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Should You Rent or Own Your Employees?

Additional labor is straightforward. Your organization needs more of what you already have. For instance, you have programmers, but you need more programming hours. These are tasks that your organization can accomplish, but time constraints require additional resources. The key here is that contractors must “fit in” to the organization and ensure that their tasks are performed in concert with others. A person used in this role is usually under the direct control of someone in your organization.

It’s Your Turn. Do you use contractors to supplement your existing staff?

Providing increased expertise is another reason to employ a consultant or contractor. The consultant may possess skills that aren’t available in the talent pool of the organization’s employees. This is especially the case in emerging technologies such as data communications, systems integration or new development techniques. It makes sense to bring in a consultant when the task is one that requires special knowledge or experience. A consultant providing a higher level of expertise may work more independently and produce a finished product or component at the end of the engagement.

It’s Your Turn. Have you used consultants for specific projects that are outside your organization’s area of expertise? What types of projects were performed?

One-time tasks are another place that’s ideal for a consultant. A good example of this is a hardware upgrade, especially when also upgrading the version of your operating system. This is a task that’s usually only done every few years. It may not make good business sense to train an employee to perform this task—it’s very complex and may change from upgrade to upgrade. A consultant would likely have performed many of these upgrades and have special methods or techniques to improve the process. Again, a consultant performing tasks such as these will often work independently, though closely in terms of the results of their efforts.

It’s Your Turn. How often do you employ consultants or contractors for one-time tasks?

Michael Ryan is a technical editor with IBM Systems Magazine. Michael can be reached at



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