Are Full-Time Professionals Really Needed for Specality Gigs

One of the overriding things that I’ve seen since leaving college (2002) has been this idea that we need to be in, or be recruited for, full-time gigs. And while I can totally vouch for the stability of such a position when there are needs outside of yourself which are longer term, I wonder if the focus on full-time persons, versus companies looking at the reality of projects, endears them to miss on several well qualified people for specality projects?

In a project that I once worked, I was asked to come in and provide insight, training, and direction towards a client’s initiative. The skills need was very specific, and within a few weeks of being there, I could see that there was a need for my position, just not a need for me to be active within it for 40hrs a week. The needs of the role amounted more towards 30hrs a week, but the client could only see the role in a position that was worth 40hrs. So I had to create work for myself that generated value back to the client for those additional 10hrs. And while I was happy to teach myself some new things, and even crunch some data for other aspects of the project that was my hands, the fact of the matter is that I could have been better utilized if the role was analyzed correctly for 30hrs, leaving me available for another client or other projects for those other hours.

Understanding how projects are created, and the governance towards resources that are involved, it is pretty easy to see why it makes sense for companies to default on full-time participants. The numbers for the cost of the project, and even the time allotment are much easier to break down. But, is this really the right way to manage specality resources? Are we (in effect) taking a loss on other possible revenues becuase we’ve not looked at the actual role and what it will actually play out to be?

Again, I think of roles that I’ve had previously. The role of a trainer (for example) is a weird one. A trainer needs time on the ground to analyize the environment, understand the scope of the project, and develop relationships with testers, developers, and project mangaers before training. Once the training is initialized, there’s time needed for analysis and occsaionally admin/support. However, that seconary time is usually a lot shorter than that initial time. It really does take a schedule similar to working “full-time hours” for a trainer to correcly analyize an environment and create those training materials. But, once that training starts, there’s not much else to do – at least if the trainer and the project team are a well oiled machine. You don’t want there to be down time for that trainer, as that equates to down time for your team. Should then the traininer be put into a different bucket that “full-time?” And if so, should the resource management aspects of project design account for that.

I’m speaking of specality positions and roles. Those persons who essentially can do what they do in a huorly bucket that doesn’t look like a sales or widget-turning role. Especially for knowledge workers (analysts, strategists, creatives, developers), time not necessarly the best metric to base standarized compensation on. Yes, there’s still this idea in knowledge-based fields that we work according to industrial era time economies. I wonder if though if it is time to get rid of that mindset and see a better metric for basiing how we bring people into projects, better utilizing their skills and time, not so that we can earn higher revenues or spend more time figuring out resource allocation formulas, but so that we are truly engaging a full-time or other type of worker with the best of their abilities and time.

Note: It was this article at UXMatters that had me think about this topic.