Today everything is changing. Nothing seems to be the same anymore: economics, politics, churches, banking, retail, the weather and IT: none of these is the same as 5 years ago, all for their own reasons.
An interesting change is shown by the labour market. In The Netherlands traditionally most workers were on the payroll of a company. Were, because today the number of free agents or self-employed independent contractors – ZZPs as they are called in this country, short for ‘self-employed with no staff’ – is increasing fast. Very fast, especially in IT and areas such as BPM.
Is that a good development? I’m not the right person to judge that – being a zzp myself. But there are some striking side effects. Let me talk about one of them.
Independent contractors – it’s a win / win situation…
Most independent contractors have been working for companies, vendors or system integrators for a long time and built up valuable knowledge and best practices for a specific area, product or service. That’s why they can step off the payroll and start a free life, trusting their know-how is still needed. It’s not very hard to build a portfolio of customers who are willing to pay for their services. Most of the time the first clients of a freshly started free agent will be the company he/she has been working for lately. These companies want the job done and will hire the free agent without hesitation: they know the person, his/her skills and attitude. And more important: the free agent is much cheaper than a consultant from a large system integrator or consultancy. Having no overhead costs, the free agent’s tariff can be much lower and still the agent may be earning more. So everybody is happy with the new situation – except for the vendor or system integrator who is losing a good employee and valuable knowledge. But…
The trouble starts when the free agent has got to find new projects with new clients. Maybe some friends or relations from the free agent’s networks drag him into projects they work on themselves. But that won’t last forever. Every free agent has the urge of surviving. So different free agents will work together when they have to – as long as it’s a win/win situation.
…But more certainty about skill sets is needed
Organisations that have been working with consultants from large agencies never had to worry about the orchestration of a project. Now, who is directing all these self-employed consultants? Are they really working together or are they just sole parties who do their own thing to their particular favour? When a client meets with a unknown free agent, how can they be sure he or she has the right skills, knowledge, experience, approach and attitude for their project? That will be a matter of how convincing the free agent’s presentation will be. Companies who want their key processes re-engineered want to be sure they are hiring the right person. From the freelancer’s point of view it’s quite similar: how can he assure a potential client to be the right person for the job?
The answer to this issue is actually quite simple: what we need is a truly independent, international System of Certification for BPM Specialists. A simple answer, but not easy to fulfil….
Still it would be a blessing for clients as well as free agents. Who’s taking the challenge?