As the Singapore Sports Hub prepares to launch, Sabrina Zolkifi speaks to the company about filling critical roles with temporary hires to get the job done.

The Singapore Sports Hub is expected to be a national landmark, and unlike other global sporting arenas, will be open to the public.

But while the public will be able to enjoy the venue’s facilities and events, few will be privy to the work and organisation poured into the organisational construction of the complex.

“The Sports Hub will be open to the public and embedded into Singapore’s social life, which is a fabulous opportunity for Singaporeans, but raises a number of tricky issues in terms of organisation, safety and security,” Philippe Collin Delavaud, CEO of Singapore Sports Hub, says.

“Coordinating the different parties involved has therefore been, from the onset, a key objective for the management of SportsHub. Therefore, we decided that we should invest extra resources in this domain before the time of delivery of the project, so as to ensure that the organisation would be as well prepared as possible at the time of the first events.”

It is along this vein that Delavaud’s team decided to on-board two temporary but critical team members – the CTO and a vice president of revenue performance.

Although unconventional, he says hiring these contract staff – or transition managers – rather than sourcing someone full-time has resulted in immediate impact, as there was “no time wasted in searching, screening and selecting candidates”.

We decided to resort to transition management because of its immediate effect, its flexibility and its cost-efficiency.
Working together with X-PM, the Sports Hub was able to engage the services of a CTO with a very strong background in managing large and complex IT programmes, echoing the organisation’s need to properly map “ICT processes against business processes”.

That role was filled in September 2012, while the role of VP of revenue performance began in November 2013.

Both contracts are slated to end in June this year, where a full hand-over process will be conducted, “so that the responsibilities, as well as findings and recommendations, are properly transferred to the permanent managers who will take over in our organisation”.

The latter role required a transition manager as well, because SportsHub faced the challenge of needing to “secure the start-up date and initial level of the revenues generated by various commercial activities”.

“Again, we felt that transition management was the proper approach, and X-PM provided a VP in charge of revenue performance, whose role is to put in place the appropriate dynamics and processes that will support the generation of such commercial revenues during the first months around the opening.”

However, the process hasn’t been smooth sailing. Delavaud admits the transition managers faced the big challenge of getting acquainted with “an enormous amount of information” about the Sports Hub’s history, background, organisation – from business, contractual and technical standpoints.

“As experienced and used to daunting business situations as the transition managers may be, getting up to speed in a matter of weeks, sometimes even days, is clearly a big challenge,” he says.

That said, it was imperative SportsHub found transition managers who would be able to hit the ground running, and possessed both the hard and soft skills needed to take on the roles.
“This included serious and detailed interviews, and discussions, as well as reference checks, and even in one or two cases, an evaluation of the personality profile through a well-established testing method,” Delavaud shares.

But while a lot of effort was put into the search and onboarding of the transition managers, it was always clear the roles were not meant to be permanent.

“The roles have been designed from the outset to be an intensive but temporary additional management effort.

“The selection and assignment of the permanent managers who will take over the responsibilities of the transition managers is an integral part of our plans, which are right now in the process of being implemented.”

For organisations considering filling critical roles with temporary team members, one of the most important things Delavaud says to keep in mind is the key objectives, which would also help the transition managers focus on execution than planning and design.

“Choose a transition management company who really understands your objectives and constraints, and which you feel comfortable with, because they are in sync with your corporate structure.”

He adds companies should also not place too much emphasis on technical expertise and professional knowledge, as the key to success often lie in soft skills such as strong levels of leadership and communication skills.