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Hiring an IT consultant is a proven method of boosting small to midsize businesses beyond their current capabilities. Rather than hiring full-time employees or tying up internal resources, businesses can allow an IT consultant to do some of the heavy lifting. That’s not to suggest that hiring an IT consultant does not have some pitfalls. Here are some of the most common errors that local businesses can avoid when hiring an IT consultant.
Hiring an IT consultant should be something that a business carefully plans for, rather than trying to pick one in an “emergency” situation. Take your time and conduct a proper candidate search. Vet IT consultants the same way that you would when hiring for an important management position.
A surprising number of businesses start the process of researching IT consultant firms and then decide they can do it all in-house. Contracting with an IT consultant is about business growth. Shuffling the routine tasks that an IT firm can handle off to internal employees can drain morale and waste the talents of staff who are better-suited to other aspects of the business.
“Why are we hiring an IT consulting company?” needs to be a question that local businesses ask before signing a contract. Any IT consultant that a business is considering should be able to help assess any IT difficulties it has and provide an honest assessment of its plan to fix any issues or improve them. This will help a business to avoid paying for unnecessary services. Another great question to ask is, “What is your exit strategy in the event that we outgrow the need for your services?”
When a business does hire an IT consultant firm, it essentially hands it “the keys to the kingdom.” An IT consultant will have logins and passwords to virtually every aspect of the business. This is why the protection of the company’s intellectual property should be of paramount importance in the hiring process. If a substandard and unethical IT firm ends up in a dispute with the business, its entire network could be held hostage. Establish clear and firm rules regarding the handling of intellectual property, just as you would with any other outside contractor.
A detailed contract that both the business and the IT consultant agree upon is vitally important. The contract can cover costs, number of hours of weekly or monthly service provided, goals and milestones to meet, deadlines, expectations if goals or deadlines are not met, annual price increases, and who pays for unforeseen outside services when they arise. Getting all of the expectations laid out ahead of time can lead to a successful business relationship with an IT consulting firm.
The world of IT consultant firms is expansive and yet there is a lot of specialization within the field. It’s not a field where “one size fits all”local businesses. Make sure that the IT firm you sign a contract with has the specific skills required to meet the specific needs of your business. If you’re hiring an IT consultant on a temporary basis, the problem they’re trying to fix will be resolved that much faster if they have the right skills for the job.
Talk with multiple IT consultants before selecting one. Treat the process just as you would when hiring for an important full-time position. A business should take the time to interview multiple candidates before making a selection. Is the IT consultant you’re hiring the right one to meet your business needs? This is an important business relationship and it should be approached as such.
The regular full-time employees of a local business are the ones who will be using the resources and solutions provided by an IT consultant. Do they know how to use the solutions that are being provided? Before hiring a consultant, ensure that they agree to provide regular training for your staff on how to use any new or improved systems.
These are some of the most common errors that local businesses can make when it’s time to expand by hiring an IT consultant. A business can benefit tremendously when it hires the right IT consulting firm and has clear goals and expectations going into the relationship.