Hiring an IT Consultant
Hiring consultants to work with your business is always a risky game. When it comes to IT that is perhaps truer than ever. In an always-on world, with tech at the heart of our lives, ensuring that the occasional slip up doesn’t become a complete meltdown is essential. Technology is at the core of nearly every business today – so what do you need to ask when checking out potential partners?
First things first; check out IT consultants experience and ask what industries they have worked with? Clearly, an IT consultant with expertise in your own industry is the obvious choice. However, this shouldn’t be your only consideration; the broader a firm’s experience, the better in many ways.
Working in a range of industries keeps an IT consultancy on their toes, as it does for any consultant. Whilst it may seem that a broad range of experience might leave some professionals spreading themselves too thinly, when it comes to IT, variety can be the spice of life. An IT consultancy with experience of working in a broad range of industries can offer new ideas and, perhaps, unexpected solutions.
Whilst a firm with experience of only your type of business may be good, the most innovative ideas for your own tech problems may well come from experience with industries that are totally unrelated. There is often a factory setting when it comes to IT solutions in many industries but firms with broad experience can offer solutions that stand out from the crowd.
That said, knowledge of your particular field is important. Ideally, firms who have experienced individuals who have worked in your field before, is essential. So, the experience question should be one of two halves. Wide experience on a company-based level being great but having qualified experts in your own industry who can offer dedicated support and advice is also essential. A firm that can offer this balance of broad experience combined with detailed knowledge of your own sector is a great one to consider. In this case quantity and quality of experience are the key issues to consider.
Home and Away Working
Remote working is a given, today, with most companies requiring on and off-site IT support. This is may be an essential for your firm – and this is the case as much with small to medium companies as it is with big internationals. If you fit the small to medium definition, and you’re working with similar scaled IT consultants, be sure to ask that they can cater to both on and off-site IT needs.
Ask what is covered in their contract and ensure that any specific or unusual requirements that your IT systems and locations require are covered in that contract and also be sure that they are within your consultants’ experience and capabilities.
A key question (one that can answer a lot of other questions when it comes to IT) is to ask what your potential consultant believes to be the biggest change to affect the industry in the last year. This is a really good indicator of not only their level of experience but also of their true qualities. Many less experienced firms will simply tick along providing good, but not outstanding services. Whereas those who know the industry inside-and-out and are looking to the future for challenges and opportunities, are likely to be the ones to consider most closely. IT changes rapidly and consultancies who are truly knowledgeable are best placed to ensure that you keep ahead of these changes.
What guarantees of success can you offer? This is a great question to ask firms who are offering IT packages that include an SEO or marketing element. The right answer is definitely not 100%! Success in IT strategies is a slippery thing and those sales people that offer guaranteed success are not only unrealistic but probably demonstrating either a complete lack of understanding of their own industry or a ‘bunny-in-the-headlights’ desperation to garnering new business.
Those who can offer a more nuanced answer – or those who simply admit that success is not always guaranteed – should be the ones that grab your attention. Firms that offer less in the way of guarantees but can demonstrate flexibility to achieving success and the ability to manoeuvre around challenges – plus an awareness of those challenges – are the serious players you should be focussing on.
Now we don’t want to stereotype your average IT guy or gal – that’s already been done successfully elsewhere. The last thing you really want, however, from your own IT crowd is non-people people. Checking reviews, references and/or simply meeting your prospective partners is a good way to ensure that your IT consultants are not only top of their game with tech but can communicate effectively on a level that works for you and your staff. Communication and people skills are key to any working relationship and this applies especially to your IT team.