Author: Craig Golightly
Whenever I meet someone new and they find out I am a Software Developer they often say, “I have this project…” I used to spend time listening in detail to what they wanted to do and I even embarked on a few “side” projects. These projects were filled with late night meetings in various basements, pizza, and a flurry of emails and phone calls but the excitement soon died off as the projects dragged on and completion seemed to elude us on every front. Why was it so hard? It was hard because I was trying to service all aspects of the project by myself on an already full schedule. A person can only do so much before burnout starts to set in.
There are several perils to be aware of when you hire an individual “on the side” to do your project. First, if it is not their full time focus you won’t really get their full attention. I’m not talking about full time freelancers here who earn a living by doing projects, I’m talking about someone who is already putting in 40 hours/week at a day job then trying to fit in another 20 or 40 hours for your project. With that combination it won’t take long before things start to get out of balance.
Another factor to consider is time to finish your project. Is your project time sensitive? Do you need it in a few months, or is a year ok? If you are working with a single individual “on the side” you will often not have your full functionality for a very long time.
Then there is always the bus factor. If the person working on your project got hit by a bus tomorrow, what would happen? Now people usually don’t get hit by an actual bus but they can get hit with pressures at their day job, family situations, or just general disinterest in your project. Any of these things could cause them to bail. What happens to the investment you’ve made so far if the person is all of a sudden not there? What about maintenance – where will they be in 1-2 years when you need some updates, or there is some problem in the code?
Now when I meet people who say, “I have a project…” I reply with a smile, “Great! Let me get you in touch with some IT Consultants I know. They can discuss your project, help you see what resources you will need to implement the project and give you an idea of cost and timeline.” Awesome! Everybody wins! They can get educated on their options and have the best support to implement a successful project and I can have time to go mountain biking.
So what is so great about IT Consultants and how is it different from getting someone “on the side” to help you?
Experience – IT Consultants have seen many, many projects. The combined experience in some firms can add up to thousands of different projects. They have seen what works and what doesn’t. Why learn everything the hard way by yourself when you can benefit from the experience of someone who has already been there and knows what to avoid and how to overcome obstacles?
Resources – IT Consultants have a team to support them. This means getting the right people at the right time and ultimately getting your project done as soon as possible. The added benefit is that you don’t have to go find and hire all of these different specialists – you pay for what you need when you need it then go on your way with your completed project.
Support – IT Consultants are there to help you finish the job. When unexpected obstacles come up during implementation or individuals get hit by a bus, IT Consultants can draw from their team and network to fill in the gaps and move forward. They are also there for you long term when you need support and enhancements for your project.
Cost – You get what you pay for. You can generally get an individual “on the side” for a lower hourly rate than an IT Consultant. Even among IT Consultants there can be a wide range of prices for different services. The big thing to look at is results. Talk to some customers of the consulting firms you are considering, both customers with completed projects and customers who have projects in progress. In the end the most expensive thing to you is a project that is incomplete. Make sure you have the support to get your project past the finish line where it can add value to your organization and provide a return on your investment. It may look like more to hire IT Consultants initially, but in the end you will come out ahead.
IT Consultants enjoy the variety of projects they work on and the opportunity to help people solve problems. There is a wide range of consulting firms out there, each with their own specialty and way of doing business. Find a good fit for your situation and you will have much better success than when you try it with someone “on the side.”