Codify boss aims to make the Granite City’s ICT voice heard

As managing director of Codify, a business software firm based in Aberdeen, Graeme Humphrey has to work hard to bring in the right recruits.

Occupying the same turf as oil and gas companies that can offer big bucks to talented workers has been part of the problem, the Aberdonian believes.

The central belt's position as the stronghold of Scotland's information and communications technology (ICT) sector has also contributed to the underdevelopment of the industry in the north-east, he said.

Mr Humphrey, who returned to Aberdeen to join Codify in 2001 after two years at Goldman Sachs in London, feels he is now in a position to address the issue and make the north-east's voice heard.

He was recently appointed to the board of the country's ICT trade body, ScotlandIS, which has about 250 members and is based in Linlithgow, and has called for more "joined-up thinking" between the central belt and Aberdeen.

"I'm keen on raising the profile of Aberdeen on the board," the 38-year-old said, adding: "They are only a few hundred miles apart, but there is a big distinction between Aberdeen and the central belt - different industries, different people, different challenges.

"This is an opportunity to highlight some of the issues in Aberdeen - for example, the downturn, how to revamp the industry to lower its cost base and how to recruit the talent we need.

"People tend to get stuck at big oil companies where they get paid a lot more. A company like Codify can't possibly match that."

Mr Humphrey, an Aberdeen University graduate in computer science, may have got involved at just the right time, given that ScotlandIS has been chosen to run the country's new digital skills academy, CodeClan.

The academy, slated to open in Edinburgh in September, aims to tackle Scotland's shortage of software developers, with forecasts suggesting 11,000 new entrants a year are needed.

But Codify has been proactive in its efforts to recruit people and could teach other firms a lesson in how to offer an effective placement.

The fact that Codify offers them at all distinguishes it from hundreds of other firms, while the nature of its paid undergraduate placements is a far cry from the fairly aimless, humdrum schemes many of us remember from our schools days.

For a start, the recruitment process is full on, with prospective entrants required to submit a CV and cover letter, complete a technical challenge and pass an interview.

Successful applicants work for Codify's software maintenance helpdesk for a year, which teaches them a lot of skills that are hard to get in academia.

The ultimate aim, of course, is to create skilled professionals that want to work for Codify, whose headcount has gone from one in 2000 to 25.

Mr Humphrey said: "If we're hiring someone and we see they've done a year-long placement, that's a big tick from our perspective. It's a big commitment but the reward is worth it.

"It's a good chance to get them in recruitment pipeline. For someone who wants to come back to Codify following a placement because they know it's a great place to work, in terms of an induction they just walk in the door."

New recruits still have plenty of work to do, even though orders are coming in less frequently from clients in the trouble-hit oil and gas industry.

Mr Humphrey said: "Everyone right now is conscious about spending money on any sort of discretionary project.

"Last year, we would have dealt with a budget owner who wouldn't have had to justify a project as much as he is now. In this (current) climate, projects are being scrutinised all the way up to board level. It is challenging."

He is convinced that software updates could be just the ticket for struggling businesses.

The common theme of services offered by Codify, which turned over £1.5million last year, is to improve access to key data and help managers make informed decisions.

"It's very hard to do consolidated management reporting because everything is held in separate spreadsheets around the globe in different versions," Mr Humphrey said.

He added: "We can centralise all these spreadsheets in one database and improve access to the data to help our clients make better decisions.

"If an organisation is looking to control cost or work more efficiently, software is one of the answers to that problem."


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