The Tecknuovo associate model: Eliminating the UK's digital skills gap for good

Nov 15, 2023
  • 14 min read

The UK has an ever-widening skills gap that’s challenging not only companies, but the economy at large. In this article, we outline our solution: the Tecknuovo associate model.

It’s how we deliver for our customers in partnership with our unbenched community of consultants to deliver quality technology services, and to upskill our customers from within to help them fill the skills gap sustainably.

How does the associate model work to fill the skills gap?

It benefits our customers in the immediate term:

And it benefits our customers in the long-term:

Read on to find out how it works.

The UK’s technology skills gap in 2023

It’s no secret that the UK is suffering a lack of digital skills. Demand is sky high, and continues to accelerate as the economy grows more digital by the minute.

One estimate calculates that the UK needs another eight million digitally proficient individuals to close the gap. And a vast majority of UK Managing Directors say a lack of digital skills is negatively affecting their company. We need to act now.

We have an answer to the skills gap question: the Tecknuovo associate model. Our associates are the community of technology consultants who we partner with to deliver and build in-house capability for our customers. The associate model is the mechanism behind that, built on upskilling, benchless consulting, and bulletproof mobilisation methods. We believe that it can eliminate the UK’s skills gap once and for all.

Upskilling: A long-awaited solution to the skills gap?

We founded Tecknuovo in 2015, specialising in the niche of finding rare technical skillsets on small budgets. That means we know where today’s skills gap challenges originated, and why they’re still impacting businesses today.

Top tech talent is rare, ergo expensive, so the majority lands in the laps of deep-pocketed tech industry giants. This begs the question: how can the rest of the UK get its hands on the technology talent it needs?

Our associate model closes the skills gap by up and cross-skilling people from within. We believe — and the UK jobs market agrees — that this is the only way to sustainably tackle the challenge.

Permanent vs self-employed technology workers in 2023

To think about today’s tech skills gap, we need to address IR35.

IR35 is an employment tax framework that determines whether workers contracting out services are self-employed or permanent employees. Self-employed workers are said to be “outside IR35”. They pay lower taxes than permanent employees, so for obvious reasons, most workers are keen to get their hands on this type of work.

Tecknuovo is one of a small number of technology delivery partners who offer “outside IR35” work. This is one of many reason that the most talented technology workers start working with Tecknuovo and continue to do so.

Community: The key to getting your pick of the tech worker market

There’s lots more than tax codes to be excited about when it comes to the associate model. What truly makes it stand out is its big focus on community practices.

We have created, and maintain, a culture of continuous learning within the community. So whether our associates are actively working on a project or in-between assignments, they stay in the loop with their peers to continuously upskill and learn.

In a nutshell, the model’s focus on community means that:

  • Our associates share values and behaviours that make our customers confident in our teams and ensure reliable and high-quality delivery.
  • The community members engage with fellow associates, Tecknuovo employees, and customers’ stakeholders and teams in a way that drives trust and productivity.
  • Tecknuovo attracts and keeps some of the most talented technology workers on the UK market.
  • Our customers have fingertip access to a huge pool of talented technologists who choose to work through Tecknuovo over other delivery partners.

Tecknuovo’s associate model: What it does and how it works

What does the Tecknuovo associate model do? In a nutshell, it addresses the UK’s lack of skills by creating those skills instead of hunting for them on the market. We do this within our community of associates, and by extension, within the customer teams they work alongside on our projects.

The associate model:

  • Helps our customers address their tech skills gap in the immediate term.
  • Helps the whole UK’s digital economy holistically and long-term.
  • Grants traditionally underrepresented groups access to the historically homogenous tech sector.

The Tecknuovo associate model: Concepts and structure

The associate model has four main tenets:

  • A deep-running expertise in compliance with IR35 and other relevant legislation.
  • The TeckBar (our associate vetting process).
  • Community-based knowledge sharing and peer-to-peer upskilling.
  • A commitment to redeploying our associates to more than one customer and project.

