The State Services Commission and the public may view the prevalence of freelance consultants with concern, but for Auckland-based software developer ProConsul International, they are a lucrative proposition.
ProConsul has released version 3.0 of its service of the same name, designed to help consultants promote their skills and customers select one appropriate to their needs.
Consultants can list on the service free of charge, provide standard information enabling them to be classified in a complex taxonomy for easy location, and include links to their own website and published work.
The company has accumulated a number of prominent international customers including the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and the United Nations, sourcing consultants for aid projects. Local users include the Institution of Professional Engineers (Ipenz) and The NZ Computer Society.
But director Peter Senior foresees the start of rapid market growth for services like Proconsul, following the trend to “casualisation of skilled resources”, and what he calls the “Me Inc” environment in which individuals market themselves to a succession of organisations for brief — or sometimes long — periods.
Even if a consultant provides services to the same customer for years it still pays off, he says, both in saving overhead costs for the hirer and, more broadly, by transferring expertise acquired at other organisations where the consultant works.
Although the idea of ProConsul was conceived four years ago, it has only become a practical tool for widespread use in the past year, Senior says. “We could almost be said to have been in pilot mode before then.”
A user seeking a consultant will typically start by identifying in broad terms the sector in which the desired person will work, the services they should offer and their specialisations. Having retrieved an initial list, they can refine the criteria and add more such as languages spoken. All this is done by simple point and click and form-filling on the web page.
ProConsul has concluded relationships with overseas registers, such as the National Register of Filipino Consultants, which can be accessed by registered users through the ProConsul website. For some organisations, it has constructed customised databases accessible only to registered members, and meeting their specific needs.