Just ask any IT consultant: Your computer network is akin to the nervous system of your business. And just as you would be extremely careful about choosing a neurosurgeon or psychologist, it is key for the health of your organization to take your time while deciding who will provide your IT managed services.
Every department of your business, and practically every task that is carried out in your firm’s name, requires information technology. The strange thing is that even though all of us depend on computers nearly every minute of the day, very few of us understand how to properly care for computer networks. Sub-par IT consultants can easily exploit this tendency by providing lackluster IT managed services, causing the relationship to become a complete waste of time and money. On the other hand, a trustworthy IT consultant can help improve overall business performance. The tricky part is distinguishing the pearls from the swine, so to speak.
To help you find the best consultant for your needs, we’ve compiled a few techniques for vetting IT consultants. If you ask these questions, research references, and follow our other tips, you’re much more likely to find an IT consultant who will feel like a partner, not a pain in your neck.
Questions to Ask Each Potential IT Consultant
1. Are you certified and experienced in the in the software we’ll need? Just as each doctor has his or her own specialty, each IT consultant has his or her own niche. Oftentimes, IT consultants focus in on providing IT managed services to a specific type of business. To ensure your IT consultant has the best background for your business, check references. Ask for testimonials. Inquire after system and software certifications. Take some time to research which IT systems are most popular in your field so you understand the results of your research. Basically, your ideal candidate will have a strong grasp of the main IT issues facing your industry.
2. Are you willing to work side-by-side with my employees? The truth is, there are less-technical aspects of IT managed services your staffers could potentially handle once they have the right training or experience. Therefore, ask if each prospective IT consultant is willing to partner with your employees to help you shave billable hours down the road. This question will help you distinguish the IT consultants who are most likely to do what’s best for your business.
3. Do you offer fixed pricing? Obviously, crafting a strong service contract is one of the most influential steps in arranging for IT managed services. Moreover, pricing is the heart of any contract. For most businesses, fixed pricing is the best option for dealing with IT consultants. As an example, you might arrange for IT managed services on a retainer – in other words, you will pay your IT consultant a fixed amount each month for a specific time period. This is beneficial for you since you’re guaranteed the same price no matter how many hours are required of the IT consultant. And IT consultants often appreciate retainer work as well, since they are guaranteed a consistent income.
How to Check an IT Consultant’s References
It’s standard for business leaders to ask IT consultants for references. Ask to speak with other businesses that have faced the same issues or challenges that confront your firm. Once you make contact with a client of each IT consultant, inquire whether the consultant communicates well with business leaders and employees. (Of course, your own gut feelings will also give you a good indication of whether each IT consultant would be a good fit for your firm.) Be upfront about asking about the difficulties or challenges of working with each potential IT partner.
Another area that deserves inquiry: the consistency of service technicians. As you speak with the different references, ask if a consistent representative provided their IT managed services. Ideally, the same IT consultant will visit your organization every time – that way, you won’t have to foot the bill while a new expert learns your system.
Once you’re done speaking with references, you’ll probably be able to narrow down your list of IT consultants to three or four possibilities. Schedule second (or, by this point, perhaps third) interviews with each and ask any follow-up questions that have arisen since you began the vetting process. This is a good time to ask what each IT firm would do if your main IT consultant is unavailable when a problem strikes. Each IT services provider should be able to delineate a backup plan.
Final steps: Be sure you have a crystal-clear understanding of your service agreement and that everything is in writing. Finally, ask your lawyer to look over everything before you sign the contract for IT managed services.