Information technology (IT) consulting is a service field that helps businesses to decide how to best implement computer technology to achieve their business objectives. IT consultants provide advice, and estimate, implement, administer, and manage IT systems on behalf of the clients that hire them.
For many businesses, including small businesses, this is an essential service. IT now plays a vital role in the success of any business, and it takes a specialist to understand how to use IT in a strategic and efficient way.
There are two types of approaches to IT, and a consultant can help you to understand which approach is best for your business—you may need both. Strategic IT helps you to improve efficiency, create opportunities, and engage with vendors and customers. Operational IT, on the other hand, refers to IT-related services that support the day-to-day functions of your business. These include e-mail servers, cloud file storage, and accounting software.
Few entrepreneurs or corporate management types can say they have the background, knowledge, or expertise to keep abreast of this rapidly evolving field. That’s where an IT consultant comes in. When selecting an IT consultant or IT consulting services, it’s important to consider the following.
1. IT Consultant or IT Consulting Company?
In the IT consulting world, some consultants work as independent contractors, while others work under an umbrella organization such as an IT consulting company. As always, the cost of hiring either an individual or a firm depends on the specific services you need, the experience or reputation of the individual or firm, and the size of your company or organization. But, in general, hiring a consulting firm is more expensive than hiring an independent consultant, for the simple reason that firms are more likely to have higher overhead costs. Of course, some businesses want the reputability of a professional firm. If you’re interested in hiring an independent IT consultant but don’t know where to begin, consider asking around for a referral from another company.
With a firm, it’s easier to know what you’re getting. In addition, the firm may select a consultant specifically according to your needs. However, with an independent consultant, it’s important to ensure that the individual has solid experience, specifically with the issues you have set aside for him or her to tackle. It’s all right if the consultant doesn’t know your company well, but he or she should at least know the industry and be familiar with the kinds of problems that can arise.
Finally, you should go about hiring an IT consultant in much the same way as you would with a regular employee, as you’ll likely be interacting with the consultant a lot. IT consultants must be able to put your company’s needs and best interests above their own. This includes the honesty and professionalism required to tell you something you might not want to hear, or something that may cause the consultant to lose business. It’s also important to choose a consultant who has excellent problem-solving, communication, and interpersonal skills. You don’t want to have to deal with someone who has poor people skills.