Monday, July 13, 2009

Is there anything wrong with hourly billing by contractors or contract programmers


Chip Camden has an interesting perspective on the “blue and white” Tech Republic blog today, in his IT Consultant Column, “Is billing by the hour unethical?” There is a survey at the end and the overwhelming majority of viewers (much more than the winning percentage for a pennant) thinks it is not.

The link is here. It’s pretty obvious how hourly billing could be abused and pose abuse problems or opportunities.

The auto repair model may suffice. Usually there is a charge for a diagnostic on your car, and then a set number of hours in a book per repair, which translates into the labor bill. I’m under the impression that is how most home computer repair works. I had Geek Squad with a dreaded Microsoft “HAL” error (pun intended to the 2001 and “Moon” movies, perhaps), last December. But part of the value of the visit is the “learning” for me – being able to fix other problems that occur without another call.

It sounds like the problem would apply to generalized IT employment contracts – there is a definite issue if a contractor is not efficient in coding, testing and implementing a project (whether in the mainframe world or newer OOP platforms like java and Powerbuilder – I’ve worked with consultants in all of these) and runs up more hours, particularly “overtime.” But I never saw that happen much.

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