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Career Watch: The growth of consulting

Jamie Eckle | May 21, 2013
OnForce CEO Peter Cannone says the use of IT contractors is expanding and will continue to do so.

Q&A: Peter Cannone

The CEO of OnForce on the technology consulting workforce.

Is the IT contracting workforce growing? Business growth uncertainty has greatly accelerated companies' use of the IT contract workforce, and we expect this trend to continue. A recent study by MBO Partners forecasts that independent workers will account for more than 50% of the workforce by 2020. At OnForce, we see about 700 applications from service techs each month -- and this is purely from word of mouth, no advertising.

When the recession hit, many companies had to lay off staff, and those that held on to idle employees racked up significant losses. The memories are vivid and personal. Now these companies have low confidence in their ability to predict what the future holds. As a result, independent workers and small IT companies have become a key part of how work gets done, greatly increasing the demand for (and number of) IT contractors.

Is the economy behind the growth, or is it something else? The economy definitely drove the initial shift toward independent contractors, but tech innovation has taken the driver's seat at this point.

Service companies are taking on new types of work, such as mobile devices and networks, and they're using contractors to get it done. Companies can maintain a larger pool of technicians, tapping specialized experts for whatever key skills are needed for today's project, rather than relying on employee generalists.

What sort of IT professional is best suited for life as a contractor -- that is, which skills are in demand, and what personality adapts well to the contracting life? For some, becoming an independent contractor is looking like a better choice all the time. There are three key factors for this: desire for independence, erosion of the employee value proposition (e.g., lack of job security, disappearing pensions, threatened healthcare coverage) and the rapid pace of technological change.

In fact, one of our most recent surveys with our community of independent contractors uncovered that 60% of them willingly joined the independent workforce, and 56% wouldn't consider working for someone else, even if the salary and benefits were comparable.

Every prospective independent contractor needs to be honest with himself about whether he has the necessary technical know-how. He also needs to be up for the challenges of finding work and making sure he gets paid in a timely way for the work he has completed.

In addition, independent contractors need top-notch listening and problem-solving skills, as well as a true passion for what they do. The job involves dealing with new tasks, a wide variety of customer demands and unexpected problems daily. Contractors have to be up for anything to build a successful business.


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