I put the post on LinkedIn’s CRM Experts Group for comment, and one of the things that got mentioned was the alternative of using contractors – as a sort of half-way house between using in-house employed developers and a traditional implementation partner.
This was something I hadn’t covered in the original article for the sake of simplicity (or possibly out of laziness, you take you pick), but I thought I would use this post to try to discuss this option.
So, the following is my take on the pro’s and con’s of using contractors as the primary means of implementing a system, as opposed to using an implementation company, or employing a developer in-house:
Cost – The average contractor is probably going to be in the in the £400 to £500, day rate range for a local resource who can attend site (though potentially considerably less if you wish to offshore, something I will cover in a future post), as opposed to an implementer’s rate of £800 to £1,000 per day, so quite a potential saving, though not generally as cheap as employing someone, where the daily rate might work out around the £250 mark.
Better for smaller projects – This is a particular advantage over the employed inhouse developer approach, which only makes really sense if there’s a lot of work for them to do. You can bring in a contractor just for the duration of the project or on a part time basis. It’s therefore an approach that makes much more sense for smaller projects.
Ability to mix and match resources – One of the issues I noted about the employed inhouse developer approach was that, given that a CRM project involves a very diverse range of skills including business analysis, system set up, data migration/integration, training, project management, it’s a big ask to expect the inhouse resource to be competent in all areas. The use of contractors gives the option to bring in specific expertise as needed.
Easier to chop and change – If things aren’t working out it’s generally a lot easier to dispense with a contractor than terminate an employee, given employment law considerations, or extricate yourself from a failing relationship with a system implementer.
Long term relationship – As with an employed inhouse developer, the contractor route potentially gives you the ability to build a relationship with someone that understands your organisation. This may result in a more harmonious way of working than the implementation partner route, and the greater familiarity with the operation of the business may well result in a better system.
You take on the responsibility – As with the employed developer, if you’re dispensing with the services of an implementation company and going the contractor route, you’re effectively taking responsibility for running the project. This isn’t generally for the inexperienced or faint hearted, particularly if there’s much in the way of project complexity. If things go wrong, the buck stops with you.
Can you find them? – There doesn’t seem to be the ready marketplace for contractors, in the same way there is for implementation companies, for some reason. There are a reasonable number of them out there, but they take a bit of looking for, and in many cases it’s a lot quicker and easier to get a system implementer on board.
Long term availability – While there’s no guarantee that an employee will stick around, when they’re in your employment however they’re available to work on the system as needed. With contractors, once the main contract is complete, they’re likely to be looking for other projects, which can often be full-time, and there’s typically no guarantee they’re available when you next need them.
In summary, in terms of contractors versus inhouse employees, if it’s a small project then going the contractor route is typically going to make more sense because there’s unlikely to be the volume of work to justify employing someone. Even for bigger projects it allows you to contract in the specific skills you need, rather than expecting an inhouse employee to be a jack of all trades.
In terms of contractors versus implementation companies, contractors are generally a much cheaper option, but the big negative is that you’re going to need to take more ownership of the project, and the hit if the contractor messes up.
In practice of course, the picture can be a lot blurrier than inhouse employee v contractor v implementation company. Projects, particularly large complex ones, may well involve a mix of all three, and that mix may change significantly across the life of the system.
Perhaps the thing to note is that the contractor route is worthy of consideration for most projects, the constraint may be whether you can easily find good ones.