Motivating Contractors – How to motivate IT Contractors and Permies

Motivating Contractors
Motivating Contractors

Motivating Contractors to Deliver Higher Productivity

Motivating contractors isn’t hard to do and it is well worthwhile for Project managers to do it.

Gerry McLaughlin, the author of this article, has done just about every job in software development from Trainee Programmer to Chief Information Officer.

This is the first part of a series of articles looking at how you can bring projects in on time. It is partly by motivating the IT Contractors and permanent staff on the Project.

Motivating Contractors – Changing the Psychology

The great American Football coach, Vince Lombardi, once said that there are a lot of coaches who can improve the team tactically. However, the really successful ones are those that can get “inside those guys’ heads and bring the best out of them”.

The British Vice President of a major tool vendor once said to me that no one delivers major software projects on time and to budget.

They all overran. Unfortunately, what he says is pretty much true. Something must be badly wrong.

It is.

They run Software projects in a way that doesn‘t allow the people working on them to achieve all they can.

Projects Normally Late

While listening to the Vice President, I remembered that at the organisation where I was CIO, we completed eight out of nine major projects on, or ahead of, time and to, or under, budget.

The only exception was a project which used his tool. We outsourced the development to a major Systems Integrator recommended by his company.

The Government, through the OCG, are looking at ways to fix the problem of late delivery of IT projects.

You won’t fix he problem, however, as long as you loook at the software development process as a manufacturing process. And you look at software developers as machines generating computer code.

Whilst good processes are essential to the successful development of a software product, you can get the main gains through motivating the workforce.

Unlocking Latent Productivity

I ask many people who work as developers in the industry how much more productive they could be if their motivation was higher. Most of these have many years of experience.

The answers they give me are usually in the range of being 50% to 200% more productive.

I won’t name them here.

When asked what would motivate them to achieve these greater rates of productivity, they usually answer that if they were working for themselves they could achieve those levels.

We ran a poll a couple of years ago asking software developers this very question. There were 221 replies.

The poll asks, ‘As a Software Developer, how much more productive could you be if your motivation was higher, e.g. working for yourself’?’

More than half (54%) said that they could be more than 100% more productive if fully motivated.

Another 25% said that they could be somewhere between 51% and 100% more productive.

Another 12% said that they could be 26% to 50% more productive. A further 6% said that they could be 1% to 25% more productive.

Only 3%, or 6 people out of 221, said that they would have about the same productivity.

No amount of tinkering with the Software Development Process is going to unlock this latent ‘productivity mountain‘.

Working for Themselves Within the Company

It is very interesting to note how so many project members could be doubly productive if truly had more motivation. Maybe they will never give their company the same productivity that they would give themselves.

Companies can, however, unlock some of these productivity gains if they simulate, as far as possible, conditions in which their developers are ‘working for themselves‘.

You should create conditions, in which they profit (and profit well) from their productivity gains.

Motivating Contractors – City of London Traders

One should use the model of the City of London traders.

They get good training, a base salary, and motivation from a sharing of rewards. They are set free to make money for their companies and for themselves.

City traders make money for their companies, and get bonuses according to how much money they make for their companies.

They should reward software developers for SAVING their companies money – and handsomely.

Organisations, especially when you involve the Finance Director, tend to get too greedy when allocating a percentage of the savings to the developers.

As a result there is not enogh motivation and there are no savings, just additional costs.

Therefore, as most projects run over budget, and often well over budget, it would be in the interests of companies to give anywhere from 25% to 100% of all the money saved on a project finished ahead of budget to their project teams.

As companies hardly ever finish any projects ahead of budget, this is giving away money that companies would never have in the first place.

They should negotiate the estimate for the project between the management and the project team. It should take into account standard external productivity metrics and internal ones.

They should take into account the advice of an external expert estimator.

If companies give software developers good training and lucrative financial incentives, they will work out ways of delivering the project under budget. That’s whilst at the same time unlocking that latent extra productivity that they have inside of them.

Motivating contractors and permanent staff to increase their productivity can pay healthy dividends.

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