"We tend to isolate most of our contractors by design," says Vanguard Health's Blanchette. "Being in a regulated industry, security and privacy are going to be paramount in how we approach privilege management for all of our contractors." The few contractors who have access privileges, he notes, are from companies that have established relationships with Vanguard and are considered trustworthy.
Outfitting the Contractors . . . or Not
When it comes to day-to-day hardware and technical support for contractors, corporate culture rather than size again dictates the approach.
Ingram Micro occasionally supplies contractors with hardware, stipulating in the contract the details of how that will be handled. In other cases, the service provider outfits its workers. Under both scenarios, security is always a top concern. "For organizations that bring their own [hardware], we have strict security screenings that have to be done on the PC," White says. "We're very vigilant about our overall security profile as it relates to our company."
Mike Stalnaker, director of technical operations at Sendme, a mobile game developer, describes his 100-employee company's approach to contractor support this way: "For [long-term] contractors, we provide a system for them that matches our typical engineers' systems. The rationale is, when they leave, we can be assured we retain the data they were working on." On the other hand, consultants who are hired for short-term assignments provide their own equipment, Stalnaker says.
Will SaaS Kill the Tech Contractor?
With continued corporate interest in procuring software as a service, is it possible that we will see a day when IT contractors as we know them disappear?
White, Reed's Ballai and Pro Publica's Lanese all say no.
"We use Salesforce in one piece of our business," says Ballai, citing one of the most widely used SaaS offerings on the market. "But in almost all cases, both in the licensing and the use of that technology, most of those instances sit within the walls of our data center."
It seems that the need to have real people on the premises, whether they're staffers or contractors, will never completely go away. One key reason, says Lanese, is perspective. In the workplace, he explains, "more than one point of view is always good" -- especially when that view comes from the outside.
Yegulalp has been writing about computers and information technology for over 15 years for a variety of publications.