One of the key strengths of successful business people is their ability to ask for help when they need it. Struggling to solve a problem yourself can be a huge waste of time and money and what you do during the working day needs to be based on the notion of how effective you can be.
Spending hours sorting out issues on your server network or inadequate software is not best use of many small business owners' time.
The problem is where do you go for help that is cost effective and provides you with the answer to your business needs?
Lets explore further....
By engaging with an IT consultancy supplier you can save money for your business, even though there will be some cost up front.
Costs of IT consultants can range from £150 - £1500+ per day. Note that we do not expect many readers of this article to spend £1500+ per day on a consultant!
Why engage an IT consultant?
You have decided to get a computer network in place to link together the three PCs you have. Should you spend your precious time doing the work yourself or get in an expert that will charge you to do the setup but save you days of time?
You have decided the business needs a new or updated line of business software package, there are a number of vendors to choose from, the sales people will try to convince you their software will do everything you need it to. How do you filter out the required technical information to make the right decision? Do you spend precious time again trying to work through the information or get a professional that can extract and compile the correct information to make the best choice
Hopefully you decide the latter as you understand the importance of using your time efficiently. Engaging an IT consultant is much like employing any other type of professional to help you when you are stuck or need some specific help.
What is an IT consultant?
There is no legal protection given to the job title IT consultant therefore anyone can wake up one day and start up an IT consultancy business. Unfortunately this means that there is a real spectrum of consultants with a huge range of ability all out there trying to win your business.
In fact many people with a level of technical ability from having IT as a hobby are sometimes compared to providing the same value.
With that said IT consultants do tend to fall into some distinct categories:
The local computer shop. Quite often working out from a local retail store selling computers and peripherals these consultants will supplement their retail income with some “break fix” work or onsite consultancy. They are often very good at mending broken computers, installing basic networking and setting up basic software packages. The cost per day may be from £100 – £250 depending on the work they are doing for you.
The one man band. Without retail premises these people rely on advertising in local papers and listings and word of mouth to get their work. They may have a broad set of experience and be able to help you fix a number of problems. They may also offer a technical support service on an annual contract, enabling you to call them up on the phone to help fix an urgent problem. The cost per day is likely to range from £200 - £600, dependent on the work you have agreed with them.
The small and medium sized consultancy. Often formed of a group of consultants these people often have more specialised skills grown out of working as an employee for one of the big product manufacturers. For example they may be experts in small business accounts software or specialised CAD (computer aided design) software that you may need to use in your business. Many of these consultancies would be affiliated with one or more of the major vendors and would have undergone training and certification according to some quite rigorous rules. Theses consultants are unlikely to offer more general or ad hoc IT consultancy. Costs per day will be from about £500 - £1500.
Large consultancies. There are some consultancies that employ many thousands of consultants and IT engineers, offering everything from hardware supply through to business remodelling. The cost base of these companies is reflected in their daily charges, many with a minimum of £1500 per day for fairly junior staff. Principals and partners can easily be charged out at over £1500 per day. These consultancies are probably not suitable for many small businesses.
How to choose an IT consultant?
You will need to think through your problem and the type of consultant best suited to get the issue resolved. Word of mouth is a good way to find a consultant so ask around other businesses and see how they fare.
If your problem is product specific then a check of a vendor’s website will often show a listing of potential consultants.Many consultants would consider visiting you to discuss your requirements. This is an opportunity for you to both size each other up and decide if there is both a technical and personality fit. It is very difficult working with a consultant you don’t get on with.
Ask them to provide references or case studies of similar work they have undertaken to get a feel for what they can deliver. You may also check to see who would be doing the actual work. Many larger consultancies will send in a sales consultant who would then pass the actual work onto other staff.
Take a common sense approach and you should be fine.
Define the task:-
- This is very important as you will need to be very clear what you are expecting the IT consultant to do for you.
- Many will charge a daily rate rather than a fixed fee which gives you flexibility in defining the work but will require you to watch your budget.
- If you want a fixed fee for anything other than the simplest of jobs you need to get the agreed task and deliverables documented on a contract.
- If you are unsure how to progress try and get a friend or colleague to help you through the process.
- Many IT consultants will offer a mentoring scheme in their work, so even if they do not do the work themselves they can help you outsource it effectively to another third party