When Lindsay McGranaghan became Business Unit Leader in Scotland for CGI last October, the global IT firm’s Scottish delivery centre was already a beacon of innovation within its operations.
Based across Glasgow and Edinburgh, the centre had been working with the company’s clients delivering major programmes and roll-outs.
However Lindsay said that, as with every project, sometimes it is best to step back and look again at the capabilities of any part of a business before taking two steps forward.
So Kirsty Ramsay, Vice President, Consulting Delivery at CGI, was tasked with examining the accounts CGI was servicing, such as councils and Scottish Government work. And they discovered there was also one particular area filled with potential.
Lindsay said: “We had an emerging tech area focusing on coding. This area had great potential for designing and promoting Intellectual Property. We were thinking of solutions to clients’ problems and being able to solve them by the design of their own IP.”
Lindsay said she had noted just how quickly the IT landscape is changing and attracting the best young talent was crucial to CGI’s own development in Scotland.
Both she and Kirsty pinpointed the need to move forward on what work CGI would be carrying out, the type of people they needed to carry out that work, and what CGI could do to stretch them.
She said: “Although we already have apprentices who are currently in their first year at university, and a few final year students who are due to present their dissertation in June, we are always trying to attract young talent.”
Lindsay could see that taking outreach services into Scottish schools to find the next generation of coders was the way forward, and that being connected to those bright young sparks recruited to CGI’s offices in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and the Borders was the way forward.
She said: “As I’m watching and listening to the team I’m actually learning and keeping my own skills alive.
“They also help connect all of us with the CSR activities that are going on in CGI. One of those is working with female founders and young entrepreneurs.
“One project that has come on more recently is Digital Xtra. It’s a charity that works with children from around the age of four to 16. There are coding clubs and other associated activities to inspire them and make sure that, no matter where they come from, these children have the same opportunities. We are one of the partners but it’s a Scottish Government initiative.”
CGI also works on a project alongside Skills Development Scotland, which involves taking industry into schools. Lindsay said: “I’ve talked to a lot of people in government here and they talk about the mass exodus at graduation time. Graduates still go to London or abroad, so we need to create opportunities where people can start their careers here. With the workforce that we have, I want to make sure that their jobs are interesting and relevant.”
However, Lindsay pointed out that CGI’s push to find the next generation of young coders was not at the expense of the development of its more mature, experienced members.
She said: “I have a developer who joined us a year ago whose career had been in chemical engineering. He put himself through his master’s degree in software development.
“We have benefited greatly from his maturity and commercial experience, while he has benefited from being part of a development team in a global IT company.”
Lindsay believes that the younger members of her team are filled with the dynamism and energy that is expected from the beginning of a career.
But she added: “The people who might be coming to the end of their careers are still demanding those fulfilling jobs that give them that intellectual stretch.
“Experience is something that cannot be overlooked. The more mature team members are some of the best testers because of their eye on detail.”
The delivery centre is now seeing an increase in enquiries. “Customers can see the quality of the people that are sitting in the unit in Scotland, and that we can really compete with the offshore and nearshore-type models now.”
Meanwhile, Kirsty and her team have set about building on the foundations of the centre with a renewed focus on IP design, supporting not only accounts in Scotland, but right across the UK.
Lindsay said: “We have kept quite a similar shape. We still have the testing function, but we also have partnerships with a couple of coding tool providers. We’ve also been moving more into automation, performance and partnering with testing tool providers and looking at new coding tools. This means we’ve been carrying out quite a bit of upskilling and retraining, as well as recruiting around these posts.”
Currently the centre is looking not only to bring the Java developers up to the next grade but also to introduce different coding software such as .net and C#.
Lindsay said: “We are supporting some big accounts and on the emerging tech front, we recently launched our first piece of IP. This has been the result of working in partnership with Glasgow City Council to provide an app for teachers that allows them to be able to measure and check the progress of students.”
She says CGI also requires specialist consultants and business analysts who can work with clients to identify new opportunities in areas such as RPA Discovery.
“What we’ve done at the centre is taken a group of our business analysts and retrained them on the first part of their thinking, because the tech landscape is changing rapidly.
“But the speed of evolution that we’re experiencing is something like the Industrial Revolution. When I’m sitting having conversations with people about robots and automation, there’s nothing science fiction about it.
“Initially, that could sound quite daunting, but when you start to break it down you can see the benefits that it’s going to bring to a lot of organisations.”
Emerging talent is crucial to CGI’s plans and its multi-generational workforce is key to not only providing clients with the best possible service but also creating a team that can learn from one another.