Whether companies require specific tech talent for a project or need extra help meeting a business uptick brought by the recovering economy, corporate IT departments depend on the contract workforce.
For CIOs, temporary staff offer the experience required to complete a specific task without the need, and cost, of permanently keeping them on the payroll. IT staffing firms see contractors as helping companies stay flexible and meeting the work peaks and lulls that accompany a recovering economy. In either scenario, contractors have been, and will continue to be, in demand for enterprise IT, according to CIOs and hiring experts.
Moving to Salesforce.com's CRM platform a few years ago meant that Inside Track, which offers academic coaching services to college students, required specific personnel who could build custom applications. Without the proper "internal knowledge or expertise in how to leverage" the platform, the San Francisco company, which counts Columbia University and Florida State University as customers, wondered "how do we develop on top of it?" said CIO Derald Sue. Hiring and training workers didn't fit the company's budget or schedule, said Sue.
"The thought of trying to build those competencies internally was really a large expense upfront with a long ramp up time," he said. "And that's just not what we were looking at doing."
In fact, Inside Track turned to cloud computing because it offered fewer IT demands than on-site software, he said. The company is a "strong user of technology," not "a development shop selling a product to an end user," he added.
With full-time developers not fitting into Inside Track's business plan at the time, the company decided to hire contractors, vetted by IT consulting and services firm Bluewolf, for the development positions, Sue said.
Now, after using contractors for two years, Inside Track uses part-time labor to supplement the full-time developers it later hired. Having the development expertise on-demand allows the company to complete work with less lead time since Sue doesn't have to "find all these people, build an entire department, and then get moving on the project."
With the contractors "it is very much like they are an extension of Inside Track employees," said Sue, adding that part-time staff participate in weekly meetings that include the technology and business departments. The full-time workers don't view the contract staff as brought in to "fix" a broken development process. Instead, he said, regular staff view temporary workers as a way for the entire company to get "where we want to from a tech and process perspective much faster."
And judging from Inside Track's software release cycles, contract labor paired with a new development platform has made the company more productive. According to Sue, Inside Track has four major software releases each year as well as six smaller updates compared to the one large annual release it issued when it used Microsoft's .Net development platform.
Sue's view on temporary labor has evolved from five years ago, when he would have hired and managed a development group instead of turning to part-time help.
Supplementing full-time staff with contractors is "just a much more cost-effective and faster way to grow our own internal workforce," he said.