Managing IT contractors presents unique challenges

By Serdar Yegulalp, Computerworld |  IT Management

WellPoint also employs a fairly large group of contractors as "variable-demand resources," says Lang, explaining that the size of this group is increased or decreased "based on project work." It also hires contractors to handle day-to-day IT tasks instead of assigning such duties to higher paid employees.

Reed Technology and Information Services, a content-management service provider, uses contractors more sparingly. "We've had enough scale, with the volume that flows through our business, to manage the work with our full-time work population," says Dave Ballai, CIO and vice president of commercial solutions.

For Reed, the minimal use of contractors isn't a technical issue, but one of corporate culture. "Our historical preference has been to in-source -- in other words, to identify the skill sets required and hire those on a full-time basis," he says.

That said, Reed does use IT contractors, typically as part of partnerships with vendors. "We run into initiatives that have complex technical requirements, and we will partner with third-party providers who will then staff capabilities with their employee base," Ballai says. "Every organization at some point reaches a threshold beyond which they don't have the competencies in-house."

At Ingram Micro, an IT distribution and logistics company, the decision to bring in contractors is re-evaluated continually, says Bob White, senior director of strategic program management and compliance. "We have to constantly [ask], 'Do we have that skill set [we need] within our environment?' " he says.

Ingram Micro brings in contractors versed in SAP process and configuration skins, large-scale program management or new technology like Microsoft Lync or Cisco UCS.

"We typically do this while we build our own internal skill base in a technology area," says White. Such people may eventually be hired as full-timers, "provided we have no contractual terms that preclude us from doing so," he adds. "We have transitioned a number of contractors over the years."

At Pro Publica, a nonprofit investigative news organization, Nick Lanese isn't just the director of IT -- he's the entire IT department. The company gives him an assist with contract help, in the form of a single individual with long-term ties to Pro Publica.

"When I started working here, two months after the company was founded, there was an IT contractor already chosen, so I 'inherited' him," Lanese explains. "He is still being used -- and happily I might add. He built our initial infrastructure and knows us and our business, so it has worked well."

Part of the Team? Or Solo?

Once IT contractors are brought in, the exact way they're managed is largely a function of corporate culture and less a function of the technology in question, IT leaders say.

Originally published on Computerworld |  Click here to read the original story.
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