The following section explores each of these in detail, and how they each play a part in helping our customers and the UK economy at large close the digital skills gap for good.

More than a tax framework: How IR35 drives value on customer projects

Expert compliance with IR35 lets us offer our associates “outside IR35” contracts. Because these contracts deem workers as fully self-employed, they charge those workers lower taxes, making them desirable among the highest-skilled tech workers. They’re also beneficial for our customers because:

  • Our expertise eliminates compliance-related risk.
  • “Outside IR35” favours long-term value over short-term vacancy filling.

IR35 sets a high professional benchmark for standards between companies, consultants, and contractors. That’s because it focuses on output and results, not on filling vacancies.

IR35 also makes it hard for companies to go straight to market to quickly fill their vacancies. Filling roles in this way typically favours “getting bums on seats” over long-term outcomes. And that leads to water treading, and ultimately, disappointing results.

The associate model does the opposite. Underpinned by IR35 regulations, it focuses relentlessly on value and offers our customers a combination of niche talent sourcing with expert strategic advice. This pairing is infinitely valuable for executing long-term strategy and using resources wisely. And crucially, it’s impossible to get it by fishing for roles straight from the market.

Tooling and methodologies

We use a set of tools and patterns to mobilise and upskill the workers that form our teams.

Raising the TeckBar — we only work with the best

The TeckBar is how we assemble high-quality, tailored teams for our customers’ projects.

It has three stages:

  1. Technical assessment: to make sure the team’s skills fit the projects requirements like a glove.
  2. Project alignment: to build a team with the right skills and aptitude for the specific project at hand.
  3. Values and behaviours: to avoid vetting for “cultural fit” and instead create teams who who think, look, and act in different ways.

The TeckExperience Mobilisation Pattern

The TeckExperience Mobilisation Pattern is Tecknuovo’s homegrown process for mobilising high-quality teams for our customers within 14 days. It hinges on the size and quality of our associate community, and on our meticulous measurement and continuous improvement of our approach.

TeckBar Process

The TeckExperience Mobilisation Pattern timeline

Day 1: Initial request analysis

To start our engagement, we analyse the opportunity to spot perceived risks, assumptions, and challenges. We also start sketching out the capabilities we’ll need for successful delivery and outcomes.

Day 3: Agree on the statement of work

We define the details of how we’ll execute the project, laying out specific tasks, activities, deliverables and timelines. In parallel, we reach out to our 6000+ associate community to get the wheels turning on mobilising the team.

Day 3-5: Run the TeckBar

The 'TeckBar' is our bespoke screening process, and a critical part of how we deliver the highest quality teams. It let us spot the best candidates and ensures a smooth hiring process for our customers.

Day 7: Mobilise team

Two days after running the TeckBar, we fully mobilise a delivery team ready for induction and onboarding.

Day 9: Tecknuovo onboarding

We introduce the teams to Tecknuovo, our mission, and our approach partnering with our customers to deliver their technology solutions. This paves the way for fruitful working relationships throughout the project.

Day 10: Project kick-off

The project kick-off is an in-person all-day event involving the Tecknuovo project team, the customer project team, and Tecknuovo's wider squad.

Day 14: Team lands with our customer

At the end of the two weeks, the team is fully formed, briefed, onboarded, and ready to start their work to deliver our customer’s solutions.

Long tenure and redeployment to other customers’ projects

This consistency is invaluable for customers, and challenges the notion of the “revolving door of contractors”.The longer a team stays with you, the better they’ll understand you, your requirements, and ways of working.

But that’s not all. As well as staying on customer projects, our associates also have long lives within the Tecknuovo associate community, where they get further opportunities to join new projects or different customer teams. Redeployment to other projects is a mammoth value-add for our customers. Because we’ve already seen the community members’ great work in action, our customers get a welcome, extra assurance that they can trust their teams to deliver.

