The IT industry needs to take a page out of the professionals' book. Professionals, such as doctors and lawyers, got it right when they provided a bridge for university graduates to rapidly gain experience and become full-blown professionals. Doctors serve internships and lawyers must serve their articles - periods during which graduates are not well paid but gain invaluable experience to feed the profession they have entered.
Experience comes from their close relationships with experienced mentors who expose them to the full gamut of their chosen careers and lead them through actual cases. Business analysts do not have that opportunity. At best they are led through an organisation on a whirlwind tour of the various departments before being presented with their career option. Once made, they are at the mercy of their individual masters with no cohesive strategy to bring them fully up to speed and rapidly make them productive members of the team.
The result of not inducting graduates through an initiation process to rapidly develop them into professionals is a dearth of business analysts, which has led to poaching, which has in turn led to business scrambling to fill the gaps that suddenly appear in their ranks, and at an ever increasing cost. Each time business analysts, in short supply, make a move they tend to increase their salaries. Organisations that change their approach and facilitate rounded induction processes for graduates will not only reap the long-term rewards of skills availability, but they will also reap more immediate financial returns. For example, an organisation can hire seven business analysts and contract in one coach who is an experienced business analyst to mentor them and still come out ahead of hiring several experienced business analysts.
In a typical scenario, a business pays an average monthly salary of between R12 000 and R14 000 to the graduates under development. Adding the cost of recruitment at 15%, and the additional cost of training and mentoring the total monthly cost per person will come in at between R30 000 and 36 000 for a comprehensive 12-month professional development programme. This is still more cost-effective when compared with hiring seven experienced business analysts at a monthly package of R30 000 to R36 000 plus the industry-standard 15% recruitment fee.
The situation becomes much more attractive in year two when the cost of training and mentoring has been absorbed and falls away. After the first year and for several years to come, the young graduates who have been trained and mentored as part of a focused professional development programme similar to that used by the recognised professions will continue to cost the organisation much less than the recruited alternative. That scenario continues until at around year seven the two teams - now stocked with experienced business analysts - cost roughly the same.
While it can be argued that an experienced team will more rapidly assimilate to their new environment, properly inducted graduates with a mentor can become productive within three months and generate far-reaching financial benefits.
Ziaan Hattingh, MD of IndigoCube