How to Hire an IT Service Consultant
Are you considering outsourcing your company’s IT needs? If so, keep reading to learn more about the pros and cons of IT outsourcing, price points, and skills to look for when hiring an IT Service Consultant.
There is no way around having an IT expert for your business. Technology is the tool that enables your business to maintain, grow and thrive in this modern world. But that does not mean that it is easy to find the perfect person or company to provide this service.
In this article, we provide some guidance on how your business, whether small or large, can find the perfect service provider for your IT service needs.
What Does An IT Consultant Do?
This may seem obvious to anyone reading this, but IT stands for Information Technology. IT has become such a part of the vernacular of business and the greater culture that often people forget the root of this acronym. Information Technology encompasses the use of computers, hardware, storage of data and information, and larger systems.
IT works closely with all departments of a business including Marketing, Human Resources, and Sales because computer systems are connected to all parts of the business. For example, if you are using Salesforce as a CRM tool, inevitably there will be an IT professional connected to that work—whether internally at your company or if you are using a service provider.
An IT consultant or agency will be an outside company that works on all your IT needs outside of any already outsourced services you are using. Using the example above, you would not hire an IT consultant to support your Salesforce needs as Salesforce or your Salesforce consultant will already have staff to take care of that. In this case, hiring an IT consultant will be there to support technology hardware malfunctions or upgrades, and ensuring data is stored safely, securely, and accessible.
Your Business is Growing
When first starting out, you may have had everything you needed when it came to basic cloud service plans, security software, hardware, and general software to run an efficient business. But now you are seeing that your business is growing, and these basic packages are simply not cutting it anymore. By hiring an IT consultant, you’ll get a person or group that has the expertise to pinpoint cloud services, risk management systems, and any software that is suited for your particular needs. For example, when you launched your business, you may have been using a basic Google account to save all your files to the cloud. When you work with an IT consultant, they will help you to identify what your industry standards are, your business needs, and your comfort with technology to suggest and build a more secure and functional cloud-based system, whether that is an upgrade in Google or something else.
Your Technology is Outdated
Perhaps you run a family business that has been using the same systems for a long time. You never thought you needed to “upgrade” how you did things. However, now you are noticing that there is a slump in your business, partly because your competitors are able to answer and support their customers more quickly than you. This is when hiring an IT consultant or agency would be an asset to you. As an outsider, they will be able to provide guidance on how to upgrade or update your hardware (including computers, printers, fax machines, and phones), secure and upgrade your networks (e.g., increase internet speed), and recommend software that could speed up communication cycles with your clients.
Your Business is Being Siloed
As businesses grow, change, and hire new people, it is common for SOPs and technologies to be created within specific departments or for specific people. However, the result over time is that siloes are created where different SOPs contradict each other or different technologies are unable to integrate, causing blockages in the workflow of the whole business. If you notice this is happening to you, then hiring an IT consultant or agency will be a great resource. They will evaluate all your relevant SOPs and technologies and make recommendations on how these siloes can disappear by using technology as it is intended.
What Best Practices Do IT Consulting Firms Follow?
In general, IT consulting firms follow the same best practices as any business consulting firm. They meet the expectations of their client, communicate clearly and honestly, are adaptable and accountable, professional, and are knowledgeable.
When working with an IT service provider, you are looking for a consultant or agency that is organized, efficient, and has your interest at heart. You do not want to work with an IT provider that pushes you into unnecessary technology or has inconsistent communication. If you decide that an IT consultant or agency is the right fit, make sure you find someone that fits your culture, style and has the knowledge you need.
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Should I Hire A Consultant Or Handle IT In-House?
Hiring a consultant for any service is a personal business choice for you. Any industry, size, private, or public institution can outsource its IT needs. Who “should” outsource, however, depends on the needs and budget of the business. Typically, large companies can afford to have their own IT department and many mid-sized businesses can as well. Here are some positives and negatives of having an in-house full-time department vs outsourcing:
YOU HAVE CONTROL AND CAN MITIGATE RISK
When hiring an in-house IT expert, you have control over how the staff member does their work, ensuring that it is aligned with your business standards and communication. This often makes communication flows easier to understand and thus faster. You also have the advantage of ensuring that proprietary information is not handled outside and thus is far less likely to be shared with competitors or taken advantage of by hackers.
THE HUMAN ELEMENT
Hiring your own staff for any function within your business automatically breeds camaraderie and an intuitive understanding of the business. Shorthand communication and ways of doing things become second nature, which does not happen as quickly when hiring a freelancer. Plus, when you have in-house staff, the human element can make working every day more fun.
THE HIRING AND ONBOARDING PROCESS IS COSTLY
Finding the right person for your business is a long process. Even if it happens quickly, the recruitment process takes time and ends up being a cost burden on your business, especially when you need to be spending that time building revenue for your business. Additionally, training the new staff member on all your standards and SOPs is another lengthy process. Finally, the cost of their salary, benefits, and professional development is quite expensive, especially when using a freelancer would not include such costs.
