In days gone by, a CIO might have adopted a reactionary stance toward in-house IT capabilities. For instance, if company management decided to slash the IT budget, the CIO would look for areas that could stand some trimming. An IT consultant might have been brought in to provide an expert’s opinion on where to reduce resources while maintaining performance.
Now, however, CIOs tend to take a more proactive approach to IT planning. Rather than waiting for a system failure or slashed budget to appear, CIOs are continually asking themselves how current IT assets can help exceed business objectives. Returns on investment and system efficiency are always in the back of their minds, as well.
An IT consultant can be a valuable ally in the new IT management paradigm. A successful IT consultant is an expert at making IT more effective and ROI-friendly. Otherwise, he or she wouldn’t be able to keep clients.
What IT Consultants Bring to the Table
It’s still smart for a CIO to contract with an IT consultant on a case-by-case basis. For instance, if the board decides it’s time to invest in a new server, the CIO could turn to the IT consultant for a hardware recommendation. However, by creating service catalogues and a configuration management databases, an IT consultant can also help CIOs make better technology investment decisions.
Service catalogues. Creating a service catalogue can help CIOs understand where inefficiencies lie. At its most basic, a service catalogue is simply a list of all of the IT tasks required in a certain company. An IT consultant can create a service catalogue for you or simply provide guidance on how to research, design and build one for your company.
Configuration management databases. Similarly, a configuration management database shows which technology is needed to carry out the tasks in the service catalogue. Again, an IT consultant can help you create a configuration management database or can simply direct you in creating one in-house. Once the configuration management database is complete, it’s much easier to understand where technology is hindering progress and profitability. An IT consultant will generally compare the configuration management database listings to the standards suggested in the ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) guidelines. These continually updated principles represent the IT industry’s gold standard for efficiency.
Is an IT Consultant Worth It?
It may seem like this process is too involved, but it’s well worth it given the complexity of modern IT. Just think about the amazing number of vendors you partner with for IT services. You may have one provider of PaaS services, several vendors who facilitate cloud-accessed “software as a service,” and yet a third MSP that handles your IT help desk. And this is just the tip of the IT complexity iceberg for most companies. By creating a comprehensive picture of your company’s IT workings, an IT consultant can find efficiencies and cut costs.
Even if you don’t decide to formalize your IT workings by creating a service catalogue and a configuration management database, it’s useful to partner with an IT consultant for comparison of value. Indeed, because more and more IT duties are being brokered to outside SaaS, PaaS, and LaaS vendors, having a knowledgeable IT consultant on your side is more important than ever.
As we enter the Big Data age, we’re moving away from the old model in which most IT capabilities were handled in-house. That old system was simpler – IT managers could speak with purchasing experts to assess new technological investments. Today, however, IT developments such as virtualization and cloud storage have made the entire framework much more complicated. In the old days of IT, an IT manager might have needed to renegotiate a CRM software deal once a year; now that same IT manager or CIO might be required to track and improve 26 different service factors for a single PaaS vendor. More and more IT subcontracting is being done, since business leaders recognize the importance of focusing on their core business offerings.
A CIO can easily become overwhelmed by the amount of IT data he or she needs to analyze. An IT consultant can provide expert advice on how to consolidate or optimize vendor relationships. Thanks to wide-ranging experience across many different clients, an IT consultant typically has the knowledge needed to recognize which IT partnerships are profitable and which are just dragging down a company’s budget.
As we move into the heart of the Information Age, winning companies will maximize the new brokered, virtualized IT model. An IT consultant can help CIOs understand where to invest and where to cut costs so as to maximize overall system efficiency.
[ Photo by: photosteve101, on Flickr, via CC License ]