Consultants vs Contractors

Consultants vs Contractors

Dice on a Keyboard

In the field of consultative IT services there are a few camps. We have consulting and we have contracting to name a few. The difference is hard to spot for some others can pick it out right away. Picking the right one for the right job shouldn’t be a gamble.

The first side is simpler, contracting or staffing is there to fill a need to do a specific job. This could be filling a position while your developer is on maternity leave. Or simply having a few extra QA testers come in to help finish a corporate initiative. Now sure there are many ways this can be done. Staffing firms offer people who can do what ever you might need when you need it. These firms can be huge with thousand of employees. Or as small as one person representing themselves with a 1099. Sometimes there is a corp to corp market for these individuals. If your staffing company doesn’t have a person. They will subcontract with another company to fill the position.

There is nothing wrong with this model. You have a need to fill capacity with a skilled person. This need is for a specific skill set that can be managed. Again think your developer on maternity leave. Where this model breaks down is when you cannot manage the skill set. So if your need is of a DevOps engineer and your company hasn’t embraced this culture change, this can be bad. The expectation for staffing is to execute on your direction. Hence the management of the skill set. Now with anything there is some salesmanship with this, so level your expectations. If the contractor is saying they are an Angular expert and has been doing it since 2001. Well, this should be a red flag (Angular was released in 2010). Another area to level your expectations is around direction. For the most part contractors are asked to do a set of tasks and that’s it. Not to say they are not hard workers, most are. But if you don’t give them something to do and are explicit in what you want. Well, you might not get what you are expecting.

Then we have consultants. The need these individuals fill is straight expertise. Sure you can use them as capacity but they come at a higher price than a contractor. And this is because the need is different. If we take the example from above, your company is looking to implement DevOps and you have no idea where to start. This is where a team of DevOps consultants is perfect to come in. They should have experience, to help you set direction and execute upon it. Again this is where the higher price comes in. In general consultant focus on their craft. A good consultant is always ahead of the curve on where the industry is going. This consist of a lot of time keeping up with what is new. Sometimes this is personal time sometimes this is bench time. Consultants are great when you need help to set and implement a new strategy.

Some things to remember. First pick the right resource for the right role. Expecting a contractor to jump in and effectively help with a large initiative might not be the best idea. You are paying for what you get when you either go with a contractor or a consultant. The hourly rates are different for a reason. Consultants should be enabling as they go. Expect it and allow them to help enable staff as they go. Sample resumes are not worth entertaining. They are not very accurate and the chances you are going to get that candidate is almost none. Lastly, certifications are good but they mean that someone was able to study and pass a test. They don’t mean that the candidate is able to do what you need them to do.

Do your research. We live in a searchable age, so research candidate before hand. Not saying you need to run a full background check on them but look them up on LinkedIn. Better yet Google them. Make sure what you are seeing on their resume lines up with LinkedIn or GitHub. See when they started at the firm you are working with. If you notice your resources, recently started at the firm you are working with this is a very bad sign. If the candidate has a whole out of date LinkedIn profile take caution as well.