Contractors deliver mixed blessings to IT depts

Three quarters of IT professionals questioned in a Computerworld spot survey claim they have no difficulty managing internal staff and contract staff concurrently. But for some it can be a nightmare.

John Spresser, IS manager for Rentokil Initial, who only uses contractors for large projects and specific skill shortages, said: "I find it extremely difficult to manage contractors.

"The good ones are good. [But] the average ones expect to be told what to do, then do exactly that and no more and take no responsibility for it."

Chris Partridge, IT manager at Australian Dried Fruit Sales, said he too finds it difficult to manage both internal staff and contract staff at the same time.

"There is a feeling of animosity to contractors from the internal staff."

Boris Freketic, IT manager for TRW Australia, pointed out other issues.

"The variation in pay scales [is one concern]," he said. "[We could] reduce the number of contract staff, but it's not simple [because] there will always be a certain level of contractors.

"We are effectively trying to keep contract staff and permanent staff side by side, making it clear to the permanent staff that this is not an [eternal] situation, but it's not an easy thing to do."

However, 77 per cent of respondents claimed they have no difficulty managing contractors and permanent staff concurrently.

Barry Burdge, manager of computer services at Thiess, told Computerworld he "puts contract staff under permanent staff" to solve the problem.

Kolitha Gunadasa, IT manager for QBE Trade Indemnity Australia, said: "In some situations we need special skills and with outsourcing we can get the right skills for the right projects.

"The advantage is knowledge transfer when you have contractors working with staff."

The survey shows more than 71 per cent of companies are using contract IT staff. Of those companies that do use external expertise, contractors on average comprise between 15 and 40 per cent of their overall IT staff.

According to Darren Maloney, manager of IT services at Queensland's Barrier Reef Institute of Technical and Further Education, about 40 per cent of his staff are contractors and "they do anything from desktop work to implementation work -- [anywhere] from higher levels down to lower levels -- to fill in the knowledge gaps."

Stuart Robinson, director of business systems at National Archives of Australia, and Anne Dwyer, director of the IT department at the University of Technology Sydney, said they also use contractors for a range of duties.

But a slowdown in demand for external staff is likely over the next year, with just 12 per cent of IT professionals polled by Computerworld intending to take on more contractors over the next 12 months.

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