Understanding China’s growing project management sector

By Robert Half 4 February 2019

You may decide to do your own troubleshooting, but it can be difficult and ineffective if you lack the necessary expertise. Instead, you could benefit from sourcing an experienced interim manager, who can steer your business towards success.

Interim or project management is a solution that is growing in popularity, not just in the west, but also here in China. If your business is considering interim management, this article explains more about what an interim manager is, what advantages they provide and how their popularity is expected to grow across China.

What is an interim manager?

An interim manager is an individual who can rapidly integrate themselves into your business to supply you with the specific expertise you need, at the very point in which you need it.

An interim manager could be called in because you have a sudden departure of a key member of your team, where you need support until you’re able to hire a replacement. You may need someone with relevant expertise to lead your team during a period of change, such as if your business is undergoing structural transformation due to digitisation. You may also need someone to help on a specialist project aimed at keeping your business one step ahead of your competition.

Interim managers would work with your business on a temporary basis. The contract length depends on the project itself and its level of complexity, but most projects tend to take anywhere between three months to one year to complete.

Interim managers can be an extremely valuable addition to your team. They can share their knowledge and provide expert advice to help identify and solve your pain points. They can also provide stability by implementing effective strategies and seeing them through to completion. Interim managers will have a proven record of success so they’re a trustworthy solution for your business.

5 key benefits of interim management

There are many different reasons to lean on an interim manager during a time of business transformation or a crisis. Here are some advantages of interim management to consider:

1. Initiation time – An interim manager can start very quickly, unlike following your standard recruitment process, which could take a long time to find the right talent. This means your business can be supported and turned around far quicker.

2. Experience – An interim manager will be highly experienced and can get started almost immediately, with little guidance or training required. You can also hire an interim manager that has knowledge on the specific area you need help in too, such as mergers and acquisitions integration, business transformation, process improvement, operation support, finance infrastructure support or ERP implementation.

3. Objectivity – Once you’ve worked in your company for a while, you can become biased, or even overlook certain issues. An interim manager can look at your business with a fresh view and be more objective about your projects and processes. This will help you to move forward more successfully.

4. Commitment – Interim managers are aware that they’re being judged on the results they provide, so will want to work hard, be committed to your business and deliver results. They will often rely on referrals too, to help generate future work, so they will want to provide you with a good level of work.

5. Cost-effectiveness – Whilst you may see interim managers as an additional cost, they can be a cost-effective solution. Whilst you could hire a permanent employee, they will not only require a salary but also be paid for holidays, with pension contributions, employee perks and ongoing training. An interim manager is temporary and can provide expert services for the exact period in which you need them.

China’s changing business landscape

China currently has the world’s second largest economy by nominal GDP, but with a slowdown in GDP and the potential of a trade clash with the USA, China’s future economy could be uncertain. Businesses could face difficulties and may need to adapt to remain competitive in the changing market. A large proportion of China’s economy is currently made up of labour-intensive manufacturing for example, so there may need to be a shift to more prosperous opportunities.

Businesses may also laterally restructure, to move away from the traditional vertical hierarchy and towards a horizontal one. This is a strategy first implemented by Alfred P. Sloan at General Motors in the 1920s, which encourages employees to collaborate more and empowers them to make decisions.

Research via Bain & Company reveals that many businesses in China are not currently getting the most out of the internet. That could be set to change though. The cloud computing market was recorded to be worth $1.5 billion in 2013 and is expected to grow to $20 billion by 2020. McKinsey Global Institute also reveal that China’s digital transformation should help to boost GDP, from 4 trillion to 14 trillion renminbi in 2025.

The growth of interim management in China

Interim management was born around the 1970s in the Netherlands and has been growing ever since, particularly in countries such as UK, Germany and Belgium. In China, interim management is relatively young, but it is increasing in popularity and is likely to grow in the future.

China’s changing business landscape is facing huge challenges and will require business transformation, process improvement and more. All these changes need expertise, to ensure a smooth and successful transition. Not all businesses are currently equipped to deal with these changes though. As a result, interim management will become hugely beneficial during these times and therefore increasingly accepted.

Chinese people may currently be hesitant about becoming interim managers, as they like job stability. Interim managers need to be flexible, moving from one company to the next. There are also very strict employment laws in China, which make it difficult to work with contractors. This may all mean turning to expatriate talent for the time being, but local interim managers should increase in popularity and experience over time.

If you’re undergoing business changes and are struggling to find the expertise amongst your existing employees, it may be time to consider interim management. Get in touch with Robert Half for help finding a skilled professional to meet your needs.

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