Analytics is, to some degree, a counter-cyclical discipline… when business is bad companies tend to invest MORE in analytics. Thankfully, this has held true during the past couple of years. But with headcount frozen, the use of contractors has skyrocketed.
Now, with things returning to normal, companies are once again discovering how hard it is to find, attract and retain full-time web analytics employees. So I thought I would take a moment to point out some of the merits of sticking with contractors…
- Time to hire: The average time to hire for a web analytics professional is over three months. Working with our team, you can onboard a highly qualified contractor/freelancer in about a week.
- Time to contribution: After you get through the recruiting and on-boarding process, your new employee needs to learn to navigate your organization, adapt his technical skills and learn about your business. It takes new hires anywhere from three months to a year to hit their stride. Contractors can often work outside your internal politics and dive right in. They will generally walk in the door with all of the required technical skills and get right to work.
- Cost: The conventional wisdom says that contractors are more expensive than employees. If you consider all of the costs associated with hiring, training, managing, retaining and replacing each employee + paid time off, health and welfare benefits, retirement benefits, corporate services… contractors are often cheaper.
- Flexibility: Contractors are used to being engaged to do a job and then either extend for a next phase or move on… you can scale up and scale down the team quickly and easily based on the company’s short-term needs and prospects.
- Headcount: Contractors are usually funded from a different “bucket” than employees. When departments can’t get approval for headcount they can sometimes make an alternative case for short-term project funding.
- Management Time: Good companies invest heavily in their employees. They spend a lot of time, energy and money on career-pathing people, managing and optimizing their performance and developing their careers. Managers in many large companies spend the majority of their time on these tasks. Contractors don’t expect these things, they don’t need them and they often don’t want them. They perform a function and then go home… Managers are freed-up to handle other priorities.
- Quantity and Quality: As web analytics matures there are more and more people in the marketplace that have reached critical mass in terms of their skills and experience. We speak to full-time employees every week that want to transition their careers to independent contracting. The result is higher quantity, higher quality and lower cost due to increased competition.
The downside is that you are basically bringing a mercenary into your organization. Generally a contractor will not help you to build or enhance your corporate culture. That is never part of their job scope… In fact, if you have too many of them your employees can start to wonder about your priorities and your commitment to building the organization.
That said, top-notch web analytics talent is hard to find. You are almost certainly better off with a contractor or two than farming analytics out to a vendor. They enable you to keep the function in-house, bring in top-notch talent quickly and cost efficiently, get fast and high quality productivity and scale up and down easily.