LESS ACCESS TO EVOLVING EXPERTISE
When you have finally hired the right person who has the right expertise, the learning does not stop there. Technology is constantly evolving, upgrading, and even becoming obsolete. The expectation of this staff member will be to maintain the current status quo of your IT systems and training and learning new systems. This is expensive and could take time away from the day-to-day work they need to do. However, if you hire an outside agency, they will have this professional development framework already built into their business so that you do not miss a beat when it comes to new information.
TIME WASTED ON TECH ISSUES THAT COULD HAVE BEEN SPENT ELSEWHERE
Throughout the whole process of hiring, onboarding, and maintaining staff, you have spent a lot of money and time on this staff member. This is time and money that you could have been spending on marketing needs, following up with new clients, or doing your own industry research. Hiring an IT service provider is simply the more cost-effective option.
Why You Should Hire An IT Consultant
As you can see, the answer is simple, hiring an IT consultant or agency is the cheapest, easiest, and safest way to help your business grow and maintain its needs. Consultants are there to analyze and suggest technology upgrades, then maintain them so that inefficiencies and costs do not grow. They are also a great resource to support your software in-house or share which software you should outsource. IT Consultants and agencies do all their own professional development and upgrades so you do not need to pay for expensive learning nor research on how to keep your systems up to date, if you have staffing in-house; the right IT consultant will take care of that. Finally, it is the cheapest option for your business.
Hiring An IT Consulting Firm
You may have concluded that outsourcing your IT support needs is for you. Here we break down some tips for hiring consultants to get your IT needs to be fulfilled.
How Much Does It Cost To Hire An IT Consultant?
In general costs and fees vary depending on the location of the IT professional. For example, if you hire someone in Chicago, they will have different prices than a professional out of Mumbai. They also depend on the years of experience this consultant may have within the industry. Below we break down the costs by the cost models. There are usually two different models for fees associated with outsourcing your IT needs: the hourly break-fix model and the managed IT services model.
This model is ad-hoc meaning that you use the consultant as needed. They will not charge you unless you reach out for support. Typically, they charge for at least 2 hours of work and if you buy a block of hours up-front, you can receive a discount. Consultants typically charge between $125-$225 per hour.
This option can work if you only have a small number of devices and needs for your business. However, as your needs grow or your scope grows, this option can become quite expensive. If you have an emergency need, this model may not work in your favor as the consultant will not see you as a consistent customer.
MANAGED IT SERVICES MODEL
This model is better for ongoing support from an IT professional. The consultant or agency will charge you a monthly fee, which is based on the number of hardware devices you have. This way, if an issue arises with an item, they are obligated to fix it within a certain time frame. This option will typically cost $300-$500 per server, $50-$150 per computer, and $20 per smartphone or tablet device. Note that this does not include other consultant fees like security software.
Skills To Look For In IT Consulting Firms
The skill sets you should look for in your service provider depends on the type of IT freelancer you choose and the functions you are looking to fill. However, here are some key take-aways:
At the end of the day, this professional will be your go-to for computer, printer, internet, and phone services. While they do not need to know everything in the market, they do need to have a level of expertise that understands the market options.
ACCESS TO CONTINUAL PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Technology is constantly changing, and you are hiring this consultant because you need an expert for your IT needs. So, choose someone that is constantly on top of industry standards, best practices, and what is next. Knowing what is next does not mean that your business must be an early adopter, but it does ensure that you are prepared.
With all technology, there is some risk of information being leaked or a hacker getting into your system. When looking for an IT consultant, ensure that this person always is considering security when choosing hardware, software, or communication system.
UNDERSTANDING OF SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT
Regardless of the needs you have for an IT consultant, this person should understand software development, including coding language and project management. As your systems will be talking to the software(s) you will use, this person needs to have a firm grasp of integration. However, if you are looking for a consultant to lead you to the correct software to use, then you will be looking for more than basic expertise.
Mistakes To Avoid When Hiring An IT Consultant
We have all made mistakes when we are in a rush to hire someone. However, it is important to take a step back and follow an objective and conscientious plan when hiring your IT consultant. Here are some other common mistakes to avoid:
NOT RESEARCHING THE CONSULTANT
When looking at IT freelancers, do your research. Look at their website thoroughly, read their reviews and then look outside of their website to confirm the details you find. You do not want to hire someone only to find that they do not have much experience in communication systems when that is part of the scope of the project. Also look at their personality, methodology, and communication. It is important that this person has the expertise you need but also will work well with you.
NOT HAVING A CLEAR AND COMPREHENSIVE CONTRACT
Your consultant will give you a quote and proposal before you sign the contract. Make sure this contract is thorough and includes what the costs entail, the scope of the project, confidentiality agreement, main point of contact (on both sides), and how to terminate if necessary. A common issue that comes up for clients is that the proposal and contract do not delineate all this information clearly enough or at all so that project is blown and prices increase while deadlines are missed.
After signing with an agency, you can expect: