what would those criteria be?
If I were a web analyst I would learn how to use SAS to manipulate data & models. I would also try to pick up experience in testing/optimization. Having one (or both) of these would open a lot more doors than a straight WA skill set.
I keep getting email about rates for consultants out there. I know what I charge, but what are you seeing in the market on an hourly and daily basis? Does that change by geography or experience? Or if you blog are you able to charge more?
If blogging enabled me to charge more I wouldn’t have to work anymore.
There is a big difference between consultants and contractors. What you do and what we do should not be compared. In fact, we are careful not compare ourselves with any web analytics consultancy. If you look companies like Stratigent, Technology Leaders, or the interactive agencies, they are approaching the client’s problems in a very different way.
If a client knows what they need and they have somewhat of a plan for how to get it done, they can hire a contractor / freelancer that has the expertise to execute. This person will work on a time & materials basis and there will not be any guarantee for deliverables.
If a client doesn’t know what they don’t know and they need a company to perform a broader range of services, such as: conducting an assessment, creating a roadmap and a strategy, specking out a project, etc. They should use a full-service consulting company and pay the freight. Their resources are theoretically backed-up by expertise in the rest of the firm and they provide some kind of a guarantee around deliverables.
The contractors that we currently have on billing range from $55/hour to $110/hour. From what I have seen, the full service consultancies and pro services groups charge anywhere from $125 – $300/hour for equivalent expertise along with all of the value-add that I mentioned above.
You just launched a contractor’s exchange at IQ Workforce. Tell me about that?
We had to do something to streamline our contracting business. The volume of candidates and requirements that we were getting was becoming unmanageable. The Contractor Exchange is basically our way of more efficiently marketing our inventory of interim talent to the community.
We ask our contractors to post their credentials on our website. Our team approves the postings and then we market the profiles to the marketing and analytics executives in our network.
One of the biggest problems for contractors is staying billable – it is very hard to sell and deliver at the same time. The Contractor Exchange is a free way for contractors and freelancers to gain visibility to an extremely relevant audience so that we can generate opportunities for them.
Thanks to Corry for taking the time to answer my questions. Please check out the IQ Workforce web site if you’re looking for help hiring web analytics talent (IQ Workforce sponsors the Analytics Demystified Job Board and we’re mighty grateful for that!)