Resourcing projects to keep up with the pace of today's technology demands

Could a new resourcing model address the UK's tech skill shortage?

Facebook’s M, Echo by Amazon, Pokemon Go, Oculus, Smart watches, Swift, Smart TVs - the list of technologies a business should consider, understand and embrace/discount never stops growing. In fact, the list is only getting longer.

This creates huge challenges for businesses of all sizes.

In this guide, we’ll look at how you can use the right mix of permanent and freelance staff to keep pace with today’s technology demands.


Resourcing tech roles with freelancers

Exploring the growth of technology

The growth of technology is happening at an unprecedented rate. And the growth in both the diversity of programming languages and the way technology is consumed shows businesses face a huge challenge on two fronts.

The diversity of programming languages

You can see this in the changes to the TIOBE index, which tracks the popularity of hundreds of programming languages.

Here are the top twenty languages tracked by the TIOBE index:

Sep 2016 Sep 2015 Change Programming Language Ratings Change
811changeAssembly language2.417%+0.61%
98changeVisual Basic .NET2.343%+0.28%
1113changeDelphi/Object Pascal2.169%+0.42%
1714changeVisual Basic1.761%+0.23%


What’s interesting is that the top 3 (Java, C, C++) have all seen popularity decreases while the more specialist/niche languages are seeing a rise in popularity. Swift by Apple, the mathematical language R and even the technical computing language, Julia, have seen big increases in popularity over the last 12 months.

This growth in the diversity of programming languages hints at the growth in the types of applications businesses are needing to create.

The explosion in number of devices and interfaces

The growth in the number of new programming languages is nothing compared to the growth of devices and applications a business must consider.

In recent years, there has been an explosion in the ways users consume technology.

Watch a demo of Viv's conversational commerce - an amazing example of the leaps in technology businesses are now developing

Do we have a skills shortage?

There’s no arguing the point: There simply aren’t enough people in the UK with the skills to deliver the technology fast enough.

Mark Channon, Managing Director of Bloc Recruitment, says, "The need to identify, engage and entice top digital talent is becoming ever more challenging in today's market. According to the recent 'Mayoral Tech Manifesto', the UK's digital economy is the largest and fastest-growing in the G20 and already employs more than 1.4 million people. But this could be seriously stymied by the fact, according to the manifesto, that nine out of 10 of London's new digital businesses are being held back by skills shortages. Indeed, a separate survey conducted by techUK found that 93% of tech firms felt a skills gap was having a negative impact on their business."

But is it a skills shortage?

A skills shortage would imply, as a country, we don’t have the skills to create apps, code web services or build hardware.

And that’s not true. The UK has an abundance of talented people. It's just these people are outside the scope of traditional recruitment methods.

Resource shortage

In reality, what the UK has is a resource shortage - there aren’t enough people available at the time they are needed.

But is that partly the fault of how businesses think about hiring?

The concept of a full time employee assumes there is a one-to-one relationship between the person who does the work and the business that has the work to do.

one to one hiring relationship

So, what happens if we change that to a one-to-many relationship?

one to many freelancing relationship

When the person who does the work is available to more than one business at the time they need them, the 'skills' in demand become less scarce.

Businesses in the UK just need to think about resourcing technology projects in a slightly different way.

Unlocking a hidden workforce

You can see by switching to a one-to-many relationship between worker and hirer, there is a potential to unlock a huge hidden workforce of talent.

Independent workers and micro-businesses

According to IPSE, the UK’s membership body supporting contractors, independent professionals and freelancers, there are at least 1.9m freelancers and micro-businesses in the UK.

10% of the UK’s freelancers are specialist in IT and communications. That’s a huge number of skilled people who can help fill the technology gap.

2nd job professionals

Full time employees who freelance in their spare time are another hidden workforce. Stories of "Exec by day, developer by night" are becoming more and more common. IPSE data shows there were at least 255,000 people in the UK that freelanced as a 2nd job during 2015.

Again, with a shift of mindset, businesses can access a highly skilled, extremely experienced workforce by offering their tech projects to people who work from another location or at slightly irregular hours.

A new resourcing model - balancing strategy and delivery

"Should we just outsource our entire programming/development function to freelancers?", is a question a lot of businesses (of all sizes) will be asking themselves.

The answer, we believe, is no.

To deliver a software, or technology function that’s going to be both right for users and profitable for a business, you have to balance both permanent and freelance/on-demand skills.

The model: Permanent employees providing direction for on-demand project teams

freelance resourcing model

Vision and strategy are key

Taking your business and its products/services to where you customers want them to be requires a vision. Turning the vision into reality takes leadership, consistency and focus.

Delivering on a strategy takes coherent action, and is clearly best suited to a permanent member of staff. Their closeness to the business and deep relationships with other departments or key staff allow permanent members of staff to do things and make decisions a remote freelancer would struggle to make as quickly or effectively.

Mark Channon, Managing Director of Bloc - a specialist digital recruiter - confirms, "At any one time there are over 500 advertised CTO roles in London alone; the demand for digital strategy is staggering".

Delivery through specialist project teams

Where remote freelancers are best is in the delivery or project teams. Pulling together a team of experts on-demand is a hugely effective and cost efficient way to resource a project.

For example, delivering a mobile app, a web service and an integration with Apple's Siri would most likely take 3 very different looking teams. The quickest and cheapest way to pull together the required skills and experience would be to use remote freelancers, coordinated by a permanent member of staff.

How to get started with the new model

There are some simple steps to get started:

1) Understand what skills or functions you need to outsource to freelancers.

Tip: Read what projects should you outsource?

2) Create briefs for the projects you need to deliver.

Tip: Read how to write effective briefs for freelancers

3) Put in place systems to allow effective communication with remote teams.

Tip: Read how to effectively collaborate with freelancers

4) Create processes for working securely with remote teams.

Tip: Read how to work with freelancers securely

5) Group the freelancers you like into talent pools.

Tip: Read our guide to using Talent Pools effectively

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