I’ve worked in the technology business for more than 20 years, the last 15 of those years as a CIO and as a director before that. One of the more difficult tasks I faced was trying to manage the demand for IT services with the limited resources I had under my IT control.
Even in positions where I managed a $20 million budget, I never had enough hands and feet to effectively get all the work on my plate done.
Despite the best efforts of a PMO, I somehow always had an IT demand overload. With each additional project I would try and argue that I needed more resources to handle the growing demand. I had a fixed amount of full-time employees I could have, period.
Creating a New Reality
A CFO once told me that I could not get any more FTEs because of a hiring freeze. Instead, he told me to be creative in my approach to assigning resources to projects.
He wasn’t really trying to be helpful, more he was telling me not to bother him and to figure it out on my own. But, I took his message literally and ran with it.
I scoured my budget and “found” several places where projects had discretionary funds available and began using those funds for what I liked to call “elastic staffing solutions”.
It wasn’t a stroke of genius, but it also wasn’t operating in the strict spirit of the budget. I remembered the words of my CFO, “Be creative," and so I was.
I used these funds to bring in temporary help as projects required and to utilize off-shore resources to get more bang for my IT buck. If I needed a skill set I didn’t have internally, I would either bring in an expert or get training for a FTE who was capable of learning the skill set
I was getting more accomplished without an increase in my FTEs. Ironically, my FTE numbers were the most-consistently scrutinized budget items, with far less attention paid to how I used discretionary money, even if I went over budget.
As I networked with my peers at conferences, I found that many of them had similar constraints placed on them with too much work and not enough arms and legs to get the work done.
Most senior IT people were in the same boat with the declining economy and hiring freezes.
I quickly found this staffing model beneficial with temp/contract employees. Should one of these employees not work out, I would simply contact the staffing agency and have another temp/contract person in my office within days.
When the project was complete, the temp/contractor simply left without severance or unemployment to pay.
I must admit that this was contradictory to the way I wanted to treat employees, but let’s face it, CIOs are being required to do more with less every day.
Short of off-shoring everything, I found this to be a middle ground. I kept my staff in place and supplemented them as needed, still using local staff, just not FTEs.
I’m meeting more and more senior IT executives who are becoming receptive to this type of staffing model and are testing the waters with staffing agencies.
Chris Barber is a partner at Antillus Personnel Solutions, a Southern California staffing firm serving the financial services industry.