IT contractors must adapt to survive, says ‘contractrepreneur’

Tuesday 25 June 2013

IT contractors need to adapt to survive as the “commoditisation” of technology breeds new challenges, says one "contractrepreneur".

Mark Sweeny of Certus Solutions says that the development of cloud services and the concept of software as a service (SaaS) has led the industry into new territory. Specifically, pricing structures now treat IT services like valuable commodities - but the new normal does not support teams of IT professionals claiming high day rates.

Speaking to Contractor Calculator, Mr Sweeny explained that this new model has not done any favours for contractors who are used to the traditional setup, and rates have fallen as a result. But because many large companies will be retaining older systems and software for several years yet, he says that it is unlikely that contractors who have spent much of their careers dealing with these products will still find opportunities open to them.

Certus Solutions carries out large-scale, cloud-based enterprise resource planning business change programmes and enjoys a turnover over several million pounds every year.

But it began life as Mr Sweeny’s own contractor limited company and he firmly believes that success came from sensing in which direction the industry was about to move. After identifying the potential in cloud services, he claims, being willing to build up a knowledge base in the field allowed him to take advantage of its rapid growth.

“Our early investment in becoming expert in the software has delivered a considerable return in terms of new contracts and business growth”, he explained.

Co-owner of Certus and Mr Sweeny’s business partner Tim Warner also received training from Oracle Corporation in California. Combined with the Oracle expertise of many of the staff, Mr Sweeny says that this has allowed Certus to become a leader in training and implementation for Oracle Fusion Applications in the Europe, Middle East and Asia region.

As cloud services and other new technologies become more and more commonplace, Mr Sweeny feels that life could become more difficult for contractors. High day rates mean that for him, hiring project managers and developers is only viable if they are taken on as employees.

“The cloud services model simply cannot support contractors earning £550 plus per day”, he noted, since many projects are being scheduled over shorter periods of time and expected to run on smaller budgets. Even so, when Certus is experiencing particularly heavy workloads and additional capacity is needed, the company still engages contractor associates.

And Mr Sweeny maintains that there will always be a role for IT contractors provided that they can “read the market”, taking advantage of opportunities to work with companies that either choose not to move towards cloud technology or only do so slowly. Niche areas such as data migration and interface integration will provide “natural opportunities” in themselves, he adds.

Above all, IT contractors will have skills and experience that never go out of style, he said.

“You still need people who understand how those services work in a business context, such as finance, payroll, human resources and procurement operations,” Mr Sweeny points out.

“Younger IT professionals have the right IT skills, but tend not to have the in-depth knowledge of and experience in the services from a business perspective.”

By Victoria McDonnell

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