A company’s success today is dependent on its ability to embrace innovation and anticipate customer demands. The world’s leading tech association, Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), predicts a 4.1% growth for the global information technology (IT) industry in 2017. An accurate prediction will see the worth of the global IT industry exceeding US$3.5 trillion by year end, from US$3.4 trillion currently.
The ubiquity of IT in every aspect of modern life represents vast opportunities for the tech-savvy generation, and with the advent of the “gig economy”, project-based arrangements are fast becoming the norm, as opposed to company-based employment. As a result, many organisations are turning to IT outsourcing services to fulfil their needs, and independent IT consultants are now in high demand.
Businesses thrive on cost-effective measures and time-efficient practices as these considerations have a direct correlation with business growth. Engaging an external IT consultant to drive specific projects, provide computer maintenance services or resolve technology-specific issues is a move that is consistent with those requirements. However, finding the right IT consultant to provide managed IT services may prove to be quite challenging as there many matters to take into account. With this in mind, what are the five key considerations when deciding to appoint an independent IT consultant?
The level of skills, experience and expertise offered by IT consultants may differ from one individual to another, hence the importance of being clear on your requirements before making a commitment to hire. In general, a competent IT consultant would be able to give a fresh perspective on the IT issues faced by a company, and provide salient solutions to the problems. An IT consultant’s prior experience and competencies can be used to gauge whether they would be able to handle responsibilities assigned. Other important aspects include education backgrounds and qualifications, certifications obtained, references provided, as well as memberships in professional organisations related to their field of expertise. As the IT consultant would naturally be expected to communicate with other staff members, it would be wise to also consider hiring someone with good stakeholder management and interpersonal skills, apart from being a team player.
Alignment with organisational requirements
The contract drawn up for hiring an IT consultant should clearly define the terms and conditions of appointment regarding compensation and benefits, confidentiality requirements, milestones, deadlines, scope of work, travel and accommodation requirements (if applicable) and flexibility arrangements. To avoid any misunderstandings in the future, it would also help to be upfront about the budget allocated for salaries and other expenses, and ensure that finances available are sufficient to cover for the length of service required. The amount of time needed to perform computer maintenance tasks would greatly differ from the time needed to complete a software development project. It would be unreasonable to expect an IT consultant to complete a big project in just one short month or less, and it is especially unrealistic to presume that they will be able to deliver a job well done if given insufficient time. Also, some IT consultants go by hourly rates, while some have a fixed price for the services provided, so it is important to know which method is preferred.
Reputation of the company providing IT outsourcing services
There are many companies providing IT outsourcing services to meet the needs of a businesses looking to hire an IT consultant. Before engaging their services, it is important to perform due diligence checks on the organisation. Explore their website and peruse their publications such as annual reports to understand the mission statement, company culture and code of ethics, number of employees, associated organisations, financial standing, as well as current and past clients and awards received. The information obtained should provide some insight into their reputation and background, and help determine whether they are capable of providing the managed IT services required to do the job. The location of the company is also of paramount importance – an IT consultant’s timely availability could determine whether the assignments given will be completed on time and within budgetary requirements. As such, engaging a company whose location is nearer to the hiring organisation would be in the best interests of both parties.
The IT consultant’s strategy
There are two general approaches taken by an IT consultant in providing managed IT services. Consultants who use the knowledge approach work for you and not with you. If your intention is for an IT consultant to complete a task in the shortest possible time without involving the whole organisation, appoint a professional who uses this approach. This style is suitable for straightforward technical tasks such as computer maintenance or database updating.
On the other hand, consultants with a people approach tend to be more people-oriented. They are more inclined to engage with management and staff members, and be willing to train them where necessary. Of course, this approach may involve more time and cost, but it is an expense that would be offset by the long-term benefits gained by the hiring organisation in terms of knowledge and value-add.
Feasibility of the proposal
The search for the right IT consultant encompasses the considerations above, but it does not end there. Even if the person in mind fulfils all the requirements, there is still a need to determine the feasibility of the proposal put forward by the IT consultant. Businesses are usually bound by specific business objectives and legal requirements, and as such, it is imperative that the proposal is designed with these considerations in mind. The IT consultant must also be adequately informed and have a deep understanding of the current obstacles faced by the hiring organisation in order to suggest salient and sustainable solutions.
Ideally, the solutions proposed should be able to effectively address all the issues faced, and concerns put forward by management. The hiring organisation also has a big role to play in determining the feasibility of the proposal. Does the management have a clear and thorough understanding of the proposal and how it will address their concerns? More importantly, is management able to provide the resources needed for the project to be completed on time? The answers to these questions should give more clarity when deciding on the hire.
Information technology is visibly integral to the growth of businesses globally, and the demand for IT outsourcing services is not expected to wane in the near future. Businesses are spoilt for choice when it comes to the variety of options available for managed IT services, but to secure a competent IT consultant capable of delivering workable solutions, it is important to keep the considerations above in mind.
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