Everybody has heard the story of how Uber overtook the taxi industry in just a few years to become a viable option for business users seeking a ride in many big cities around the world. Needless to say, taxi drivers who spent a lot of time and money to obtain a licence were less than thrilled about this clever new business model. But like it or not, Uber (and its competitors Lyft and Sidecar) are part of a clear trend towards on-demand services that can be ordered by consumers from a handheld device.
There's another class of on-demand platforms that's on the rise - and it may represent a big trend in how enterprises pay for work. These new on-demand services are providing companies with services such as marketing expertise (for example, DOZ), management consulting (Eden McCallum), and coding (Appirio).
Sooner or later, on-demand platforms will target IT departments and meet needs specific to IT directors. Programming, user testing, device management, and configuration and support services come to mind as work that can be performed on demand.
What will this mean for IT directors who will remain at the top of the heap? The good news is there will be at least two advantages:
- Expertise: You will be able to draw from a larger pool of experts. In theory at least, you will get a person who is highly skilled in exactly the area you need.
- Lower costs: Your overhead costs will be lower, since you won't have to hire and fire people, and you won't have to provide them a workplace or any kind of equipment.
The bad news is there are at least three disadvantages:
- Trust: It's still early days, and it's hard to know which platforms can really provide the experts you want consistently. It will take time for platforms to develop their base of experts and to collect enough feedback to properly rate each expert. It will also take time for platforms to develop their reputations as reliable providers.
- Communication: It's sometimes more difficult than one might expect to clearly communicate your requirements for a service. Any misinterpretation may result in a nasty surprise that you won't discover until you see the results.
When you work with somebody in person, you get to know that person, and you can read one another's body language. With on-demand services, you may never meet the other person, and you probably won't develop an ongoing working relationship, so communication will remain a sticky point.
- Consistency: If you get different people to perform small tasks, you may not get consistent results. In cases where outsiders see the results, inconsistency could be a big problem, and may eat away at the image of your IT department.
There's no question that on-demand work services will become a viable option for at least some of the work traditionally provided by salaried employees. As on-demand platforms mature, IT directors will feel increasing pressure to consider using such services to replace at least some of the work traditionally performed by IT staff.