Many of our clients find themselves in an ongoing internal debate about how to best access software development talent – do they engage contractors on-demand or should they recruit and hire? What about a contract-to-hire approach? We’ve operated business models that span these variables – in this post, I’ll check in on a few of the pluses and minuses.

Contracting only or conversion to hire?

Standard recruiting and hiring is the time-honored client solution to various staffing problems, we all pretty much know the drill here.

Other clients want only on-demand help, and so pursue the contractor route, either with a firm offering access to a group of individuals or with a contractor directly. Fewer strings attached, but sometimes less control over activity and priorities.

Then there’s the contract-to-hire approach – engage someone, try them out, make an offer downstream (convert them) if they are a good fit.

We’ve been involved in firms that were strict contractor-only, no conversion allowed, and in some that actively promoted conversion, aiming to spread advocates throughout their client base. The former model can seem rigid – what if that contracted senior developer transforms a client’s operation and sets the tone for ongoing strategic planning? Forbidding conversion there under any circumstances can unnaturally tie the client down – that situation might be great for the contractor’s host firm, not so great for the client.

On the other hand, promoting wholesale conversion can dilute the source firm’s talent pool and challenge the general access to experience enjoyed by a firm’s client base and its other developers. We’ve seen this model adapt fairly well to operations focusing on more junior developers.

The blended approach

We favor more of a blended approach to the “permanent hire or contractor” age-old question. We do source contracted developer talent on demand (staff augmentation), that is our proverbial bread and butter. We recognize, though, that a path to conversion can offer a client a particular opportunity to transform and energize their business, and we want to accommodate that potential, within reason. Under all scenarios we serve as a quality gatekeeper – any developer (or DevOps expert, PM, QA, data scientist, etc.) we source must satisfy our internal group, who have years of experience not only developing professionally but also placing developers with clients and managing those relationships. Once a position is filled and we have a productive engagement, we track the client’s needs as they evolve and engage in potential conversion conversations as appropriate, typically around the 1-year mark for a given resource.

All client needs are unique and as we see things there are no hard right and wrong answers here, only a spectrum to be evaluated and managed to engineer the best possible outcomes.