The only possible contender to this model is using pre-vetted consultants from traditional consultancies’ benches. But here, you pay for time on both the project and the bench. The associate model, by contrast, only charges for active time delivering our customers’ transformation.

Upskilling through community: the ultimate antidote to the widening skills gap

Tecknuovo’sethos revolves around our Zero Dependency framework, which upskills our customers’ teams to make them independent of our support at the end of the engagement. That’s why we build upskilling into our associate community too, immersing our associates in an environment of community and knowledge sharing as soon as they’ve passed the TeckBar.

How do we upskill and spread knowledge sharing in the associate community?

Our associate upskilling framework hinges on the fact that our consulting model, unlike traditional ones, doesn’t “bench” associates in-between projects. 
Between projects, our associates stay busy by:

  • Sharing and consuming content across the community’s specialisms and projects
  • Engaging with our communities of practice (CoP)

Communities of practice

The CoP are the pinnacle of knowledge sharing within the associate community. They’re clusters of expertise around topics including cloud and infrastructure, data, software engineering, test and assurance, and delivery — headed up by Practice Leads.

The Practice Leads heighten expertise within their CoP and across Tecknuovo, and help to attract yet more talented workers through word-of-mouth recommendations.

CoP-driven content

The Practice Leads also nurture their communities and attract others to them by sharing content. That includes opinion blog posts, video how-tos, interviews, and speaking at internal and external events.

Building a library of reusable Tecknuovo IP

How do upskilling and learning through the CoP benefit Tecknuovo’s customers? In a nutshell, the CoP builds and improves a library of patterns that we draw on to help our customers succeed on their projects. We can then replicate and tweak these proven pathways to success to suit each customer, using a data-driven approach to leverage our IP to our customers’ benefit.

The associate model in perspective

Benchless consulting: better-matched skills, lower pricing, more attractive working conditions

The essence of “the bench” is that swathes of consultants sit on it in-between projects. This means that customers effectively pay for idle time on the bench, and often get teams of “square pegs in round holes”, built from their supplier’s set of permanent consultants.

The associate model is benchless. That means we build a bespoke team to fit our customers’ requirements every time. This makes the teams more efficient, saving both time and money. On top of this, it means that we only charge our customers for active time on projects.

The final benefit of benchlessness is that it’s yet another factor that helps us attract the best technology professionals to work through us. The associate model, with its CoP, community events, and upskilling opportunities, keeps our associates occupied and learning between projects. The most talented professionals don’t want to sit idle, and will be compelled to work through organisations that let them learn and put their skills to the best use.

Tech agnosticism: Helping to solve customers’ challenges holistically

The associate model’s benefits extend far beyond cost. It also helps our customers by solving their business challenges holistically, instead of slicing off one issue at a time.

Because we are tech agnostic, our expertise spans niches across the board. And because an organisation’s challenges rarely centre around one specific technical solution or discipline, our tech agnosticism lets our customers benefit from our expertise to solve not only one problem, but larger and interconnected parts of their transformation.

We do this by creating multidisciplinary teams who can solve multiple angles of our customer’s challenge, saving them the time and money they’d usually spend on the carousel of onboarding and offboarding separate teams for each function.

Add to this that we don’t rely on external recruiters, instead using our dedicated in-house Talent Acquisition team to nurture and continuously build the community. This doesn’t only significantly cut the lead time to get an expert team on the ground, but drives massive cost savings for our customers too.

Tecknuovo’s in-house sourcing function lets us put that 20% towards competitive day rates to create superior teams for our customers.

Good for our associates = even better for our customers

The associate model powers Tecknuovo’s service to our customers as a delivery partner. It straddles the sweet spot between recruitment and consulting, taking the best of both without falling into either camp. We believe that great delivery and results come from working with the best people, and we’ve built the associate model to focus relentlessly on fostering great people through community.

Curious to find out how we can partner with you to help you solve your challenges with the associate model?

Get in touch with our Founder and Managing Director Kieran at

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