Not everyone who calls themselves an IT consultant is good for you. Your technology challenges are unique, and so should your IT consultant’s skills and expertise.
Hiring a third-party consultant to handle your IT needs will involve handing over sensitive information, which may include software and information systems that could potentially put your company’s cybersecurity in jeopardy if not handled correctly.
Luckily for you, this article will help you find the best IT consulting company. The steps below will guide you through the process of finding the best IT consultant for your company’s needs:
1. Define Your Challenge And Goals
This should be an easy place to start, yet it’s one of the most crucial parts of the process of choosing an IT consultant. Ask yourself: what challenges are you facing as a company that you need to hire an IT consultant for? A simple list of these challenges can directly help you craft the goals that your intended IT consultant will work towards.
It’s best to start by defining your challenges and goals because it brings in the idea of measurability early in the process. After a specified period, you want to be able to look back at the list of what you intended your consultant to cover and check if they’re addressing your specific needs. Even more urgently, you want to make sure the consultant you bring on board knows exactly what it is you are expecting from them. This syncs their efforts to the areas that are most important to you.
2. Ensure The Consultant’s Experience Matches Your Industry And Size
Just because a consultant proved effective with a certain other company doesn’t guarantee they’ll be effective with you. First, consider if the consultancy has had any experience handling a company in your industry. Industry-specific experience is very important for high performance. They don’t need to know the ins and outs of your industry as you do. That’s your job. Theirs is to know the particular IT needs of businesses in your industry. You might even find an IT consulting company with a working appreciation for what makes a company in your industry tick. What are some needs, risks, and areas in your niche that may be open to potential technological upgrades?
It may also be best to note that a big IT company doesn’t always guarantee better performance. If you’re a small business, you might be better served by a relatively small IT consultancy. A Fortune 500 company, for instance, has different needs from those of a small company. Plus, hiring a company that’s too big might do more harm than good if you are a small company. They have better-paying clients than you who’ll most likely get priority treatment by the consultant’s most skilled employees, while you might only get the junior employees for a fee that could have gotten you the full attention of a smaller firm.
Similarly, a big company should consider a consultant’s size as well when hiring. The IT company you hire must not be insufficiently skilled or overwhelmed by the type and amount of support your company needs. Your best bet if you want to play it safe is to hire an IT consulting company like TCG Network Services that can offer you the best of both worlds. There are quite a number of good ones that you can check out to make your choice.
3. Check How The Consultant Is Connected to Relevant Vendors
How objective can your potential consultant be when choosing vendors? It can be tricky if your IT consultancy can only choose from a handful or even, in extreme cases, just one vendor for certain services just because they have pre-arranged agreements with them. These agreements might be that the consultant can get a commission each time that particular vendor is selected, or they might resell a certain vendor’s products. All of this might affect your consultant’s objectivity.
Your goal here is to get the best services available, and your best chances lie with a company that still has the latitude to choose vendors based on competence and quality than hopes of monetary benefit.
4. Ask For Samples Of Their Previous Work
You want to make sure it’s not all talk, right? Then it’s best you ask that they show you what they can do. The best way to do this is to see how they have performed with other clients before you.
This is still necessary even if the consultant is coming to you through a very strong recommendation. Referrals are great, you can find really great connections through them, but they are not the end-all of the process.
Keep in mind that the person recommending to you might have slightly or wholly different needs from yours and what they call a good job might be off the mark for you. Take a look at their track record and decide for yourself if they fit your requirements.
Each of them will have their strengths and weaknesses. Choose the ones who are strongest in the areas you’re most focused on. Their other weaknesses can then become minor considerations in the context of your business.
5. Good Old Credentials
You’re not only looking for experience but qualifications as well. Are they accredited and recognized as a consultant?
You might be tempted to skip this in favor of checking their track record, but it’s best to review their credentials too. Many software vendors require an IT specialist to pass certain ongoing exams to ensure they’re well knowledgeable on the latest versions. If your potential IT consultant’s certifications are not up to date, this might be an indication that their expertise is guaranteed only up to the level of their last certification. In such a fast-moving tech world, this is the last place you want to get IT advice and services from.
Also, are they members of relevant professional organizations? These memberships are a good way to gauge your consultant’s professional development and commitment to the industry.
6. Call All References
Even if they’re recommended by someone you trust, you still have to call their references. You will be better equipped to make an informed decision after covering this process.
Giving your company’s information systems and software access is not a thing to be taken lightly, so you should be expected to apply the rigor it deserves when choosing the right consultant. If they came in strongly recommended, that’s good! Now get a second and probably a third opinion and see if the feedback is consistent across the board.
Some consultants are reluctant to share their client lists, and you should be careful when dealing with these companies. Where you have options, it’s advised to opt for the more transparent one. One of the things to ask when calling these references is how the consultant handled downtime if there ever was any.
Plus, even before getting to the client list that they’ll hand to you, check their social media presence. They’re IT consultants, so a healthy social media presence and recognition is to be expected. One of the chief places to check is LinkedIn. Also, check the quality of their blog if they have one. Ideally, IT consulting companies should recognize the value of publishing blog posts where they can go in-depth about what they know and are capable of doing.
7. Check Their Background
You don’t want to give a consultant access to your systems only to discover that they have a host of past criminal offenses or suspicious credit scores. Check for these before you take a potential IT consultant on board.
8. Emphasize Good Communication Skills
They may be IT specialists and not public speakers, yet it’s still important that they have a basic grasp of effective communication skills in the workplace. You’re hiring them to apply their skills to your business and be part of a team. And that team will need to understand each other. A good IT consultant will be able to communicate their ideas to management or the rest of the team where necessary, and be understood.
While you’re at it, also check for any personality incompatibility issues. It’s possible that a highly-skilled consultant might still be a wrong fit for you based on their attitude or personality as a whole. At the end of the day, your teams should be able to work together and produce results, so they should be good team players.
9. Find Out Their Methods Of Measuring Results
Here you might not have to strictly look for a company whose methodology of measuring results aligns with your own. Aligning with any methodology at all and showing proof of them actually using it will show you how seriously a consultant takes their work.
There are several methodologies to help measure readiness, improvement, and overall progress. These include ITIL, Six Sigma, and CMM, among others. Find out if they adhere to a measurement system or not.
Choosing an IT consultant is one of the most important tasks you’ll have to make on behalf of your business. While it shouldn’t be rocket science, too many fake IT consultants have mushroomed across the field that one should approach the task armed with a checklist.
Be clear about what it is you want your IT consultant to achieve. After that, you can now check if they’ve ever handled a company within your size range that’s also in your industry.
Some consultants are bound to specific vendors by contracts or promised benefits; these are the types of consultants to avoid as they probably won’t have your best interests at heart. Now check for samples of what they’ve done before and copies of their credentials and accreditations to make sure they really can do what they say they can do.
If all of this is in order, then you’re just a few steps away from selecting the ideal IT consulting company. All that’s left is calling the references to get a second or third opinion, check criminal records, ensure they have good communications skills, and, lastly, that they align to at least some method of measuring results. After all, that’s how you’re going to find out how much you would have ticked off your initial list of goals at the end of a specified period.
Hiring the best IT consultant for your company isn’t too hard, yet it requires you to be thorough and make sure you have checked all angles before making a commitment because once you commit, your decision is likely to shape the overall direction your company will take.