For organisations with little or no IT management skills, hiring an IT consultant can provide invaluable long-term benefits – including efficient IT project management, heightened network security, and reliable IT services. You probably need an IT consultant if IT downtime is affecting your employee productivity, or if you find yourself spending more time solving IT problems instead of growing your core business. Hiring an IT consultant can give you the flexibility, experience and expertise needed to manage your technology needs better, improve business efficiency and gain an edge over the competition.
Here are 4 tips to keep in mind before hiring an IT consultant:
Conduct a thorough interview
Your IT consultant will be tied closely with your core business and must be short-listed with care. Some research, interview and background checks will help you find the best fit for your business. Make sure that your IT consultant has experience with:
· The type and size of businesses similar to yours
· Your domain knowledge so that he can suggest that best solutions
· IT technologies that meet your needs
· Problem solving and IT support
Protect your IT systems from unethical practices
They are many unscrupulous individuals who can misuse your private business data once they gain access to your systems in the garb of an IT consultant. This is the main reason why it is better to hire IT consultancy companies over individual contractors. In either case, you must always take adequate precautions before hiring an IT consultant. These include:
- Ensuring all IP (including usernames and passwords) are retained by you.
- Getting the consultant to sign NDA and other confidentiality agreements.
- Researching your IT consultant’s methodologies to make sure they are ethical. If your consultant doesn’t mind employing some ‘black hat’ techniques to grow your business, he probably won’t hesitate doing something underhand with your data to grow his own business!
- Research consultant-vendor relationships – you don’t want your IT consultants pushing a particular solution to you just because they are getting a cut on the deal.
Assess their communication and training skills
The role of an IT consultant includes sharing IT knowledge and training non-technical staff to manage their systems independently. His role is equal parts mentoring and IT management. Good consultants will be able to communicate effectively, collaborate and co-operate with others and train staff while problem solving. Avoid IT consultants that demonstrate attitude problems or lack of patience with non-technical people.
Define scope of work and cost
The best IT consultants are very flexible, letting you grow your business at your own pace. You do not want to pay upfront for ten servers if your organisation only needs two. Your IT consultant should be able to work within your requirements, increasing your budget only as your requirements change. This is paramount to avoiding excessive IT spend. Hire an IT consultant who will assist you in defining your requirements and customising solutions that meet your goals and needs. Remember that experienced IT consultants:
- May charge more per hour but will probably finish the work in less time.
- Will meet all deadlines and finish all projects within budget.
- Will suggest solutions that can scale as you grow – You do not want to purchase a new system every time your business volume increases.
- Will provide after hour and weekend support if needed.
Hiring an IT Consultant – Checklist
Mark off this handy checklist before hiring your IT consultant:
- Check their domain and business knowledge.
- Check their credentials – including any certifications.
- Conduct a thorough background check and investigate any vendor affiliation.
- Call and speak to a reference or previous client.
- Check if they have knowledge of your existing hardware and software.
- Check their flexibility and adaptability to your IT needs.
- Prepare a contract that clearly defines scope of work. Professional IT consultants may have their own contract templates.
- Prepare all confidentiality agreements.