Working with tech consultants during the COVID-19 recession

The conventional route of capabilities growth by hiring is challenged by the generalised economic uncertainty and the anti-COVID restrictions, increasing the appeal of independent technology consultants for delivering maximum commercial value and competitive advantage while allowing businesses to remain lean and agile in preparation for the economic recovery.

With businesses affected by unprecedented strategic, financial, logistical and organisational difficulties and uncertainties, the UK economy recorded the deepest quarterly fall in output since records began, seeing the greatest impact out of the major global economies.

Luckily, the technology sector was mostly shielded from the negative effects of the pandemic and is faring remarkably well. We hear of solid demand, sustained investment and efficient supply chains fuelling the rapid development of technology. Since highly-skilled human input is still the key element in tech innovation, many tech companies are faced with the contract or hire conundrum.

The conventional wisdom of hiring the right people for specific roles poses serious difficulties in recent times, including:

  • The established interview processes cannot be fully translated into a virtual environment, as they lose non-verbal and group-interaction elements that are important in making the hiring decision.
  • First impressions matter for both recruiting company and candidate, both artifically truncated these days by webcams;
  • Training is limited to independent study and online methods, impacting its efficiency and potentially affecting the quality of the employee’s output;
  • Team integration is more difficult, especially within an already established group, introducing artificial communication barriers and potentially affecting the fresh starter’s motivation and productivity;
  • The observations made during the probation period may become irrelevant once the work setup and pattern change – contributing additional risk to the permanent hire decision.

Contracting external work through independent technology and management consultants can maximise the business value created through one or more of these mechanisms:

  • Multi-faceted risk mitigation – there is a clear cost commitment over a pre-determined time interval, with a guarantee of high-quality deliverables;
  • Choosing the right skills for the job becomes possible, minimising the training requirements;
  • Benefiting from a fresh perspective based on solid, diverse and cross-disciplinary expertise, delivering the bulk of its business value in the initial period of the contract;
  • Clear incentive alignment from the get-go, with independent contractors acutely interested in client satisfaction and brand reputation, keen to deliver high-quality work quickly;
  • Independent self-starter attitude, supporting business value creation and encouraging a proactive attitude within the client team.

Of course, there are some risks associated with contracting independent consultants, which need to be actively mitigated:

  • Possible continuity and consistency problems related to technical development work, requiring thorough work documentation, standardisation and efficient handover processes;
  • The risk of an abrupt exit during the project or immediately afterwards – a ramp-down of activity is recommended, with continued support for recruitment, maintenance and operations;
  • Spending a limited time with the client’s team can introduce operational inefficiencies – this is mitigated by good consultants by using their communication and problem-navigation skills.

The current times put independent consulting in a favourable light thanks to the efficient and flexible support offered to business in creating and exploiting technology value. In this difficult and uncertain context, businesses have good reasons to remain agile and lean yet strongly innovative and competitive through the use of external independent consultants.

This article was produced by Camgile, the semiconductor-to-cloud consultancy with expertise in management consulting, life sciences technology, cloud systems, smart&connected devices, semiconductors and others.