Monthly Archives: July 2010

Does LinkedIn help or disrupt headhunters?

(I am looking for a M.Sc. student(s) to research this question for his/her/their thesis.)

The first users of LinkedIn were, as far as I can tell, headhunters (at least the first users with 500+ contacts and premium subscriptions.) It makes sense – after all, having a large network of professionals in many companies is a requirement for a headhunter, and LinkedIn certainly makes it easy not only to manage the contacts and keep in touch with them, but also allows access to each individual contact’s network. However, LinkedIn (and, of course, other services such as Facebook, Plaxo, etc.) offers its services to all, making connections visible and to a certain extent enabling anyone with a contact network and some patience to find people that might be candidates for a position.

I suspect that the evolution of the relationship between headhunters and LinkedIn is a bit like that of fixed-line telephone companies to cell phones: In the early days, they were welcomed because they extended the network and was an important source of additional traffic. Eventually, like a cuckoo’s egg, the new technology replaced the old one. Cell phones have now begun to replace fixed lines. Will LinkedIn and similar professional networks replace headhunters?

If you ask the headhunters, you will hear that finding contacts is only a small part of their value proposition – what you really pay for is the ability to find the right candidate, of making sure that this person is both competent, motivated and available, and that this kind of activity cannot be outsourced or automated via some computer network. They will grudgingly acknowledge that LinkedIn can help find candidates for lower-level and middle-management, but that for the really important positions, you will need the network, judgment and evaluative processes of a headhunting company.

On the other hand, if you has HR departments charged with finding people, they will tell you that LinkedIn and to a certain extent Facebook is the greatest thing since sliced bread when it comes to finding people quickly, to vet candidates (sometimes discovering youthful indiscretions) and to establish relationships. I have heard people enthuse over not having to use headhunters anymore.

So, the incumbents see it as a low-quality irrelevance, the users see it as a useful and cheap replacement. To me, this sounds suspiciously like a disruption in the making, especially since, in the wake of the financial crisis, companies are looking to save money and the HR departments dearly would like to provide more value for less money, since they are often marginalized in the corporation.

I would like to find out if this is the case – and am therefore looking for a student or two who would like to do their Master’s thesis on this topic, under my supervision. The research will be funded through the iAD Center for Research-based innovation. Ideally, I would want students who want to research this with a high degree of rigor (perhaps getting into network analysis tools) but I am also willing to talk to people who want to do it with more traditional research approaches – say, a combination of a questionnaire and interviews/case descriptions of how LinkedIn is used by headhunters, HR departments and candidates looking for new challenges.

So – if you are interested – please contact me via email at self@espen.com. Hope to hear from you!

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Cases of Norwegian IT

Normally when I teach technology strategy (GRA6821), a term paper is part of the course evaluation. The students typically write about some technology, a technology company, or somesuch, normally in groups of three or less.

This year, things will be a little different. I am part of a research project called A Knowledge-based Norway, where the idea is to investigate various industries in Norway in terms of their knowledge generation – and, by extension, their technology evolution. As a part of this project, we will write case studies on various companies, and that is precisely what the students will do. However, rather than having the students chose the companies themselves, we will provide a list of companies, allowing the students, in pairs, to choose a company to write about. We will, of course, entertain suggestions to which companies to have on this list. Here is a start:

Large IT service companies:

  • Accenture (evolution, role of the Norwegian organization internationally)
  • Atea (evolution, mergers, change in role over time)
  • EDB Business Partner/Ergo Group (these companies are about to merge; topics are evolution, mergers, change in role)
  • IBM Norway (evolution, role of the Norwegian organization internationally)
  • Cap Gemini (large consulting company)
  • ?

Innovative technology companies/research groups

  • FAST/Microsoft Enterprise Search division (evolution, merger, technology impact)
  • Simula Research Laboratory (strong research group sprung out of the University of Oslo)
  • Trolltech (advanced technical programming company acquired by Nokia)
  • Opera (multi-platform browser company, still independent with a growing Asian market)
  • Tandberg (videoconferencing technology company, acquired by Cisco)

Academic/research institutions

  • Institute for Informatics, University of Oslo (grossly expanded technology program, new building)
  • NTNU (Norwegian University of Natural Sciences, Trondheim) (birthplace of many companies)
  • Sintef (research arm of NTNU)
  • Norsk regnesentral
  • College university, Grimstad (cluster anchor for interesting little technology area)
  • ?

Software companies focused on the Norwegian or Nordic market

  • Powel (software company focusing on applications for the energy industry)
  • Mamut (personal/SMB company accounting and tax preparation software)
  • Visma (amalgamated vertical ERP company, successful integration story)
  • SuperOffice (sales support software)
  • ?

Large and important IT projects and IT users

  • Telenor (architecture integration project, globalization of services)
  • DNB Nor (largest Norwegian bank, competes on technology platform and services)
  • Norwegian Tax Authority (pioneer in using digital technology to make tax services easier for the individual citizen)
  • Altinn.no (innovative generalized public interaction platform)
  • ?

Interesting startups/rapidly growing companies/interesting stuff

  • Integrasco (blog sentiment analysis, built on top of Amazon’s cloud platform)
  • Meltwater (global media search company, keeping a low profile)
  • EVO Fitness (health club without visible employees – based on remote monitoring and SMS transactions)
  • QuestBack (Internet-based survey company, now expanding outside Norway)
  • ?

This list will grow as I get new ideas – suggestions are welcome! (And yes, perhaps there is an idea to have something about spectacular computer failures as well…)