Hand writing a line through the word, hire on blackboard with the word outsource written beneath it - outsourcing digital transformation concept
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Contract workers have been a fixture in the IT employment universe for several years now — indeed, for many companies, most famously Google, contract workers outnumber full-time employees. About 32% of tech industry roles are now freelance, according to a report by Porch

Given that, is there a case to be made that digital transformation should be any different? According to Jason Bloomberg, president of Intellyx that answer should be yes. Digital transformation is a software-empowered, customer-driven business transformation where customer preferences and behavior drive enterprise technology decisions, he said. “As such, it is not a single technology project or even a collection of technology projects. The true effort behind digital transformation is organizational, and impacts how the business leverages technology, not the technology itself.” 

Therefore, if a company is leveraging contract resources for IT needs, such people are unlikely to have much or anything to do directly with the company's digital transformation efforts, he continued, ending with this zinger: “If the company's leadership thinks that contract resources are a strategic part of their digital transformation, then they probably have no clue what digital transformation really is.”

The Reality on the Ground 

Bloomberg makes a great point, but his view doesn’t mesh with the current reality of IT employment. Companies are turning to external workforces for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that the IT workforce is very competitive. “Even if companies want to bring critical skills on their payroll that is increasingly difficult,” said Molly Spatara, Global VP of Brand Experience at SAP Ariba & SAP Fieldglass. “Data scientists in particular are in big demand.” 

There are other reasons why external workers may be a good fit for a company, said Michael Edelberg, co-founder of Arcsec Digital. There are time and cost savings by not pulling existing teams from the company across stacks and silos. Contract employees can also bring an unbiased approach to the task of transformation, he said. 

With Bloomberg’s warning ringing in our ears, here are some suggestions to make the process of using external workers in a digital transformation. 

Related Article: Change Management: The Key to Successful Digital Transformations

Understand Why You’re Doing This 

For starters, any work with contract IT needs to begin with the company’s understanding of what digital transformation truly is — along with the necessary background work. “Even before starting the journey, you must have an in-depth understanding of your customer and continuous engagement with target customer segments,” said Biplab Roy, associate vice president of transformation at Altimetrik. “This is driven by the fundamentals of culture and leadership built over time within an organization, which can’t be achieved by a contract staff.” 

External staff or consultants can provide some coaching to start establishing the right culture, but it has to be carried forward by the employee to deliver the true value, he continued. “Otherwise, you may achieve some results at the beginning but it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to sustain over time and take the organization to the next level,” Roy concluded. 

Related Article: Change Management For Digital Transformation

Start Small

With that understanding as a foundation, one viable strategy to use contract workers in a digital transformation project is to start small with specific initiatives. 

“We recommend companies seek out an external team of experts to tackle initiatives that will maximize the investment,” said Brian Maya, digital marketing associate at Invonto. By doing this, not only do they get to experiment with new technologies and to test solutions, but they also get guidance on digital transformation best practices, he said. “Once a company has seen initial success, it can use its newfound experience to build out in-house capabilities confidently over time.