Study Finds Change, Growth in IT Contractor Market

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Web-based staffing company HotGigs has released its 2007 IT Contract Workforce Report, which assesses the most in-demand skills among IT contract workers.


The report is based on nearly 2 million searches for IT contract resources conducted on the HotGigs Staffing Exchange during the fourth quarter of 2006. It reveals employer demand for 30 key IT contract skills in IT labor markets throughout the United States.


Drawing from 236,389 category searches, the No.1-ranked IT contractor skill was enterprise recourse planning (ERP) and packaged software.


Doug Berg, HotGigs CEO and founder, said this was one of the report’s most noteworthy findings.


“There’s always been a demand for development and database — the grinders, as I call it — but it was significant to see that there was that much demand for integration and ERP package software kind of folks, which is SAP, Oracle, PeopleSoft, etc.,” Berg said. “It is somewhat surprising to see how quickly these new technologies are adopted. That’s what makes it so hard for companies — you can’t say, ‘I need a person with 10 years of experience who’s an expert’ because in this case, your years of experience have nothing to do with how well you know something. That’s where certifications can really play a strong role because people can learn things so much more quickly now.”


Another significant finding was strong demand for project management IT contractor skills, which came in third with 177,818 category searches. Berg said he was surprised by this, as well.


“I’ve just seen so much moaning and groaning in the marketplace, and a lot of the projects also are not multiyear projects like they used to be back in the ’90s,” he said. “We’re looking at the average project timeline being between three and six months, which is good and bad because it breaks the projects up a lot, gives people a lot of options, but it also means that you can’t sit back on a multiyear project and assume that you’re going to have a billable engagement for that longer time frame. Project timelines and everything are moving much more quickly, and people are breaking projects up into much smaller pieces.”


To some extent, whether an IT contractor skill is hot depends on companies’ levels of comfort in farming out that need to a contractor, and project management’s high rank as an IT contractor skill indicates companies are comfortable handing this role to an outsider.


“A lot of the times, people bring in project managers, frankly, because the project either went off course, or the politics of the project get in the way of someone being faithful to making sure the project gets done on time and on budget,” Berg said. “They end up parachuting someone in who will be the person who’s loyal to the project itself and less concerned with who gets to work on it, when they get to work on it — that sort of thing.”


The same level of comfort does not seem to be present regarding security. Although it’s the hottest issue in IT, the report found security ranked 19th among IT contractor skills, with just 31,786 category searches.


“The problem is most companies don’t want to hire an outside contractor to do their security,” Berg said. “They want to hire an internal expert who’s going to not only put best practices in place but do it in a way that the outside world doesn’t know what’s going on.”


He said, however, that security is gaining traction among IT contractor skill sets.


“In the report last year, it was in the mid to high 20s,” Berg said. “That one is moving up fairly quickly.”

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