RoleConnect: Cutting Out the Middleman in IT Contracting

Kieran Logan founded Cork-based RoleConnect as a result of personal experience. He had been working as an IT contractor for almost 10 years doing software development and systems design. He obtained most of his work through recruitment agencies. However, 2004 he became the CTO of a small company and was in a position where he was required to hire contractors from time to time.

It struck him that his conversations with recruitment agencies were a complete reverse of those he had when he was a contractor: “As a contractor, whenever I was looking for a certain rate of pay, I was always argued down. As an employer I was always been argued to raise the pay up. It didn’t take me long to figure out where the difference was going.”

This is a process that involves two different negotiations and lacks any kind of transparency.

Kieran reasoned that, “That from an employer’s perspective, if they could negotiate directly they could potentially save money that would allow them employ another number of people. But also allow the contractor to increase their daily rate.”

There was a substantial amount of space in the middle where they could both meet.

“It’s a win-win situation where employers would save a lot of money and contractors could dramatically increase their take-home pay.”

Although from the user point of view RoleConnect may look like an application built on a database it actually uses search engine technology to access profile information.

A potential employer uses search to locate skills but in addition, semantic web technology is deployed to help find additional terms that may be implied by the original search term. The software is able to, “Understand the wider implication of the search terms. It not only understands the search terms but also the connectivity between skills.”

Kieran explains further, “If someone starts putting in skills like PHP then you can anticipate stuff like MySQL might be involved. Skills can be uncovered that are not in the search terms.”

For some time now there has been a global shift from full-time, permanent employment, to people working freelance and on ad hoc short-term contracts. To check out the validity of some of the assumptions underlying this trend Kieran did his own research:

“In 2009 we did a study over the summer months. [The summer was picked so they could see recruitment amongst recent graduates.] Over a three month period we captured every single job advertised in Ireland and analyzed them. In that period of time, approximately 8.5% of the jobs advertised were contract jobs. The rest being permanent.

“We repeated that exercise last summer in 2011 and there was a dramatic change in circumstances. In the exact same period of time, the number of contracting jobs had gone up to 28%.”

This seismic change or as Kieran puts it, “Strongly emerging trend,” is not about to reverse itself anytime soon.

RoleConnect has just two full-time employees, Kieran himself and Catherine Wall formerly of it@cork. Kieran says, “We needed to be true to what we believe in and the rest of the workers are contractors.

“From the company side we are concentrating on Ireland and the UK at this point. But our ambition would be to be global and not just nationwide and across the water.

“We see the emerging demands for skills and we see a lot more remote workers and contract-based workers. The successful companies of the future will be more agile and will have skilled people to call on for specific projects.”

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